We know the history; we have known it for a long time. April 24, 1915 is the date of the Armenian genocide. All surviving Armenians and following generations know endless stories about the genocide, gory details, escape adventures, death. We know the stories but have we ever allowed ourselves to feel the pain? Or even just a glimpse of that pain.
Though those times have past, those times were real, those people were real, and those emotions were real.
The rumors we heard about them coming are real, I can already see the soldiers knocking on our neighbours’ doors, everybody’s outside, and I can hear screaming and crying. They’re now at our door. They’re telling my husband we need to leave right this moment. They say were temporarily being deported. My girls are running around excited, they don’t understand what’s happening, and I don’t understand what’s happening. “Can I bring my doll?” asks five year old A1. They’re heavily armed and are waiting at the door step for us to leave the house; they won’t even allow us to pack up. My heart feels heavy already, feels like an implosion of emotions. I am scared, but first I am a mother, so I am strong. As we’re forced to head for the door I look around trying to find anything I can take along. I grab a blanket. Two year old A2 is getting scared, she knows something’s wrong, we never leave the house this way, with strangers at our door, she wants me to carry her, but I’m already carrying A3. The moment we set foot outside the reality of it all hits us. The looks on people’s faces said it all. No one is asking questions, its complete chaos yet it is completely clear what is happening. The crying and the screaming is bone chilling. They order Jack to stand on this side of the street and point me and my daughters to the other. They’re separating the men from the woman. I am walking with my head up straight, carrying 18 month old A3, while tightly holding A1’s and A2’s hands. I don’t want them to feel my fear. I can’t even bare to turn back to see Jack having to watch us walk away. I can’t even think of what he’s feeling right now. A man watching his family being taken away, not knowing if they will be safe, not having the chance to protect them.
We will be taken away and we will walk for weeks through the desert. Those who can’t keep up will be killed; the rest will die from dehydration. How long will two year old A2 be able to walk on her own? How long will I be able to carry A3 in my arms? Which one of them will die first and how? What if I am killed first, who will care for them? How can I protect them from fear, hurt and death? How will I carry all three? How will I choose between their lives? Stay with my dying child on the side of the road or carry on with the other two? How will I be able to walk away? What have I done to deserve this? Why are they doing this to us?
With shivering hands and tears rolling down my face I don’t think I can write another word.
I am blessed to only have to imagine this pain. The 1915 Armenian genocide is real, the suffering is real.
This happened, these feeling were felt by Armenian Women, Armenian women who valued the same things I value today. Nobody deserves this today and nobody deserved it then.
We cannot forget the 1.5 million lives that were lost and we can certainly not forget the suffering they lived through.
Genocide is happening over and over again. We all need to speak up and react. We will not shut our eyes and mouths and let this keep happening. This April 24, speak up. Be heard. Stand up.
For all the mothers who watched their children die, for all the fathers who lost their families, for all the children who never again got to receive their parents love.