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A Century through a Boy’s Eyes

Last week, I received an email from a friend, asking that the Armenian Weekly publish a notice about a woman in Armenia searching for her older brother. The woman is 109 years old. She lost her brother around 1920. A photo of a drawing of a young boy was attached to the message.

9vnnWhen I saw those pools of blue where his pupils ought to be, I was floored. A simple sketch of a brother long lost erased the past 10 decades or so—and there it was: a river of blood, an orphanage, and a sister looking for her older brother. She used to call him “Yeghig-Yeghig.”

It’s not every day that we publish a missing person’s alert, certainly not 100 years later. But here she is: Yepraksia Gevorgyan, a 109-year-old grandmother—a survivor of the Armenian Genocide—looking for a brother she lost almost a century ago.

She remembers when she was 10, riding high up on her brother’s shoulders… She remembers crossing the blood-red waters of the Araks River.

Fragments of memory frozen and transmitted through a couple of simple words violently hurl what’s pure and innocent into that horrific Disaster—that Crime that is beyond words and comprehension.

It was around 1920 when she lost him. They were separated at an orphanage in Alexandropol (now Gyumri); he was presumably adopted by a family who took him to the U.S.

“We used to call him, Yeghig-Yeghig,” she wrote beneath the sketch.

I looked from one blue stained pupil to the other, muttering “Yeghig-Yeghig” to myself.

And here is what’s perplexing yet fully understandable and beautifully human: Almost an entire century later, she is still hopeful. At 109, she is looking for her older brother.

The truth is, that sort of hope never really dies.

And here is what’s perplexing yet fully understandable and beautifully human: Almost an entire century later, she is still hopeful. At 109, she is looking for her older brother.

The truth is, that sort of hope never really dies.

There was a time when the Hairenik Weekly—our Armenian-language sister publication, founded in Boston in 1899—frequently ran notices like this in its pages. Survivors were looking for their immediate and distant relatives and friends.

I bring out the 1920 issues of the paper and begin flipping through the pages…

Thurs., April 1, 1920

“I am looking for my brother Bedros Koorajian from the village of Shiro Keferdiz in Kharpert. He was in Alexandropol in the Spring of 1918. If you have any information, please contact K. Koorajian…”

'I bring out the 1920 issues of the paper and begin flipping through the pages...'

‘I bring out the 1920 issues of the paper and begin flipping through the pages…’

“I am looking for my sisters Yeghsa and Anna Taboian from the village of Mour in Kharpert. A few years ago they were in the Garin and Erzinga area. If you have any information, please contact Hovhannes Taboian…”

“I am looking for my wife Yelmo, and my children Baydzar, Mkhitar, and Mariam Derderian from the village of Gamis in Sepasdia. I promise a reward of $25 to anyone with information. Lousarev Derderian…”

“I am looking for my wife Elmas, my children Siranoush and Suren Mergerian, natives of Sepasdia. I haven’t received any news from them since the deportation. For anyone who knows where they are or if they are alive, I promise them a decent reward. Hovagim K. Mergerian…”

There are 11 such listings on that date, each followed by a one-sentence appeal: “We ask newspapers abroad to reprint this.”

The Hairenik Weekly was a daily newspaper back then. Day after day, the entries continue.

And I look back at Yeghig-Yeghig—his features sketched the way Yepraksia remembers him, and his blue-blue eyes like the waters of Lake Van on that sun-kissed day last May, when a group of us hiked up to remote churches and monasteries, all marked by a glaring, frightful absence…

One hundred years, and the past is so chillingly close.

9 Comments on A Century through a Boy’s Eyes

  1. What a beautiful article…

  2. avatar Nectar Leylekian // April 2, 2015 at 7:55 am // Reply

    Heart breaking

  3. These lost relatives still trouble us. My grandmother heard one of her 6 brothers, the youngest, survived and sent letters and even asked a prominent Armenian who could get “behind-the-lines” in the 1920’s to find him and he said he did. He was living with Turks and to continue to try contacting him would mean his death. We often wonder if he told her this because he knew her brother was dead…

  4. Just curious ,why it took her a century to look after her brother?

  5. avatar Sandy altiparmakyan // April 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm // Reply

    Hope was the only thing they had. I remember my husband telling me about an Aunt who through her daughters of the cliff and jumped to avoid them being raped by soldiers.

  6. touching article! My late father was a survivor from the village of sivaz in sepastia.

  7. My grandmother was a survivor from sepastia very beautiful and heartbreaking article

  8. avatar Vehanoush Tekian // April 3, 2015 at 10:33 am // Reply

    Are there any records indicating the percentage of those who were ultimately found due to the ads in the newspapers? I guess not!
    I remember vividly those ‘ge pndrvi’ notices, they became scarcer as the years went by and then they stopped altogether.
    And now, one hundred years later, a sister looks for her Yeghig. What a consolation, she makes us aware that as long as she’s not dead her brother cannot be dead, either. Hope beyond catastrophe and even beyond life.
    Nanore, your writing touches our hearts, makes us go beyond the facts, raises consciousness. I wish you have more time to write!

  9. I still have two copies of the Hairenik Weekly in memory of Reuben Chilingarian Darbinyan. His wife Nadine was my piano teacher and friend since I was 7 years old. The History of Armenia found me because of my mention of them in my website bio.
    Is there any way we can at least let her know that here in America we can make an effort to help her find him. If he’s alive and 90 years old unlikely he’s on FB, but you never know who might see a post. Any suggestions. Sometimes just knowing that other people care enough may help her.

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