Apigian-Kessel: The Chirp of the Crickets

“I didn’t tell you this before,” I said to my husband Bob. “A couple of nights ago I had a horrible dream.”

“What was your dream about and why didn’t you tell me about it sooner?” He waited for my reply as I labored to relive it all over again.

“It was terrible. It was frightening. It was just horrible. I kept getting captured and tortured by the Turks. I would succeed in escaping but then they would capture me and the fear and torture would start all over. It just went on and on until I finally woke up.”

Robert asks, “Where did this happen to you, where was it taking place?”

“In present-day Turkey,” I replied somberly as tears splashed down my cheeks.

***

And tonight at midnight I had to live the genocide all over again. Sue Kapagian called to tell me that author Peter Balakian was on the Charley Rose program, so I watched it and now I am coming to bed having to rethink the horror of the genocide like I do most days as correspondence pours in about Armenian affairs.”

We are fortunate to have someone like Peter to represent the Armenians so eloquently on national television. He is credible. He has credentials. He is a scholar, a well-known writer, and a Ph.D. He has written a bestseller book that appeared on the New York Times list. I feel insignificant next to him but I have a self-imposed mission to accomplish, to expose the Turks and do my part to inform people and keep the Armenian spirit alive.

Peter was discussing his new book Armenian Golgatha, the English translation (by Aris Sevag and Peter) of Rev. Grigoris Balakian’s memoirs of the 1915 genocide. He explained to Charley Rose all the madness perpetrated on the Armenians by the Turks, how they used every inhumane method of killing our people.

I watched Rose’s face to see what kind of response he would have to all this mad brutality, but he kept his professional composure as he listened. Peter: “They even used farm implements to do their dirty work.” He told of them killing over one million Armenians in 1915, how the town crier would alert everyone in the villages to meet in the town center, and give the announcement that the Armenians had to leave their homes immediately. Few escaped, most were killed as they were put on death marches to Der Zor. Long lines of women, children, and old men became a tangle of rags, thirst, and disease under the raging sun. Two hundred thousand more were killed in Der Zor. The killing just went on and on.

“Bob, we live, I live, while they died a horrible death. How am I supposed to feel, happy or guilty?”

“You should feel happy. You are alive and living in a free country. Your parents lived in freedom. You have grandchildren to nurture. People look forward to your column.”

“No I cannot let it go. It’s the terrible injustice that is yet to be acknowledged by the United States government and by those Turks! I live while my family was slaughtered. How does that work? How is it figured out, how is it decided who lives and who dies in this world, and by which method their lives are ended? Humans are still barbarians.”

Peter told Rose of Hitler’s statement made just seven days before his invasion of Poland. “You know the one, Bob.” Hitler said, “Who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?” Charley Rose listened intently, asking how if affects modern-day Turkey, and Peter told him it does not bode well for them because it is a well-accepted concept that they did commit genocide against the Armenians and that they are spending millions to deny it. That stain will prevent them from ever becoming the democratic society they wish to be conceived as, and it is a factor against them for joining the European Union.

It’s a cut sore that will not heal for me until the deniers admit their fault. How difficult could it be for the world to shun Turkey until they admit their crime? For me with my non-political savvy, it seems quite simple to do.

I would say, “Look Turkey, almost the whole world knows you for what you are, heirs of committers of genocide of the Armenians. That is how we perceive you. Get over it. Admit it. Apologize and the sun will still come up tomorrow and we can get on with our lives. You can stop spending millions of dollars to deny the genocide. You can stop drafting over the hill, getting fat cat American politicians and lobbyists to your beck and call, and put that money towards rebuilding the villages and churches you destroyed in historic Armenia. That would be a gracious, humanitarian move on your part.”

***

“How can God allow such things to happen to people? I fear God because I am not supposed to question him.”

“You question him all the time. Where are you going?”

“I have work to do. You go back to sleep.”

The windows are open. It is a warm quiet summer evening. I can hear the crickets chirping loudly. I do not hear the cries of terror and violence from those experiencing the genocide in Van, Moush, Sepastia, and Keghi. I do not hear the hopeless pleading of Haig Nahabed’s ancestors begging for mercy from God.

I do know this: I will forever condemn the Ottoman Turks. I will forever castigate the present Turkish government, which was established on the blood and bones of my ancestors. I refuse to cave in and become a non-committed Armenian.

The chirp of the crickets grow quieter and the pitiful pleas of my ancestors grow louder. The impact of all this is written on my face. Am I, an Armenian woman, becoming extinct even as I sit and write these words in the middle of the night? Will justice ever prevail over politics, greed, and commerce?

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Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

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