The Long Shadow

Author’s Note:

The Long Shadow is the final book in the Shadow trilogy. The story follows twins Bedros and Dzovinar into adulthood as they travel across the landscapes of the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Their journey takes them from the shores of the Black Sea to Cilicia, Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus. Set in the years from 1915 to 1922, the story describes the years of the Armenian Genocide and the final heroic Battle of Aintab.

It is set during the seven years, June 1915 to June 1922, at the height of the Armenian Genocide. The torture, humiliation, killing and expulsion of Armenians continued beyond that date.

The story follows on immediately from events in The Darker Shadow. It concerns the systematic murder of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1916, and the attempts thereafter at the annihilation of the nation.

Like its two predecessors, this is a novel written in the hope that the story will provide younger readers and those who do not know the recent history of the Armenian people with enough information to explain events, and in the hope that it will encourage them to find out more. I hope it will go a little way to provide answers about what motivated the actions of the Ottoman Empire, and in particular the Committee of Union and Progress triumvirs.

Once again, this is a work of fiction, based on fact. The opinions expressed are my own. The timeline regarding major events is more or less as it happened. All the major characters in the story are fictional but based loosely on actual people. However, some of the American missionaries and Europeans who were important eyewitnesses have been named and sometimes paraphrased.

I have of course mentioned the Greeks and Assyrians of the Ottoman Empire—for, after the Armenians, they were made to suffer massacres and indescribable ill treatment. Their genocide at the hands of the Turks gathered momentum after the end of World War I.

At the end of the book there are brief historical notes, a glossary, plus lyrics and translations of poems, prayers and songs which feature in the narrative.

Also by R. P. Sevadjian:

In the Shadow of the Sultan

Excerpt from The Long Shadow by R. P. Sevadjian—special for the Armenian Weekly

On 25 December, Miss Rohner attempted to have a bit of a celebration at the orphanage. A village man had been tasked with bringing a small Taurus Fir for the occasion. The tree, which proved to be too large to fit into a room, was placed in a corner of the courtyard and we attempted to decorate it with coloured streamers which we made or obtained with difficulty, as there were no supplies of coloured paper to be found. In the end we had to ask all the women and girls we knew to donate coloured ribbons and scraps of brightly coloured material, which we tied in small bows all over the tree—the less listless of the children happily joining in. When it snowed, the tree glinted in the winter sun and became an enchanted focus of the courtyard, and at last the children came out and started running about and laughing—wanting to touch the tree, wondering what it was there for.

Vahig procured a sack of dates and another of dried apricots. The children lined up and we handed each one a few of the fruit, which were received in a kind of wonder. They had lived on types of porridge for so long that it was a very real treat for them. I had a lump in my throat all that day, watching those poor children take so much pleasure in the tree and the dried fruit.

The days grew colder and colder and many Halebtsis said they could not remember a more severe winter. Many refugees who had gone to sleep under blankets of snow in their camps froze to death.

New Year’s Day dawned and it was hard to be optimistic and to wish each other a Happy New Year. There was more and more bad news, nothing joyful or kind.

The Arab governor of Der Zor, Ali Souad, who had done his best to treat the Armenians being dumped in his districts kindly, was considered too lenient—a more severe and loyal adherent to the government was brought in. The remaining Armenians who had been working on the railways, the so-called labour battalions, were now also herded towards Der Zor.

‘Those who don’t just drop dead at the side of the road, arrive near-naked and totally emaciated; their ribs showing, their knees protruding, only to be felled by a chété’s ax or rifle-butt and thrown into burial pits.’ Mark was reporting what he had heard. I had no stomach for these horrors any more. I was unable to listen without getting deeply upset. But there was no escaping them. ‘It seems that the new governor is experimenting with new ways to expedite the killing of larger numbers of people in one go.’

‘What new ways?’ asked Bedros.

‘Well,’ Mark looked uncomfortable. ‘Apparently groups of people are being shut into caves and gassed.’

On 6 January we celebrated Christmas and went to church. Again the greetings rang hollow. ‘Shnorhavor Sourp Dzenount!’ we said to our acquaintances. And then at the end of the service, ‘Tsézi, mézi médz avédis!’.

Zohrab and Zabel (the two Zeds) came to our apartment for Christmas lunch, which consisted of an Aleppo delicacy made by Yéprouhi: lamb’s heart kebabs in minted butter, which was nothing short of delicious and raised my spirits somewhat—even though I was not a fan of so much offal. This was followed by the obligatory anoushabour. After consuming this comforting pudding it was not possible to remain melancholic, and our spirits lifted enough for us to enjoy the rest of the day, telling stories, singing songs—‘No sad songs or stories allowed!’ instructed Uncle.

©R P Sevadjian December 2021

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R P Sevadjian is the author of In the Shadow of the Sultan and The Darker Shadow, historical coming of age novels set during the Hamidian Massacres of 1896 and the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Sevadjian is a third-generation diasporan Armenian, whose family left Asia Minor in the 1800’s and was scattered across the world, no members remaining in their ancestral homelands. Born and raised in Africa, she now lives in the UK where she is currently researching the Armenians of Ethiopia and the work of B A Sevadjian about whom she has written several articles for Armenian Weekly. The Long Shadow, the final part of her Armenian Genocide Trilogy will be published in the summer of 2021.
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2 Comments

  1. A beautiful moment in the most traumatic circumstances. Yes, the greetings sounded hollow. I wonder if we could do better today, so many refugees from all around the world, it is so sad.

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