Mesrob Pasha (as he was affectionately known to his family and friends, Aghabab to his grandchildren) wasn’t a man of many words, but he loved his country and his countrymen. He was born during a time where it was survival of the fittest, and if you weren’t tenacious, you didn’t eat or live. A stoic man, Aghabab was a loving grandfather, especially to his first-born grandson, my father—Jack Konoian. He always kept a watchful eye on his curious five year-old in the garden, my father recalls.
In Bayburt in early 1914, Aghabab sensed danger and decided to study the patterns and habits of the strange infantry around him. He decided to befriend these violent men after he witnessed their senseless and horrific massacre against innocent Armenian women and children. He gave himself a Turkish alias (Datsu) and not only gained their trust, but managed to learn the plans of the Ottoman Empire’s desire to massacre the Armenian people. And because of his resourcefulness, he was always able to remain one step ahead. One of his many advantages was height; he stood at a mighty six feet seven inches tall. A man of his stature and intelligence could move around easily with minimal interference because his presence intimidated people. Once he pieced together what the Turks had planned for the Armenian people, he immediately began his quest for justice.
He slept underground and survived on vegetation and anything else he could find in the woods for 17 months while on his mission, moving like a stealth at night and staying out of sight during the day. After slaying hundreds of these violent Ottoman Empire henchmen, he remained unscathed, my father recalls. It was as if he had the power and protection of God and his ancestors guiding his every step.
He later journeyed to Tiflis, fell in love and married a woman named Areknaz. They had three sons. All boys delighted him very much as they would carry on the family name. Not long after the birth of their sons, Areknaz died tragically due to an unknown illness. After his wife’s death, unable to stay in their family home in Tiflis, Aghabab decided to move his family to Novorossiysk, Russia. There, he acquired property and decided to build a home. He graciously donated the unused property to a family friend so they too could experience the safety and comfort of home ownership. My great-grandfather felt it was his duty to protect and defend his Armenian heritage and stopped at nothing to do just that. He was a proud Armenian and wanted to make the world a safer place for generations to come. His sons and grandchildren meant everything to him.
Just before he died in 1941, he gathered his children and grandchildren and warned them all that the Genocide was just the beginning and something bigger was brewing. He urged his loved ones to prepare accordingly, but at the time, none of them knew what to expect (WWII).
My Aghabab was a man of great ingenuity. He was heroic, courageous and a champion for change. It is with great respect and admiration that I remember my great-grandfather on this day, the 107th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. His strength, bravery and foresight were unparalleled. He was one of the most amazing, fearless and valiant men to have ever existed. HIStory is a part of my history. His legend will continue to live on forever in the Konoian family and beyond.
Interesting story! I was told about you and you great-grandfather recently after a friend read this article. We may be related as my grandfather was from Bayburt and was Y.H. Gononian (Gonoian)(Konoian?) How wonderful he and his family survived the Genocide!!!