By Lisa M.
Megerditch Mouradikian, my great-great-grandfather, the only son of his parents, was born late in the 19th century in Kharpert, a region known as the cradle of the Armenian nation. Kharpert was located on the top of a hill in the territories conquered by the Ottoman Empire for centuries. The town of Kharpert was the educational center of nearby villages, one of the first towns with a US Embassy and American colleges. At the beginning of turmoil in the 20th century, for security reasons, he was sent abroad, like so many other young Armenians, by ship, to the United States, leaving behind his young wife and newborn son Levon.
He traveled to Philadelphia where he worked with other Armenian friends while the situation worsened and deteriorated in the homeland. Religious and community leaders, physicians and writers were arrested and hanged. Women and children and the elderly were deported, tortured and slaughtered.
My great-great-grandfather was among a group of young Armenian immigrants leaving the United States, who joined the French army as volunteers. Before leaving the United States, my great-great-grandfather gave most of his savings to Armenian foundations. After the initial formation of the Armenian armed forces called the Armenian Legion in Cyprus, they aided the French and British forces against the Ottoman and German armies in the region. They managed to liberate Beirut and spent the night in Deir Salib, located in Jal El Dib, which was full of corpses due to the torture and starvation.
In two days, they won the battle of Nablus in Palestine by sacrificing around 150 young Armenian men, buried in Palestine. The Armenian Legion helped the British and French win the decisive Battle of Arara and was credited with making General Allenby’s victory possible. My great-great-grandfather’s wish was to reunite with his family, but he was told that they were all dead except for his son, who was chosen by a Turkish general from a group of Armenian children, before burning them all alive. He also learned his wife ran after her child and tried to save him; she was beaten and thrown to the ground. Bleeding and injured, she ran after the general asking for pity and mercy; the general decided to keep her as a housekeeper and take care of his adopted child by himself. My great-great-grandfather thought of a way to rescue them, but his friends warned him, saying, “You can’t take a diamond out of the snake’s mouth.” With great sorrow, he had to accept the bitter reality. It was impossible to get them back, so after the disappointment of liberating their homeland, he married another Armenian and moved to Lebanon, where he had seven children, three girls and four boys. One of them was my great-grandfather.
At the end of the 1960s, a friend visiting a village near Kharpert told my great-great-grandfather the story of a boy of Armenian origin adopted by a Turkish pasha, raised in Turkey, married and a father of a Turkish family. The housekeeper (the real mother) had secretly told him that he was of Armenian origin and that his father had left them years ago and would be back to save them.
As much as my great-great-grandfather was overwhelmingly happy in discovering that his first son and wife were alive, he was heartbroken while recalling those painful days and those bitter memories: how he was forced to leave them back there. His eyes were full of tears. He could barely speak. He wanted to travel and search for them, but his critical health condition did not allow it. Consequently, he made my grandfather, Levon, named after his first son, promise him that one day he would go and find his older brother.
This is the true story of my great-great-grandfather, like many stories told of the tortures and sufferings of so many other Armenians who had survived the Genocide and who, with strong will and determination, have pushed forward while informing the world about the first and most ruthless brutality of the 20th century. As poet Bedros Tourian once wrote, “But when my grave forgotten shall remain, In some dim nook, neglected and passed by, When from the world my memory fades away, That is the time when I indeed shall die!”