Thursday, April 24, 2008

93 and remembering 

A friend of mine challenged me to let five people know today about the Armenian Genocide.

I will refer you five (and let me hope there are more than five) to the writer I consider most reliable in assessing genocides and democides of the 20th Century, Rudy Rummel. He writes of the entire panoply of genocides, not just the largest one begun this day in 1915. My grandparents left Turkey -- grandfather to America with his older brother, grandmother to a Lutheran orphanage in Beirut -- before the Young Turks came to power in 1909. They were casualties or collateral damage of the massacres of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the last Ottoman leader. (A stub of the story is still up on my family website written several years ago. I've not gotten around to reposting the rest of it.)

I have many stories to tell about marking today, which is known among Armenians as Genocide Day or Martyrs' Day. But perhaps the only thing that matters is that it eventually led a great woman, my medz mayr, to come to Dover NH, to create a family that included my father, who used to sing songs to me as a child that were Armenian and German, which I could only understand by learning about her life. And through it the tragedy of her family, her dead husband's family (my grandfather died when my dad was four), and a family tree that I've spent the last ten years trying to reconstruct. The records are gone -- they were in the Armenian churches that we are now told never existed -- and the older ones who remember are mostly gone. Remembering the martyrs is not about remembering murder and destruction; it's about remembering where you came from.