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A victim of the Genocide

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  • A victim of the Genocide

    Hayastan: “ . . . so much pain and sorrow . . .”
    By Zhanna Alexanyan
    ArmeniaNow reporter

    “so much sorrow . . .”

    Hayastan Basentsyan has twice taken the path of refuge.
    Now; at age 95, she remembers the first . . .

    “The refuge of 1914 is in my mind. We ran away because Turks were slaughtering us. We were hungry and thirsty… it is still before my eyes. It was (Armenian resistance leader) Serob Pasha who defended us,” remembers Hayastan – named for her country.

    A smile lightens her face when she tells about Serob Pasha and General Andranik, heroes of the Armenian resistance. She saw them 91 years ago and has an image of them now from her road to refuge. She gets a proud stance and begins singing:

    “A group of riders came down the mountains –among them Serob – the Armenian light,

    A group of riders came down the mountains – among them Andranik – the Armenian king.”

    “We spent 3 years at Ghaltakhchi when we came from Ergir (Armenians call the lost historical area of inhabitance in Western Armenia Ergir or Yerkir – which literally means “The Country” in Armenian.) Again we were told to return – and we went back. Those who were clever enough did not return. My father was in good relations then with the Turkish pasha; he used to come and go,” this is how Hayastan explains their return to Ergir.

    The Basentsyans took the path of refuge for the second time in 1918. They were of Mush descent. Hayastan, 8, was the only child of her parents, and they lived in one house with uncles and their families. Few of them survived on the road. A child or two survived from the large family of Hayastan’s uncle.

    “When we took the way of refuge my father said leave everything and run. My uncle wouldn’t come, saying he would not leave his father’s home and go. A Turk killed him, plunged his hand into his hair, twisted, and pulled the skin.

    Shadows of the past are never far behind

    “We left home and means and ran away barefooted. My father said take only bread with you. We went through at daytime passing the river on the boat in the night. Turks had burnt the bridge. Pair of families died that way, the others were killed, slaughtered, burnt. Turks would bind people with chain, pour oil on them and set the fire. Turks dressed Armenians in black…”

    Hayastan says she hasn’t had an opportunity to talk about the massacres of those years for a long time and now telling, she feels it all again; events and pictures come before her eyes. The old woman weeps.

    “Things Turks did to Armenians…killed infants and hoisted on bayonets, forcefully took away beautiful girls and women from their houses. There were no ways out; there were no means for escape for Armenians. Ahead was the river, behind were the Turks. Armenians threw themselves into the river and died. What can you do?” tells Hayastan and says it is in fact impossible to describe the horrifying scenes.

    “No matter how you ask me, how you write, you cannot imagine in full for you have not seen. Those who have seen are not alive. How you can draw attention to what happened, there are no witnesses.”

    She vividly remembers her grandfather, his home always open to the guests including Turks. She gets excited.

    “I would die for the soil and water of Ergir. There was not a single day some ten Turks wouldn’t visit my grandfather’s place. He died on the way. They dug the snow and buried him in it. My grandfather would say: ‘Let my family run away and die in some other place, but let it escape the Turks]. My grandfather was a man of honor.”

    Survivors are a diminishing link to a generation that needs remembering

    Hayastan recalls their settlement – Buranugh Gharalyghi in Mush, their big house and the garden. She was born and baptized in that house.

    “My daughter wanted us to go and see our land and water. What will I see if I go? Shall I see the mill standing, shall I see the shop standing, shall I see the house standing, what shall I see, tell me?” she asks.

    Hayastan Basentsyan does not want to go and see an Ergir that is not hers and is ruined now. She loves her memories and does not want to depart from them.

    “Many things were left to Turks. Our soil and water… Do you know what lands have the Turks got? It was such a good soil; manna would come down from the sky. Everything is now in the Turks’ hands.”

    After getting married Hayastan Basentsyan moved to the village of Mrgastan, near Echmiadsin with her husband, Ruben. In 1941 her husband went to fight World War II and did not return. She raised three children alone. During the last years she lost her two sons and her daughter one after the other.

    “People say some one dies of sorrow. Why then does God not take my soul – I have so much pain and sorrow?”