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HANDFUL OF EARTH -Prof.Donabed Lulejian

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  • HANDFUL OF EARTH -Prof.Donabed Lulejian

    Handful Of Earth -nyt191804
    From Armeniapedia.org

    "Gleanings" Reprint
    HANDFUL OF EARTH




    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    APRIL 1918,

    Reprinted from Professor Lulejian's book, "Gleanings", (1955) Mshag Press, and Fresno.

    And just as the more modern tragedy is characterized new refinements of horror, just so much pathetic and appealing is the modern prayer.

    We are left in no doubt the personality of its author. The same, Donabed Lulejian, will call to many Armenians the vision of a thoughtful and scholarly young man know the them, it may be, at Cornell University where he studied for two years, or at Yale, where he received the degree of M. S. He was also a graduate of Euphrates, the American college at Harpoot, when he came to our country, and it was to Euphrates he returned in 1911 to serve as professor of biology there. He was the last surviving member of the Armenian faculty, until Death took him also.

    Part of his story comes to us tersely in Viscount Bryce's "Documents presented to Viscount Greay." The testimony is that of the Principal of the College.

    "Professor Lulejian served college about 15 years. Arrested about June 5th, 1915. Beaten about hands, body, and head with a stick by the Kaimakam himself, who, when tired, called on all who loved religion to continue the beating. After a period of insensibility, taken to Red Crescent Hospital with a broken finger and serious bruises. Now Free."

    Professor Lulejian contrived somehow to escape from the Hospital, and to flee on foot to Russia, from whence he later returned to Erzerum to assist the American Consul in relief work. There he died of typhoid. It is his young brother, Levon, who was his companion on the flight, that we are indebted for the details of the piteous circumstances which attended the writing of the second prayer:

    "For four months we had been hiding in a stable," he writes. "When Kurds told us of the fall of Erzerum, we came out from our hiding places and saw the sun again. A few days afterwards, when we were passing through the ruined villages of Unghag, where we saw the bones and hacked bodies of men, women and children, my brother sat near by and began to write this, I, standing at a distance, was crooning a melancholy Kurdish song, and when I turned toward him I saw that his eyes were filled with tears and that he was shaking with emotion. In a few minuets he had finished his Handful of Earth. This is only a skeleton, he said. There is much to add. But I have no more paper. Let us go."

    This epic of suffering was written a bit of thick window paper, torn from the window-paper, of the stable in which they had been hiding. I use a translation made by Mr. Garabed H. Papazian:

    "At least a handful of earth for these slain bodies, for these whitened bones! A handful of earth, at least, for these unclaimed dead!

    "We bury the dead: we keep their memory sacred: the grave is holy to us: we place our dear ones into its bosom, and we imagine them always to be there. We dislike to fancy the bodies of our dear ones worm-ridden; their eyes lonely eyes, filled with worms; their cheeks their kiss-deserving cheeks, mildewed; their pomegranate-like lips food for reptiles. We dislike to fancy the ruin, destruction, and annihilation. Our heart is there under the earth with the embalmed dead, waiting to rise in the glorious dawn of the resurrection. With a handful of earth we cover the scene of death and decay. With a handful of earth we cover our dear bones.

    "But here they are in the mountains, unburies and forlorn, attacked by worms and scorpions, the eyes bare, the faces horrible, amid a loathsome stench, like the odor of a slaughter-house, -- a dreadful spot from which to flee. We flee from those we love; we abhor those for whom we would give our lives. A handful of earth, to cover this frightened scene!

    "There are our women with breasts uncovered and limbs bare a handful of earth to shield their hearts and in their heads: a handful of earth to cover them! There are our brides, disemboweled, hacked to pieces, with babies yet unborn: a handful of earth, only to screen from our eyes this sorrowful scene! there are our young men with feet cut away and heads battered against the stone: cruel fiends hacked them to pieces, ferocious Bushmen, wild Kaffirs. A handful of earth to shut from our sight this heart-rending scene!

    "A handful of earth, God! Sprinkle a handful of earth so that thin eyes, through the stars, may not see the immolation of these weak and defenseless creatures, the piteous sacrifice on the altar of Thy wrath. Throw a handle of earth upon them!

    "A handful of earth, at least! Let the drama end, the age long drama of Armenian's torture. Let the Armenian become a fossil. Let him to be disgrace of the civilization which tore him to pieces, cruelly and without mercy. Let him be the curse of the religion which abandoned him and left him without succor. A handful of earth, that he may become a fossil inscription to reveal to the man of tomorrow the story of Armenia's woe. Give, God, the handful of earth requested of Thee!"

    The New Armenia, April, 1918 pic. 191, A photo of the professor as he appeared in 1911 pic 191, A photo of the professor as he appeared immediately after his release from prison, 1915

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A hard copy of this article or hundreds of others from the time of the Armenian Genocide can be found in The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922
    http://www.armeniapedia.org/index.ph...enian_Genocide
    "All truth passes through three stages:
    First, it is ridiculed;
    Second, it is violently opposed; and
    Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

    Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

  • #2
    Excerp from :The burning Tigris/ Peter Balakian

    After being hidden in the consulate by Leslie Davis,Professor Lulejian escaped through the Dersim to Russia,where he stayed briefly.Shortly before his death in 1918 of typhus in Erzurum,where he had just started an orphanage for Armenian survivors,Lulejian wrote what might be called a prayer-prose-poem called "A Handful of Earth" His brother levon recalled how,after passing through a ruined village littered with the corpses of men,women.and children. Donabed found a "piece of thick window-paper" in a stable and began writing.




    At least a handful of earth for these slain bodies,for those whitened
    bones! A handful of earth , at least,for those unclaimed dead....
    We dislike to fancy bodies of our dear ones worm-ridden;
    their eyes,their lovele eyes,filled with worms;their cheeks,their
    kiss-deserving cheeks,mildewed; their pomegranate-like lips
    food for reptiles.
    But here they are in the mountains,unburied and forlorn,
    attacked by worms and scorpions,the eyes bare,the faces horri-
    ble amid a loathsome stench,like the odor of the slaughter-
    house....
    There are our women with breasts uncovered and limbs
    bare.A handful of earth to shield their honor! There are our boys,
    naked and torn,with bullets in their hearts and in their heads: a
    handful of earth to cover them! There are our brides,disembow-
    eled,hacked to pieces,with babies yet unborn:a handful of earth,
    only,to screen from our eyes this sorrowful scene! There are our
    boys with feet cut away and heads battered against the stone...
    Let the Armenian become a fossil.Let him be the disgrace of
    the civilization which tore him to pieces....Let him be the curse
    of the religion which abandoned himand left him without suc-
    cor. Give,God. the handful of earth requested of Thee!




    What leslie davis testified to in his reports, Donabed Lulejian also
    testified to-although neither of them saw each other after the summer of
    1915, months before Davis made his trip to Lake Golcuk. lulejian trans-
    formed his witness into a benediction, into a prayer for the dead,remind-
    ing us that language can't bring backthe dead,it can insist onthe
    sacredness of life,the civility of burial, and the dignity of memory.
    "All truth passes through three stages:
    First, it is ridiculed;
    Second, it is violently opposed; and
    Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

    Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

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