Armenian Refugees in Haftvan, Turkey
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Now, I said my mother and I and my nephew were in a camp, in a village on the outskirts of the main city, Haftvan. Well, the war between the Assyrians and the Persians and the Kurds culminated in the capture of the biggest city in Salmās, Dilliman, and everybody rushed there for plunder. And my mother joined that crowd, because we had nothing. So she ran into my brother-in-law, my oldest sister's husband, and he found out our location and the condition we were in. He says, "Why don't you move into Haftvan?" with him and my sister and his mother. Well, my mother decided we'll go do that, so we moved into Haftvan.
And my duty was to take the one cow that my brother-in-law had to the fields to graze. Well, in the village, I did the same thing for the family that we stayed with, so she gave me food. My mother and nephew had to go beg food. One of the wealthiest families a couple months back is begging. The grazing area was what used to be the fields of this huge city of Dilliman, and the war was going on. You could see the soldiers and the clatter of machine guns. We watched like it was a football game. And every so often one of the soldiers would come by and we'd ask him how things were going; he said, "We're doing all right, we're doing all right."
Well, this lasted for -- this is March. In about June, the agreement was reached between the Assyrians and Armenians that we'll try to break through and go to Russian Armenia. And the spokesman for the Assyrians was Agha Petros, who commanded some 5,000 or more cavalry. He was supposed to defend the right flank, based on the shores of Lake Urmia. The Assyrians were to defend the left flank, and the Armenians, especially those from Van, would take the brunt, the center, the breakthrough. Well, about five, six weeks before this thing happened, my sister died, and she was buried in one of those cemeteries.
And this night, when what was supposed to be a breakthrough turned out to be a fight for life defense, it just so happened -- of course, the Armenians were not aware of it -- the General Andranik, the Armenian hero, with his fighting force was trying to join us. He had left Russian Armenia and was headed our way with his warriors, who were mostly made up from men from Van. Well, we were not aware of this, and the Turks thought, you know, they were caught into a pincer there. So they concentrated on the weakest two, which was our side, because they had no hope of beating Andranik. Andranik was invincible, as far as the Turks were concerned. He never lost a battle with the Turks.
And so our side gave in, and we had to run, leave Salmās, head for Urmi. And the rain, the thunder, and the cannons, bombs bursting, knee deep in mud: we were going past the cemetery, and my mother says, "How fortunate was our daughter. She didn't have to go through this."