This is a very short book just 114 pages, but it is a very moving story. A brave tale that breaks the silence of the Armenian genocide to a Turkish audience (originally written in Turkish, I read the translation by Maureen Freely (who also translates Orhan Pamuk)).
Fethiye thought her grandmother was a happy, well respected Turkish Muslim grandmother, who kept her house spotlessly clean and doted on her children and grandchildren. One day her grandmother revealed the truth about her past, which would turn Fethiye’s world upside-down. Her grandmother, had not been born Seher but Heranuş to an Armenian Christian family. In 1915 Heranuş’ village was visited by the Turkish Gendarmes and the men had their throats slit and their bodies thrown into the River Tigris, which ran red with their blood for several days. The women and children were forced on a death march, those who couldn’t keep up were killed by the gendarmes bayonets. Heranuş was saved by a Turkish Gendarme who had no children of his own. Heranuş and others like her were referred to as “leftovers of the sword“, they were adopted by Turkish families, converted to Islam and kept their secret for many years often to the grave.
Heranuş didn’t blame Islam for what happened to her and the other Armenians “What they did doesn’t square with Islam or any other religion.”
Heranuş finally told her granddaughter about her past because she wanted to get back in contact with any of her family who may have survived before she died, some had gone to America before the genocide. Heranuş lived to be 95 and a toruntaht (a grandmother who held the grandchild of her grandchild) but she didn’t see any of her birth family again. Her mother was one of the few who survived the death march arriving in Aleppo (today sadly a place of fresh killing in Syria) and from there later emigrating to America. Fethiye made an emotional trip to America after the death of her grandmother to meet her grandmother’s younger sister Margaret and visit the grave of her grandmother’s mother. Meeting the family…”Our emotional reunion (at JFK airport) seemed to have made an impression on the people nearby; when we looked around we saw we had attracted a crowd of onlookers.”
Richard, one of Fethiye’s American cousins remarked “I must have been four or five years old when I first heard what the Turks had done to the Armenians. All my life, I’ve been afraid of Turks. I nurtured a deep hatred of them. The denial made things even worse. Then I found out that you (Fethiye) were part of our family and Turkish at the same time. Now I’m desperate to meet my other cousins and even make music with them. But I still hate all those who deny what happened; these people I shall never forgive.”
My rating 4 out of 5