“A Glimpse of Andok” In Memory of Ghazar Sargsyan of the Royal and Kurm Lineage of the Haykazuns

  • by Western Armenia, July 03, 2023 in Hayapatum
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Below is a testimony from Ghazar Sargsyan, a descendant of the Royal and Kurm dynasty of the Haykazuns, highlighting the extraordinary significance of the days of struggle of the brave and indomitable people of Sassoun and Moush. For seven months in 1915, the people of Taron fought heroically, almost unarmed, in self-defense...

Heartbroken by the unbearable pain of separation from his homeland, the young Armenian paid tribute to the memory of millions of Armenians and, years later, in 1939, published his poignant memoirs in the magazine "Taroni Artsiv" (issue 12). It presented fragments of the heroic resistance of the liberated Armenians, the defenders of Sasun.

Some photographs and memoirs from the hero's personal archive were provided by his grandson, also named Ghazar Sargsyan, Kurm Mihr Haykazuni, who emphasized the great role of the Armenian mountains, especially Mount Andok, for the Haykazuns (as a place of transmission of the National Doctrine).

BITTER MEMORIES OF MY LIFE

Rasho used to say that there were no strangers in our village. There were thirty-two houses, all from one ancestor, divided into three upper classes - Mkre houses, Krpe houses, Malo houses. I was born in 1902, and the fatal events for my life began in 1903. At that time the Turkish army surrounded our village. My father, Manouk Sargsyan, was arrested as a fedayeen and taken to Moush, where he suffered long and hard, was sentenced to 101 years in prison and sent to Bagesh-Bitlis. A year later, in 1904, the general uprising in Sassoun began. The villagers set fire to all the houses and climbed Geliguzan until Sasun fell. My mother took me and my brother in her arms and followed the people, and after months of suffering and wandering in the mountains, she landed on the plain of Moush, where some of the defeated Sasun people had taken refuge. My great uncle Mkro remained on the mountain and continued to fight against the Turks. He, Tone and Khurshud eventually crossed the road to Kurtik and lived for days in the forest called Danelnin. One day, after being betrayed by the Kurds of Tapik, they were surrounded by the army. They fought to the last bullet. Tone and Khursud were killed, Mkro was captured alive. They took him to the village and after torturing him they hung him from a poplar tree in front of our house - feet up, head down. Three days later, his friends took Mkro's body down, and they also brought the bodies of Tone and Khurshud and buried them near the church of Surb Stepanos Nakhavka.

My father is in jail, my uncle was brutally murdered, our father's house burned down, our fathers

The poplar tree was like a bloody cross, and my mother, the only pillar of our family, was wandering with her two children in the villages of the Moush Plain during all this suffering.  And even today, I envy those days, because after those events, the hearth of our father's house began to burn again! The people of Sasun returned to their destroyed villages by order of the Turkish government. With tears in her eyes, my mother was rebuilding her house for her sons.

Time passed. With the power of pain and happiness, we grew up under the protection of our mother, under the shadow of my uncle's pipe, the gallows. One day the constitution was passed and my father was released from prison. A few days later we received an invitation from the villages of the Moush Plain. My father's prison friends called us. Tskhava Harut, the illustrious son of Taron, was one of them. We went down to the plain, first to the village of Paskhaldag, then to the villages of Goma, Sulukh, Tskhav, Aran, Derek. My mother stayed with my brother in Harut's house in Tskhav. My father took me and returned to Sulukh. Our trip lasted two months. They would not let us return to our village. We barely escaped from our hospitable friends. Finally we returned to the village. Slowly our economy recovered. Although not as much as before, we had a spacious house again.

Schools opened in the villages on the plain and in Sasun. I studied at our village school for three years. The teacher was our village headman, Ohan Amroyan, from the Sourp Karapet Monastery. "When I had just finished the first grade in my mother tongue, the World War started.

The Russo-Turkish war began and there were rumors of disarmament and extermination of Armenian soldiers. The desire to arm was strong, but there were no weapons. They managed to bring three hundred "Greek Mauzer" guns and distribute them to the people of Sasun for 7 gold pieces with 50 bullets each. In our village there were 30 houses and 100 armed men, but we had only 7 rifles. In the winter of 1915, bitter news began to come from the Plain. When these rumors were added to the lack of weapons and ammunition, the people of Sasun became very angry. Some, hoping that the Russians would come, preached patience to the people and continued the deadly waiting.

Summer came... The black summer of 1915 in Daron's world.

The Turks, of course, feared Daron's warlike Armenian rebellion. That is why they pretended to be indifferent to the events of Arakelots Monastery and Goms. People did not know what was happening outside Daron.

Meanwhile, in April and May, Armenians in other provinces were also displaced and Van rose up and was liberated. A day or two after the Vardavar holiday, the terrible news came - the Moush Plain had been destroyed and Kotoyan Haji Hakob was fighting a desperate battle in the city. We heard that Armenian groups from the Kurtik side were going to come to the aid of the fighting Moush, but they did not succeed because the Turks had already blocked all the roads from Sasun to Moush.  The Red Visitation and Mirzagh fountain were full of soldiers. Everything was already lost and Sasun was surrounded. The whole army and the Kurdish tribes entered Sasoun from all four sides, the army from the Kurtik side and the Kurds from the Tapik and Talvorik side.

The battle began... Commander Isro (Koryun) went behind Kurtik to Tapik and Shekhusif to Ziyaret. Then he went to the village of Kop. In the morning all the villages were evacuated. We went to Gbresor. But the armed forces had surrounded important lines. The next day a fierce clash broke out. 

The Turkish army reached the village of Senik. In the evening the Turks entered the village, set it on fire and advanced towards Semal. In the village, Armenians and Turks mixed with each other and fought fiercely in the flames of the burning village. At night, the people gathered in the hills, watched this terrible scene and marched towards Grekol. Day dawned and the people made their way to Andok.

The fighting forces remained in Grekol's positions.

The mountain was besieged by troops from Moush, Tigranakert and Capaghjur, and by Kurdish troops that were multiplying by the moment. Its inhabitants gathered and returned to the village of Gegash.

...The government issued an order that those who hid the arriving Armenian refugees would be punished with death if they did not surrender. They handed over many Armenians, but they hid me. One day I came home and was told, "Take care of yourself. A new strict order has been issued, we cannot hide you any longer. We have to hand you over to the state." With these words they showed me the door. That day I stayed on the mountain until late in the evening. At night I went down to the city. There was a Turk from Moush with my fellow countryman, a boy from the village of Shushnamerk. I went to him and advised him to flee to Mush. We set off and walked until evening. In the morning, we were already in Golome's colony. The Kurds were singing, and I returned to the prayer hall to take up the cross and say my last "goodbye" to the Motherland: all the tortures I had suffered, all the horrors I had seen aside, at that moment, when I saw the mysterious plain of Daron and the gigantic peaks around it, the sun-anointed mountains of Sipan, Nemrut, Grgur, all the secrets of the universe, all the meaning of life, turned into the pain of separation, and my heart ached so much that I collapsed helpless and weak....

Today there is no legendary Sasun, no mighty Saints and legendary people of the Daron world...

How come our saints tied our hands instead of the enemy? But we have seen epic battles and heroic deaths of an unarmed people, invincible in spirit and empty-handed.

What could the heroic people of the Daron world have done without their leaders who dreamed of disarmament?

I see a terrible contradiction between the outcome of events and the strength of spirit of the people.

We were not a mortal race, but we turned to ashes.

And this great tragedy pushed me to WRITE ABOUT WHAT I LIVED.

Ghazar Sargsyan

https://karineavetisyan.am/archives/5739