The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girlby David Kherdian
"Turkey's pre-World War I `final solution' to its Armenian minority [is recounted in this] illuminating memoir of a survivor remarkable for her unwavering faith in life."School Library Journal.
- Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.31(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.93(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
The Road from Home
The Story of an Armenian Girl
For as long as I knew the sky and the clouds, we lived in our white stucco house in the Armenian quarter of Azizya, in Turkey, but when the great dome of Heaven cracked and shattered, over our lives, and we were abandoned by the sun and blown like scattered seed across the Arabian desert, none returned but me, and my Azizya, my precious home, was made to crumble and fall and forever disappear from my life.
My father had gone to Afyon Karahissar to get his bride, and my grandmother used to say, "When he brought our harss [bride] from Afyon, we had music and dancing for one week, and I made thirty-five trays of pahklava [pastry] and thirty trays of khourabia [sugar cookies] for the wedding."
My grandmother's friends -- Turkish, Greek and Armenian -- all said, "Where did you find this girl? She looks like a country girl, tall and strong, and with such red cheeks."
My mother was gifted with her fingers, and she was strong and healthy. She was an expert weaver in addition to tending to her housework and her garden of vegetables and flowers.
I remember how she used to make khashkash from the poppy seeds. She would first brown the seeds in a frying pan and then grind them on a special stone. It made a kind of poppy-seed butter, and it was one of our staples. Every time she made a fresh batch she would invite her lady friends over for lunch. My mother was very gay and friendly, and she was always having her friends over because Fatherwas away so much of the time on business.
Everyone in the family was especially fond of my mother, because my aunt, the other bride in my grandmother's home, was delicate and frail and unable to do hard work. She was sick most of the time, and they used to say, "Vakh, vakh, our boy's life has been burnt; this bride has come to nothing."
At that time, and in that region, a sick bride was considered the worst thing of all. We all lived under one roof then, with my grandparents and aunts and uncles, but when I was five, we moved, with my sick aunt and uncle and cousin, to the new Armenian quarter. There we had the acreage we needed for growing poppies, because my father's business was harvesting and selling the gum that was used in making opium.
My mother and aunt had grown fond of one another when they lived at Grandma's, and then, when they moved to their new home, which was a duplex, my mother began looking after my aunt. They were the same age, and they had been the brides of my grandmother's house. They were referred to in this way because in the old country tradition the bride, or harss -- as she was forever after called -- had to travel to the home of the groom. It was not uncommon at that time for four generations to live under one roof. Because my mother had so much energy and was no doubt eager to please and to make a place for herself in this new home, and because she was kind and loving by nature as well, she was eager to help my aunt. So my mother would cook if my aunt was unable to cook, and wash if she was unable to wash, and every day she brought my aunt fresh water from the well before my uncle came home, and the members of the family would say, "Everything has turned out for the best since they moved to their new home. Lousapere is growing stronger day by day."
And my uncle was satisfied. He would say, "Everything is very nice now. Very nice!" Years later, in the midst of our great troubles, when my aunt and I were alone, adrift and homeless, she would say to me, "No matter how much I do for you, Veron, it cannot be too much. I can never repay your mother." She worried about me. She cared for me. She loved me like a daughter.
I was always grateful that it was my aunt Lousapere who moved with our family to the new house, and not my aunt Arousiag. I often heard members of our family gossiping about her, and I was so grateful that she was not living with us, because ours was a happy home and she didn't sound like a happy person to me. She was very pretty, but also very spoiled. Her mother and father lived close by, and I overheard the members ofour family say that she was always running home to her parents. This was a big disgrace, especially since our family and the Tehbelekians were the two wealthiest families in Azizya, and had, therefore, to set an example.
I was the first child born into our family. Soon after, my sister, Yeghisapet, was born, followed by my brother Apkar and then my brother Harutiun, who was just a baby when I was five years old and we moved to our new home.
Yeghisapet and I had one doll between us. It was a smooth-faced, beautiful doll, and we were very intent when we played with it. We would dress it, undress it, scold it, tease it, hug it, put it to bed, wake it up, change its clothes, teach it manners, etc., and all this without ever a fight between us.
My father was very different from my mother. He was frail, and fair-skinned, and almost always silent. He was a businessman, and highly respected. He Would travel over the country with the gum we harvested from our poppies or with mohair, which he also sold, and he would return with big sums of money.
We always looked forward to his return, because every evening, when he was at home, he would play the saz (a small string instrument), and my mother would cook something special, and we would all be together, eating and laughing, and everybody would be happy because Father was home.The Road from Home
The Story of an Armenian Girl. Copyright © by David Kherdian. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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