Like the 6 million Jewish people lost in the Holocaust, Armenians lost an incredibly vibrant, successful, and valuable gene pool of more than a million as a result of the Armenian genocide. This story of fourteen-year-old Flora Munushian, the author's mother, brings an epic chapter in Armenian history to life and takes it to heart. Flora's incredible story honors her people with dignity and personifies the human spirit of hope, love, and justice.
Flora's voice is that of all the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, a story that must not be forgotten.
"I am my mother's voice," says Dr. Mouradian, "and this is her story."
Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
Read an Excerpt
My Mother's VoiceA Novel
By Kay Mouradian
BALBOA PRESSCopyright © 2013 Kay Mouradian
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Proclamation
May 24, 1915. Hadjin, Turkey
War was scorching the edges of Turkey.
Six months had passed since Turkey joined Germany and Austria in the Great War, but in the isolated mountain town of Hadjin life had not much changed.
The days were still peaceful.
The winter snows had melted, dirt roads were soft and muddy from an early spring thaw and old men still met in the local coffeehouse, their exuberant voices calling out shesh besh as they tossed dice on backgammon boards.
Hagop Munushian enjoyed relaxing over coffee and playing backgammon with his business partner Nubar. It was friendly competition. Nubar had won the first two games and now Hagop saw his chance for a win. Adjusting the red fez covering his bald head and needing a six and a five, he threw the dice against the pearl inlaid board and double sixes fell.
"Ohh!" Nubar groaned as his eyes met those of his opponent. Hagop's eyes were dancing with laughter.
Cool and collected, Hagop was savoring the win. Not saying a word, he took a sip of thick coffee from a chipped demitasse, raised his chin and wiped a smudge of foam off his graying mustache.
"I see Flora," Nubar responded as if he refused to give Hagop the satisfaction of the win.
A grin spreading across his face, Hagop glanced out the sooty window and observed his younger daughter entering the square. Wiry, small and skinny, Flora's long, brown pigtails were slapping against the empty leather water bag strapped to her back.
"She's a whirlwind of energy," he said and watched her walking briskly toward the stone fountain in the center of the square. That was her daily chore ... to bring home the sweet mountain water that poured continuously through the fountain. Hagop tried not to favor any of his children, but Flora, his fourth child, carried a special place in his heart.
He looked beyond the scene, upward to the huge American missionary compound where Flora attended school. Built on a rockbound plateau and framed by the Taurus Mountains, the site stood like a beacon whose rays shined with the promise of America.
But it was those craggy mountains jutting high into the sky that Hagop loved. As a young boy he had hiked in those mountains with his father. Now he was the father caring for his family and teaching his own children about life.
He had a summer home and a vineyard in those mountains, a refuge from his smelly, dirty, but profitable tanning business. Summers were his delight, high in the sweet air with his wife and mother, his five sons and two daughters.
Summers were happy times, and six weeks from now he and his family would be in those mountains working the vineyard—picking and drying grapes into raisins, storing packs of salted leaves for the winter months and drying grape juice into sweet tasting fruit leather.
He smiled, thinking of his children crushing the grapes for wine, purple-footed and making a silly game of it. Scamps, every one of them, except for Verkin, his beautiful elder daughter who had a kind of womanly dignity that kept her aloof from child play. She was very different from Flora who stomped on the grapes with gusto, always trying to out do her brothers.
Flora did not come into the world easily. Five weeks premature, she almost did not survive. It was in the first year of the twentieth century, on the sixth of September, when she was born.
His mother, Shushan, had delivered the new addition to his growing family. "A vision," she had said, her eyes widening as she handed him his newest daughter. "I see many gifts coming to this child, some in the sunlight and some in the shadow, all showering down from heaven."
Having heard his mother's prophecies many times before, Hagop paid little attention to what she had said. He wrapped a blanket around his tiny daughter and handed the swaddled infant to his wife, into her outstretched arms. "She's frail, Arpi," he said, "like a delicate flower."
Arpi placed her new daughter to her breast. "Flora. We should call her Flora."
Minutes later, Hagop, with his huge hands, tenderly took the infant, pressed little Flora to his heart, and sang her a song.
Don't be afraid, my sweet little Flora.
Father is here and you will grow strong.
In the days that followed, Arpi's milk ceased to flow.
Hagop's mother who understood healing ways said, "Nour, pomegranates. The child needs juice from pomegranates."
As if lovingly tending to a sick bird, Hagop had fed his tiny daughter drops of an elixir he had made from pomegranates. It saved her life.
His pleasant reverie ended with a clash.
Dust spiraled upward as a soldier on horseback galloped into the square and pulled up short in front of the bakery. Turkish soldiers were a common sight lately, but there was something unusual about this one. He dismounted, strutted toward the small wood-frame building and clutching onto a sheaf of paper, he nailed the paper to the wall, remounted his horse and sped away.
"Something's happening!" Hagop yelled and bolted out the door. A dozen eyes followed him. Chairs screeched and backgammon boards flew. Everyone was running toward the bakery.
Hagop raced past them. His heart pounding, he scanned the proclamation.
ATTENTION ALL ARMENIANS
ALL ARMENIANS WILL BE MOVED TO THE INTERIOR UNDER ESCORT OF THE TURKISH ARMY. BE PREPARED TO LEAVE WITHIN FIVE DAYS.
YOU MAY TAKE ANY MOVEABLE ITEMS WITH YOU BUT YOU ARE FORBIDDEN TO SELL YOUR HOUSES OR LAND. ALL WEAPONS MUST BE TURNED OVER TO THE GOVERNMENT.
THOSE THAT REFRAIN FROM LEAVING OR TRY TO HIDE WILL BE SHOT.
There was much, much more. The bold, angry words momentarily paralyzed him. He could hardly breathe. He looked at the ashen faces around him and saw shock, disbelief and panic.
Flora was racing toward him. He reached for and grasped her small hand. It was cold. Pulling her close to him, he tried to ease her trembling body and could feel his own legs becoming unsteady and beginning to shake.
"What will happen to us?" The thought raced through his mind over and over again.
The damn war had come to Hadjin.
Chapter TwoThe First Day
The dreaded day had arrived. Soldiers were everywhere
"Be at the bridge in two hours!" a soldier shouted to Hagop.
His face expressionless, Hagop felt the lump in his throat swell. Five agonizing days had passed since the posting of the deportation notice. He was struggling.
What to take? Letters? Photographs? Books? Food? Water? Mattresses? Blankets? Only what they could carry ... that's what the proclamation said. As difficult as it was, Hagop was ready.
His face strained, Hagop gathered his family together in front of their home and studied their faces. His second son, Levon, eighteen years old, his mustache sprouting, had high hopes of studying medicine in Paris. But Hagop worried the Turks would draft him into their army as they did his eldest, Antranig. After serving for two years, Antranig managed to find a way to Egypt and was on the high seas on a freighter on its way to America. Hagop was grateful his eldest wouldn't be subjected to the hell he knew was ahead for the rest of his family.
He placed his hand on the shoulder of his beautiful Verkin, sixteen and resplendent. With her long, shiny auburn hair and her sky blue eyes, his friends said she was the prettiest girl in Hadjin. Years ago Hagop and Armen Avakian's father had agreed their children would one day marry. Verkin's engagement ceremony had been planned for this summer. Another dream the war had crushed.
Then there was his feisty, hazel-eyed fourteen-year old Flora, whom some called Nourji, because his pomegranate elixir had saved her life. Last summer Flora had spent a month of study in Constantinople with American missionaries. Her scholastic ambitions made him uneasy. She was unlike other girls in Hadjin whose primary goal was to marry and have children.
His son Toros had just turned eleven, his face a mirror of his elder sister. The youngster loved to spend time with him in his warehouse. He was the son Hagop thought would one day take over his business.
Standing behind Toros was six-year-old Dickran, his dark hair sticking straight up. Dikran never combed his hair and would run and hide if he saw one of his sisters approaching with a comb.
His dear wife Arpi clutched their youngest, three year old Avedis, against her breasts, as if she feared losing him. She had cried herself to sleep the last five nights, and her swollen eyes were a testament of her grief. His attempts to console her had been futile, and he wondered if his feeling of helplessness had fueled her fears.
Then there was his mother, Shushan, who had been praying constantly, pleading to her God for a reprieve. She was approaching seventy. His most immediate concern was for her. How would she fare?
Not uttering a word, he went back inside his home. His eyes wandered to the cradle he had made for his babies, the marriage bed of his parents, the books Flora and Levon loved. He picked up the family Bible, kissed it and read the page where he had recorded the births of his children. He lifted a floorboard to hide it and to his surprise he saw Flora's diary. Picking it up, he opened it, but immediately closed it, respecting his daughter's privacy. His heart ached. Would those pages deteriorate along with his scholarly daughter's hopes? He carefully placed his Bible beside the diary and prayed that he and his family would return safely. Replacing the floorboard, he made the sign of the cross, took one long last look, and locked the door behind him.
He tallied the food in the cart attached to Esh, his donkey. His hand lingered on a sack of raisins. Drying those grapes, crushing others for wine, picking, salting and storing the grape leaves ... his simple summer home at his vineyard high in the mountains ... those memories flooded over him. Damn Turks! May they rot in Hell!
"Let's go," he said, following other families who had already started down the hill. As far as he could see, people from all sides of town were gathering by the river's edge. No one talked. The air was heavy with fear. Shuffling feet, braying donkeys and squeaky wheels were the only sounds heard.
Hagop felt the knot in his stomach tighten as he passed the warehouse he had built twenty years ago. He glanced at the lock on the double doors. Piles of camel, bear and sheepskins he owned will be gone when and if he ever returned to his beloved Hadjin. He knew the Turks would break through the doors and like thieves in the night steal his treasures, his hard work.
"Hagop," a familiar voice called out. It was Nubar.
"My donkey is loaded," Nubar said. "I took two camel skins and hated leaving the others behind. Those damn Turks will take them, I know."
Hatred poured through Hagop's dark eyes. A chill ran up his spine. But as he approached the edge of town, he felt a ray of hope. There, waiting by the river, was a familiar face among the eight Turkish soldiers on horses. The officer in charge was Captain Khounshid.
Hagop remembered that day when the captain, writhing in pain, was brought to his mother, whose reputation as a healer was well known. His mother held the captain's mangled leg, manipulated his ankle and toes, gently reset the broken bone, plastered the tender area with comfrey, and braced the leg with a splint. The grateful captain, bathed in relief, wanted to pay her, but Shushan refused the money.
He watched the captain lead some of his soldiers across the aged wooden bridge. The clatter of horses' hoofs reverberated like a wailing echo. Then, as if on cue, the sounds ceased, almost as if time had stopped. The silence was eerie as the soldiers sat upright, waiting.
No one wanted to cross that bridge. Then, hesitantly, an anguished soul took that reluctant step. The march had begun. Minutes felt like hours before Hagop and his family reached the bridge. More than a hundred persons were ahead and hundreds more were behind.
Hagop looked with envy at the rushing water as it splashed against the rocks and boulders as the river drove the sweet water flowing down from the mountain streams. It's just another day in the life of the river, he thought, and wished his own life could be as normal. But that was not to be. He was on the brink of the unknown, on the edge of a precipice. He held onto the railing and noticed Flora staring back at her school. "Come, Flora! We must not look back." His heart felt heavy. He needed to heed his own words.
* * *
Once filled with life and energy, the Protestant missionary school atop Hadjin's highest plateau now cast a desolate and haunting aura. That's how Flora felt. Empty. Learning was the spark in her life and now, as she looked up at the American missionary compound, she longed to be there—with her teachers, her friends and her books. Slamming her foot against the bridge, she turned to see the same anger and pain written on the faces of the hundreds lined up and waiting.
Harried men were trying to keep their families and animals together. Bewildered mothers gripped their infants. Pregnant women held their bellies, alarm written on their faces. Flora wanted to comfort Mrs. Albarian who looked as if her baby was ready to be birthed.
This was a day she would never forget. They were leaving their homes and their way of life. Their hopes and dreams were fading. That unforgettable moment, caught in a glimpse, was pushed into the recesses of Flora's mind, to be seared there forever.
What privacy will any of us have, she wanted to shout. Will Mrs. Albarian and all those other pregnant women have to deliver their babies by the side of the road? She, too, was feeling distressed. And embarrassed. Her menstruation had started early that morning. Where will she be able to change or wash her soiled cloth?
When her feet touched the soft soil on the other side of the river, she turned for one last look, but moisture in her eyes blurred her vision. The memory of the last time she had crossed this bridge flooded over her. It was nearly a year ago when her favorite teacher, Miss Webb, had arranged for Flora and her two friends, Ana and Sona, to attend a summer of study at the American College for Girls in Constantinople. Constantinople had triggered her spirit of adventure. Exciting. That's how Flora remembered it. Her hopes had soared. America. Miss Webb suggested she should think about studying in America. Now that dream was crumbling.
Her sister, walking alongside her, hadn't said a word. Verkin, too, felt miserable, but tried to mask her grief. Against her mother's wishes, Verkin insisted on wearing her favorite green linen dress. Verkin loved pretty clothes and she looked wonderful, even on this dreaded day.
Flora wanted to say something, but couldn't find the right words. Then she heard her three-year-old brother's squeaky voice. Avedis, with his little arms stretched out, ran, and jumped into her arms. Lowering him to the ground, she held his tiny hand until the march became too strenuous. Then she and Verkin took turns carrying the little fellow.
Three hours later two soldiers on horses approached, indicating a rest break. As the soldier pointed to the river that followed the road, his eyes lingered on a pretty teenage girl. Flora recognized him immediately. His facial birthmark.
Quivering, she recalled that terrible day when he and the other soldier had ransacked her home. She bolted, her sister right on her heels. They lit out toward their brother, Levon, who was tying their donkey to a tree by the river.
"I'm going to help grandmother. Stay with Esh," he yelled to them and ran off.
They watched him rushing back to the congested road. He stopped and said something to Avedis, who was running toward Flora as fast as his little legs would go.
Flora was focused on the two Turkish soldiers. They unnerved her. Sex was not a subject she knew a lot about, and she was not all that experienced in the world, but she knew those two soldiers were to be feared. She clasped her sister's hand, and relief flooded over both of them when the two soldiers rode away. There was no need for words. They understood the danger.
Excerpted from My Mother's Voice by Kay Mouradian Copyright © 2013 by Kay Mouradian. Excerpted by permission of BALBOA PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The First Day....................5
A Missionary's Creed....................21
A Mother's Woe....................23
Nothing Stays The Same....................28
The Evil And The Good....................30
A Dreadful Night....................36
A Compassionate Man....................48
A Dangerous Turn....................55
A Great Understanding....................64
A Malicious Meeting....................68
A Newfound Pride....................75
A Taste Of The Syrian Desert....................83
A Horrendous Decision....................91
A Relation Appears....................107
Is There Any Hope?....................115
An Anxious Sister....................131
A Deepening Trust....................138
Danger In The Covered Bazaar....................146
The Road Back To Turkey....................157
A Despairing Marriage....................166
A Mysterious Visitor....................181
A New Admirer....................196
A Deflating Offer....................199
The Megali Hellas....................204
Questions For Reading Groups....................218