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Lyudvig Yeghiazaryan, the Armenian Genocide Survivor.

By Marina Bazayeva

Let us present a story that Grandpa Lyudvig told us. He passed away recently. There are fewer and fewer survivor of the Armenian Genocide with us today. We should not forget the generation that suffered immensely. And we will never allow the tragedy to repeat anytime, anywhere.

The story is real and very interesting and the teller a very charming man, a once favored recipient of the Atinizians Senior Center. He was kind-hearted and always smiling. We translated his life story from Armenian and hope we did not lose the feelings Mr. Lyudvig conveyed to us. His astonishing memory was amazing. He recalled a lot about the old days, and his insights are invaluable to the younger generation.

I was born in 1909 in a Turkish City of Manaskert (formerly Western Armenia).

During the genocide of 1915 my parents, my elder brother and myself narrowly escaped the Turks. I had a sister, too, who unable to move was confined to bed, so my parents had to leave her at home. The day of our escape was the last time we ever saw our sister. We never heard anything about her again.

During the escape the Turks killed also both of my parents. Fortunately, a Kurdish soldier kept me hidden and brought me to Kars City. In Kars, the soldier handed me over to an American orphanage. The orphanage principal was Miss Maka. Just saying her name brings me to tears. She was the kindest person I have ever met.

I lived in the Kars Orphanage from 1915 until 1920, when Kars was handed over to Turkey and the orphanage was closed. The principal took me and other orphans to the Armenian City of Alexandropol (now Gyumri) and handed us to an American orphanage.

The Gyumri orphanage consisted of three buildings. The first one was located in “Poligon” area, where the youngest boys were accommodated. I lived there. The second one was in “Severski” area, where the girls lived. It is worth noting that in Soviet times a military hospital was located there, which was later destroyed in the earthquake of 1988. The third building, located in “Kazachi Post” area, was designated for elder boys. Recently the orphanage was rebuilt and started operate again because of a donation from an American woman who was one of its former inhabitants.

To express my deepest gratitude to my orphanage teachers I wish to mention their names: the orphanage head Mr. Bravo, who was so kind that he treated the kids as though they were his own. Mr. Yaro was the head of the first orphanage, which was the building where I lived.

Mr. Fatrgel was the orphanage transport senior official, whose name is associated with a heartbreaking story. There was a boy, named Yango, who played an Armenian stringed instrument, called tar and for that we called him Musician Yango. One day dynamite accidentally exploded. It damaged Yango’s right arm muscles, making him physically impaired. To restore Yango’s arm function, American physicians recommended a transplant. Mr. Fatrgel offered to be the donor. The operation was successfully performed by American surgeons and Musician Yango began to play his tar again.

It is interesting to mention that Yango’s right arm, unlike his left, was freckled. The freckles were constant reminders of the American man who did not spare his own body part for a stranger. He was truly one in a million. God bless such people and God bless America.

A well-known Armenian named Vahan Cheraz headed the orphanage’s sport sector. His office was deliberately located in the older boys building, so that he prepared boy scouts. One time, a Leninakan (former Alexandropol, renamed in 1924) VChK, (later KGB) high-ranked officer came to the orphanage, but the scout on duty did not let him in. The officer slapped the boy in the face. Cheraz called the boy into his office. The officer followed. He admitted he slapped the boy and said he did not regret it. Cheraz did not hesitate for a moment to slap the VChK officer. The officer threatened Cheraz and slammed the door in his face.

Cheraz remained at ease. He served in an American institution, and held the strong belief that no one was given the right to hit an orphan. He assumed he would be protected from VChK. But that was the last night Vahan Cheraz spent in the orphanage before the “black raven” carried him off. We later learned that Cheraz was moved to Tbilisi prison, were he was beaten to death.

Up until the sixth grade I studied in the orphanage. We had wonderful teachers, among them a poet Soghomon Taronts from Van. I continued my education through high school and received my diploma. Then I studied in auto-mechanic technical school and became a certified auto-mechanic.

During the orphanage years we received the so-called “tyuks,” or bales, which contained cloths[clothes?]. Some of the cloths[clothes?] had surprises for us, like watches and such, which were generously donated by the American people. I can recall our happiness when we found a watch or a handkerchief.

My best friend in the orphanage was a boy named Onik, who grew up to become the famous poet and philosopher Hovhannes Shiraz. I witnessed a miracle, which he later captured in a famous piece of poetry. We were in the bazaar together wandering around, and guess what? Onik’s mother found him and she took him home!

I hope you can imagine what home and family mean for an orphan. My entire life I dreamed of a woman who would come, see me, and take me home, caress my head and call me “My sonny.” But that dream always remained a dream and it never came true.

Life did present another surprise for me, however. Once I was called to the orphanage’s head office and presented to a young man who turned out to be my own brother, whom I thought I’d lost in the massacre. By God’s will he was not killed by Turks. Fortune saved his life in Darachichaki (now Tsaghkatsor) of Armenia. While he was in the orphanage, my brother learned that I was in Alexandropol orphanage and he rushed to find me. I cannot express our feelings of joy and happiness upon finding each other. Life acquired new colors for us. I decided not to go to the United States with a large group of young Armenians. Instead, I stayed in Alexandropol.

In 1924, after V.I. Lenin’s death, city administration officers came to the orphanage and declared that no caravan would set off for America. Armenians would stay in Armenia. They also told us that there was a construction project of LenTextile Integrated Factory, which will employ most of the orphans. The factory operated soon, and while still living in the orphanage, I was employed there first as a workman and later as the fire emergency crew driver.

In 1927, I turned 18, left the orphanage, and continued to work in the LenTextile factory. I stayed there until 1933, when I
was recruited into the Soviet Army and served in Armenian Division, which was located again in “Poligon” area, close to the orphanage building where I grew up. In 1935, I was demobilized from the army and returned to work in LenTextile as a driver.
Two years later, I left the factory and entered the GosBank as a driver.

I n 1941, the Great Patriotic War started and I was recruited into the army. Since I was born in former Western Armenia and was familiar with the area, I was appointed to the Leninakan counter-intelligence group as the leader of six other soldiers. On November 7, 1942, Stalin had a long speech dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution as well as the war process.

We were sitting at the radio receiver listening to Stalin and one of the soldiers asked what is it that Stalin drinks, which enables him to give such a long speech. I answered that Stalin drinks the mineral water “Borjomi” because he was born in a Georgian city of Gory. For that I was expelled from the Communist Party, which at that time was equal to being lynched. I was sent to a Mhubi prison near Yerevan. I am also sure that the main reason of my imprisonment was having been raised in an American orphanage.

In 1945, I was rehabilitated and returned to Leninakan, where I worked as a driver for another five years. Then I worked as a bus and taxi driver until 1985 when I retired. I am a labor veteran, awarded the “Driver without Accidents” medal.

I have been married twice. The first time I got married was in 1939. My first wife passed away in 1978, without heirs. I suppose the reason of my childlessness was cholera, which I got during the orphanage years. (By the way, during that time I was treated by American medical personnel.) I remarried in 1980 at the age of 71. My second wife had diabetes, but she concealed her disease until we got married. In 1998 my second wife passed away too, without heirs.

Now I am alone and lonely, destitute and frustrated, broken mentally and financially broke. I have no family, no money, nothing. In the first few years after my retirement, I had a wife, and my pension sufficed our so-called “consumer’s basket.” The devastating earthquake of 1988 and disintegration of the Soviet Union led to a situation when a pensioner became a beggar, that pensioner who had dedicated his entire life to this country, who had worked for it, and fought for it during the war.

My only possession is my apartment in a broken down, unsafe building with a leaky roof, which has never been repaired. When it rains, water just constantly drips.

Now I share my apartment with my sister-in-law. She has an inborn schizophrenia. My wife and myself have been taking care of her, as she was unable to manage on her own. Before she passed away, my wife asked me to take care of her sister after her death. Despite my poor financial situation, I am keeping my word and I take care of her as best I can. I eat in the senior center and use my pension to feed my sister-in-law. She gave me a jacket, which was given to her by American Red Cross.

Americans save me not only from hunger, but also from being lost by a sense of hopelessness. They did not allow me to fall into despair, to feel humiliated and miserable. I am also glad that now I can express my deep gratitude to American people, as before I was not allowed. I was even repressed for being in an American orphanage. I pray for all those people who donate their money to us. I suggest hanging the portrait of our senior center donor on the wall as an appreciation of his generosity. Thank you to all FAR New York and local staff, who made this Atinizians Senior Center program possible. I pray for Americans all the time. They saved my life when I was a child; they save me now, too, at the evening of my life.

2 comments

  1. […] Please continue reading here. […]


  2. This story brought me to tears. What a heartwarming and sad story! I just wanted to thank you for finding him and helping him in the ways you can!!
    My own great grandparents died in the genocide, and we are doing all we can to help Armenians find their roots, so they can find new colors to their lives, as expressed in the article.

    God bless you for your wonderful efforts!



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