Greek village Galigradia had a population of about 300. It covered
the sides and top of a hill near the Sea of Marmara. Its barns and stables
extended as far as the mountain ridge beyond the village. There the herds
of sheep and cattle grazed, peacefully, in spite of the nearby training
foot of the hill stood a little wharf, where fishing boats and canoes oscillated
lazily. The fishermen always seemed to be repairing their nets and cleaning
the boats of the remains of rotting fish, oysters and other marine animals.
village had clung to the Greek language and customs with amazing patriotic
stubbornness. The fishermen were the only ones who could speak Turkish.
A gap existed between the Greeks and the Turks, similar to that which has
existed for centuries between the Armenians and the Turks. The houses were
built of rock and had small narrow windows that looked out onto narrow
evening when the herds of sheep and cattle moved down the mountainside
to the village, clouds of dust were kicked up from the dry ground. That
produced a spectacle of charm and beauty. Their sounds mixed with the smell
of wool and milk played amiably with the lengthening shadows of the trees
battalion camped outside of the village. A house was assigned to the officer
candidates and another one to the Captain. Of the seven candidates, three
were Armenians, two were Turks, and two were Kurds. Two of the Armenians
were later sent to different units. All of these candidates were under
special care and had certain minor privileges. They used to drill every
day by riding horses in the mornings and by having artillery drills in
the afternoons, except for Friday, the Turkish Sabbath.
the first week, the horseback riding was so tiring that they could not
walk the way soldiers were supposed to walk when they first got off their
horses. Extensive infantry, artillery drills and other maneuvers filled
the landscape with machine guns rattling all day long. The boys and girls
of Galigradia were afraid to stroll around outside the village because
of the Turkish soldiers lurking behind the bushes and shrubs.
lapsed and Sempad had become adapted to the routine. Every evening when
he returned from drill he would lie down on his bunk and stare at the ceiling.
He would think about the day’s events, the riding on the mountainside,
the jumping over ditches and streams, the terrified herds of sheep running
in every direction, then returning to their peaceful grazing after their
bleating had subsided. All these things would crowd his mind, a numbness
would envelop him and he would fall asleep.
after drill and supper, he went down to the seashore. While sitting on
a boulder that jutted out of the sand, he was looking at the liquid horizon
that burned with the flames of the sunset. A couple of sea gulls were fishing
and dancing over the waves and the sea heaved restlessly, displaying a
luminous highway on the surface as far as the distant horizon. As he was
viewing this beautiful sight and engulfed in thoughts, he heard footsteps
approaching the beach. He turned his head around and saw a little
boy of about five, standing a few feet away from him. He was blond and
suntanned and had dark brown eyes. The boy wanted to say something to him
but he was afraid. Sempad could clearly see the fear in the boy’s eyes.
After a long and scrutinizing look at the little boy, he could see that
a trace of trust and confidence was flickering in his eyes and then he
started to smile slightly.
could not speak Greek to tell him that he should not be afraid of him.
He had picked up a few words but not enough to converse with him. A strange
idea, therefore, came to him! He decided to teach him an Armenian song!
Which one shall I teach him? He asked himself. Which song would interest
him more than anything else? He thought and thought, and finally decided
that Dashnagtzagan Khoump would be the right one. He looked into
his eyes and in a soft voice began to sing the tune of the first line...
little boy began to smile this time and even his lips began to move to
the rhythm of the song. After repeating it a few times, patiently, the
little boy began to sing with him, first wavering then with more confidence.
When he finished singing the first line some of the boys and girls, who
were playing on the hilltop, ran down the hillside to the beach where they
wanted to learn the song, too. Now his group was composed of about twenty
kids, ranging from five to twelve years of age. At the end of an hour’s
practice they had learned the tune as well as the words of the first stanza.
sun had set and it was time to turn in. When he said gali nikta sass,
which in Greek means good night to you, the whole group cried “gali nikta
sass, daskalos!” “Good night, teacher!” They marched away, to the tune
of the song they had just learned, and disappeared in the streets. The
entire village rang of the beautiful march of our revolutionaries.
he got to his room and reclined on his bunk, he did not feel as tired as
usual. He felt relaxed and happy.
After supper, the following evening, he hurried to the beach. The sun was
gliding down to the horizon producing a most wonderful sunset. He stood
on the little strip of sand to enjoy the spectacle of the mirror-like sea,
the rose tinted clouds and the landscape. From the hilltop, an army of
children stepped down and stood at attention in front of him. He nodded
and the children began to sing the song they had learned the previous evening.
After practicing a half-hour and after the new children had learned to
sing the march, a girl of about twelve by the name of Vasso, Vassilika,
came forward. She asked him with sign-language to take the group up on
the hill so the whole village could hear them sing. Since he had no objections
she, enthusiastically, led the whole group up to the top of the hill that
dominated the panoramic scene of the 26th Artillery Division.
evening, when they left the “concert,” they had learned the tunes and words
of two more Armenian songs, Goujn Ara and Knah, Knah
by Komitas Vartabed. Their parents had gathered here and there, in front
of their houses, and were watching and listening to the chorus with the
greatest enjoyment they had experienced in some time. The children sang
Knah, Knah with such beauty and enthusiasm that even their parents’
lips were moving to the tune of the music.
it was time to go Sempad said, “gali nikta sass.” The children answered,
“gali nikta sass, daskalos,” and, full of joy and delight, began
singing Knah, Knah and disappeared in the streets. The reverberations
of the song covered the entire village and surroundings.
hung around until everybody had gone so she, herself, could say, “gali
nikta sass, daskalos,” to her teacher.
unexpected and incomprehensible was happening. The children of this Greek
village were enlivening the whole countryside with Armenian songs.
weeks passed with evening “concerts!” The chorus was composed of
forty regular attendants with an excellent repertoire! Dashnagtzagan
Khoump, Knah...Knah, Sona Yar, Im chinari Yar, Kinovi Yerk, and Papouri
Djan. The Greek children of Galigradia could sing these songs beautifully.
The effect of the natural background of the sea, the rolling hills and
the sunset made everything more charming and more delightful.
evening, when he was directing the group, he noticed a feeling of fear
fluttering in the eyes of the children looking over his shoulder to a point
beyond. He, instinctively, turned around and confronted two high-ranking
Majors, standing a few steps from him looking at the singers.
them and stood at attention, inwardly trembling. The children also were
scared and preoccupied but kept standing there, waiting for any development.
ease, my boy!” said the elderly officer, in Armenian. Sempad was so amazed
at hearing those few Armenian words from him. He had thought he was
these Armenian children?” he asked.
They are all Greek.” he said. The questioning continued in Armenian. The
two Majors were Armenian doctors serving in the 26th Artillery Division.
mean to tell us that these are not Armenian children?”
sir! I am the only Armenian here in this village.”
sang those songs so beautifully!”
them all of those songs since I arrived here about a month ago.”
to conduct the group with pride, through all of the songs they had learned.
The children were relaxed now and were convinced that the officers were
not Turks. They put all of their vigor and energy into making it sound
more beautiful. The songs were performed one after another and the officers
listened with delight. People came pouring out of their houses, stood outside
and watched and listened with admiration. They had no fear on their
faces anymore and they were proud of their children who could sing the
Armenian songs, so beautifully.
officers overwhelmed with national pride and emotion and in spite of their
rank, took Sempad in their arms and embraced him with exclamations of delight
and amazement. Then the elderly one turned to one of the orderlies who
was standing there holding the bridle of his horse. He called him and took
something out of his pocket, handed it to him and said: “Hurry!”
children evidently sensed what was happening. Their eyes flashed with joy,
and they looked at each other, smiling and whispering and nudging each
other, while their parents watched with suspense and delight.
A moment later the orderly returned with a bag full of candy and dried
fruits. Sempad distributed the contents of the bag to the children who
stuffed their pockets and handkerchiefs with them and dispersed while calling
out in unison: “Efkharisto poly! Thank you, very much!”
elderly officer said: “After supper in Boyouk Tchekmedge, a few
miles from here, we decided to ride around for a while. We were far out
on the side of the mountain enjoying the beautiful view and the fresh air
when a stream of music hit our ears. It became clearer as we rode along
until we recognized it as one of Komitas Vartabed’s songs. We were
puzzled. We had no idea there were any Armenians living here. How surprised
we were when we found out that they were Greek children singing Komitas
Vartabed’s songs. We congratulate you, son.” he said. After shaking each
other’s hands, they left.
following evening, as usual, he went to the beach. The children were gathered
on the hilltop, waiting for him. He joined them and began going over the
songs they had learned when, from out of nowhere, one of the candidates,
Ahmed, approached the group with a sly expression on his face.
are going to learn Turkish songs from now on.” he said.
did not understand him, of course, but they were able to size up the situation
right away and looked at him scornfully.
sang a Sharki and asked them to sing with him. This song could
never interest any Greek child. They nudged one another, laughing.
He sang it over and coaxed them to follow him but the children stood there,
silently. He became enraged and began to curse the children in the most
vulgar way then casting a look of hatred and anger at Sempad, left the
beach and disappeared.
after this unpleasant incident was over, everything became normal again
and the singing started over and continued, as usual. Before the singing
was over an orderly came and handed Sempad a slip of paper. It was
from the Captain and it stated that he wanted to see him. From the expression
on Sempad’s face, the children became silent. He told them that he would
be right back!
he entered the Captain’s office and stood at attention, the Captain shouted:
“What are you trying to do here? Are you trying to Armenianize the Greek
children? Is this Dashnagtzagan or Hunchagian propaganda
you are doing here? Anyway, I don’t want to hear anymore of that!”
right, Sir!” he said and left.
following evening he came to the beach with an entirely different mood.
The children were assembled on the hilltop, waiting. As he shook his head
negatively to their invitation, Vasso and two boys came down to see him.
With the few Greek words he had picked up, he said: “I can’t teach you
hatred in their voices, they exclaimed: “Ahmed! Ahmed! We know!”
stood with him for a moment, worried and disappointed. They all knew what
was happening. Their parents must have explained to them about Ahmed’s
appearance and his reporting Sempad to the Captain. All these things were
not strong enough in them to kill the will, pleasure, and determination
to sing. So they began to sing again, assembled on the hilltop, this time
under the direction of Vasso.
sitting on the boulder, at the seashore, watching the sunset and the approaching
twilight when suddenly, came the yell of the children, from the hilltop:
“Gali nikta, Daskalos!”
his head toward them as they quickly disappeared in the streets, singing
Knah...Knah, with the entire village echoing its rhythm, leaving Vasso
alone, waving goodnight.
he returned to his room he found a note from the Captain ordering to see
him, right away. He quickly reported to him. He was sitting at the table
with his head looking down at a sheet of paper.
did I tell you, yesterday?” he shouted, without even looking up at him.