with anger, the Captain kept looking at him with disbelief. He immediately
called the guard who was standing by the door with rifle and fixed bayonet
and ordered him to take Sempad to jail; a vacant house overlooking the
hilltop. The ground floor was a stable with no animals in it. The second
floor consisted of a single room, his cell.
by the window listening to the monotonous footsteps of the guard, down
below, and watching the sea that extended to the distant horizon. He could
not sleep at all that night. He tried to concentrate on reading Spinoza’s
Ethique, which he always had with him, but he couldn’t do much. He was
morning, a boy happened to pass by and he noticed the guard, with his rifle
slung over his shoulder, walking back and forth in front of the house.
He was surprised. He stood there and looked around. He looked at the guard
and at the house and then saw Sempad sitting at the window.
let out a scream: “Daskalos! Teacher!”
his tiny fist, knowing full well what had happened. He shook with anger
and ran down the maze of streets with his voice ringing and calling the
children to the hilltop. In no time, they were all assembled there. They
were sad and angry. Vasso, approached the house, looked at him with tears
in her eyes. She then turned to the group and began to conduct the “concert.”
The guard was infuriated and rushed over to the children and dispersed
There was only the little girl, Vasso, standing at the corner with her
eyes looking toward the jail window, then, for a long moment lowered he
head and wiping her tears with the back of her tiny hand she slowly walked
away and disappeared.
night he was sitting by the window, thinking about the recent letter he
had received from his classmate in Constantinople. In this letter, he had
given a vivid account of what was actually happening in Van, Moush, Sassoun,
Erzeroum and elsewhere. The government had gone back to its older policy
of oppression. An ominous situation was impending. In Constantinople, they
had arrested some of the renowned writers, teachers and political leaders.
He was plunged into gloomy thoughts, when he heard footsteps approaching.
He jumped to his feet, alarmed, and to his great amazement saw the same
two Armenian Majors coming to see him. They greeted him warmly and a short
conversation began, while standing, as there were no chairs in the room.
and a little girl came over to see us.” the older Major said. “They told
us you were in jail. They were very worried about you and wanted to know
if we could do something about it. We came to tell you that you have nothing
to worry about. This is going to be your last night here. You will be out
you, sir.” he said, almost crying with joy and gratitude.
see what kind of book you are reading.” the younger Major said, taking
the book and looking at the cover: “You like philosophy?”
are you from, son?”
born in Moush. I am a Moushetzi.”
looked at one another with a smile and said in unison: “Abriss Moushetzi.
Compliments to a person from Moush, and they left.”
current of relaxation ran through his being and he slept quietly until
the clarion call, in the morning.
he was let out of jail and went to his room. He was surprised to see that
everybody was packing up to mobilize.
up, Sempad!” one of his friends said. “We must move out of the village
as soon as we can. English warships are expected to enter the Sea of Marmara
at any time.”
he packed and ran out of the house to join his battery. They were already
outside of the village, on the highway, waiting for the other batteries,
so they could move on. He took his seat on the battery wagon. As it began
to drizzle, the long line of guns with their munitions trucks started to
move on when, suddenly, a tune coming from far away became louder
and louder. “Oh!” He exclaimed. “There they are!” All of the children of
Galigradia, boys and girls, were struggling along the muddy fields and
trying to catch up to the long line of batteries to see their Daskalos,
Sempad, for the last time. They kept singing, marching and waving their
hands at their teacher! He signaled at them to go back home.
all yelled, excitedly: “Good-bye Daskalos.”
figure of a girl was left looking at the long line of guns and wiping her
tears away and muttering: “Good-bye, Sempad, good-bye!”
took a position behind a ridge overlooking the coast. A group of high-ranking
officers headed by a German Commander was studying the topography of the
area to organize a mock battle against the imaginary enemy, who would be
trying to land from their warships. Far ahead in the field an infantry
battalion was digging in and waiting for the development. The cadets were
being ordered by the officer-in-charge to aim the guns at the targets.
To manipulate gun sights with regard to the range and the angle with the
ground, “Turab zaviyessi.” Every time the order was given and executed
the cadets had to raise their hands and the officer-in-charge would go
around and mark down the results of his observations. He would, then, hand
each of them a sheet of paper with some questions to answer
concerning various phases of military science. The maneuver served also,
among other things, as a test to see what the cadets had been learning,
the order was given to fire. The battle began! The guns started roaring.
The infantry began to come out of their holes and move on. Machine guns
rattled and the small arms were in action.
was standing behind his gun and was firing every now and then. His face
was flushed with emotion and his nerves were taut as if he were fighting
a real war. A moment later, the order came to change the positions of the
guns. He was now in charge of the whole battery. He was the one who would
give the orders to the artillerymen, knowing accurately where their infantry
was deployed, and using his knowledge of attack and retreat under certain
officers were watching him in action with an expression of pleasant surprise
on their faces. The maneuver continued all day. The officers had been carefully
watching everything and everyone, jotting down their observations in their
notebooks. The following day, at Davoud Pasha Kushlassi, the result
of the examination was posted on the bulletin board. Four of the cadets
passed the test and had become second lieutenants. Sempad was one of them.
Friday, the Turkish Sabbath. He was stretched out on his bunk with his
eyes raised to the ceiling with memories and thoughts crowding in on him.
He was a lieutenant, now. No feelings of pride stirred within him. The
battalion was in a state of alert and might be ordered to move on at any
Sarafian had also become a second lieutenant in an infantry division and
was looking for Sempad. When he saw him lying on his bunk, he stopped and
looked at him quizzically.
English Warships have been pounding the Dardanelle’s fortifications very
heavily, lately.” he said.
I hear!” Sempad said in a daze.
means we are nearly on our way there.”
not going! No! Never!” said Sempad in a barely audible voice. I am just
going to walk out and stay out.” he said. “I’ll take a chance. You think
I am crazy to stay out here and shed my blood for these criminals, the
Turks. Do you know what has been going on, lately, in Moush, Van, Sassoun
and the other provinces? Slaughter! After taking the youth into the
army or into the workers’ battalions, the government has released all of
the criminals and the convicts from prisons. It has organized a gendarmery
force and has assigned regular army units to wipe out all of the eastern
vilayets of our people. Self-defense units have been organized haphazardly,
here and there, against this inhuman genocide. After all, what kind of
fighting forces can they organize without their youth?”
listened, in profound silence, to this dramatic cry and controlling his
slowly mounting anger, he whispered: “Have you really made up your mind
not to go?”
go with you. I will...I’ve been thinking about that, all along, but
I never dared to express it to anybody.”
kept looking at one another to measure the depth of their convictions and
the degree of their determination.
now!” said Sempad.
we going to take anything with us besides our papers?”
at all.” answered Sempad. After a moment of silence, he added: “Of
course you have weighed the seriousness of our act. If we ever get caught
running away, we will get bullets in our heads.”
that. I have considered the danger...Let’s go!”
got up and put on his cap and tied his short bayonet and pistol to his
waist. Without attracting anybody’s attention, they walked out of the dormitory
and down the stone steps into the slated courtyard. There the soldiers
were busy cleaning their rifles, guns and horses. They were getting ready
for their orders to mobilize. They walked with self-confidence and dignity
to the gate where two guards were standing on each side facing each other.
The guards were so impressed by their composure and seriousness that they
flung their rifles to attention and stood like two statues. Sempad and
Ardashes returned the salute and walked out of the casern.
out, they carefully scanned the surroundings and walked in a perfect military
gait out of sight of the guards. They followed a meandering path behind
bushes and shrubs until they reached the outlying quarter of Constantinople
where civilians, soldiers and children were crowding the streets. Military
police were their main concern. Many of them were seen questioning soldiers
and checking their papers. They unhesitatingly walked passed them, returning
their salutes and chatting, until they got to the Bridge of Galata.
go in one of these Greek restaurants and get something to eat.” Said Ardashes.
They went in one and ordered some meat balls and two glasses of wine. They
started to look at one another not knowing what to say. They ate
and drank half a glass each and again kept looking at one another in silence.
going to my room,” said Sempad.
too,” said Ardashes, with a gloomy face, adding: “Who knows? We may never
see each other again!”
be silly...Cheer up!” said Sempad...Then they got up, paid the bill and
strolling around for a while, Sempad decided to stop at an Armenian coffee
house by the pier. This is where Moushetzi, Vanetzi and Keghetzi “Hamal’s
laborers,” gathered every day after work.
ten unvarnished tables, dozens of chairs and a gas range were all they
had. Hagop, the proprietor of the shop was an impressive looking old man.
He was sitting at a table sipping coffee. On seeing him, he scrambled to
his feet and exclaimed, excitedly: “Welcome! Welcome! Sempad...come, sit
down here while I make you a cup of coffee. How is everything?”
right, Hagop,” he answered. “Where is everybody?”
a good question. Where is everybody? You have been in the army for over
a year now and haven’t had a chance to stop here for a moment. Lots
of things have happened while you have been gone.” Then, trying to control
his tears, he murmured in a mournful voice: “Last night, when everybody
was here, as usual, after work, tired, hungry and dirty, three gendarmes
entered. They ordered everyone to stand. They asked for their names and
their birthplaces. They assembled all those who were born in Van, Moush,
Sassoun and Keghi, and took them all to the police station.”
on, drink your coffee,” said Hagop. After a moment of silence, he added:
“By the way, have you visited your school yet?”
Not yet! I just came from Davoud Pasha Kushlassi.”
Yes!” said Hagop. “Most of your teachers have been arrested and sent away
to nobody knows where.” Getting up, excitedly, he said: “Let me fix you
something to eat. You must be hungry.”
No! Hagop. I ‘m not hungry, besides I am on the way to my room.”
time, a stranger dressed in Kurdish clothes walked in and sat at a table.
He bent his head down and began to cry silently. It was a very moving sight
but Hagop advised Sempad to remain cool and indifferent until he found
out who he was. He prepared a cup of coffee for him and then sat down scrutinizing
him in silence. With tearful eyes, the stranger looked at Hagop and muttered
in a barely audible voice: “I have come from far away...Someone gave me
your address...You are the only one who can help me.”
have you come from?” asked Hagop. The stranger hesitated a moment, then
answered: “From Moush.”
exclaimed Hagop and looked at Sempad.
was still suspicious as to his sincerity and kept looking at him with question,
when the stranger pointing with fear at Sempad, asked:
is that soldier?”
is from Moush, too.” said Hagop.
Moush!” he exclaimed, overwhelmed with surprise.
He is from the village of Khas Kiugh.” said Hagop.