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Gayane Shagoyan met Pargev Martirosyan (photo 1) born January 1, 1941 in the village of Yerazgavors of Shirak marz on May 23, 2012. Pargev Martirosyan’s ancestors came from Ardu/onk village of Mush region of the Ottoman Empire. Three of his seven uncles, his aunt and his grandmother perished during the Armenian Genocide. The other brothers managed to survive and reach Goris.

My father [Aristak Martirosyan] was the youngest in the family, born in 1895. The fates of both my paternal and maternal relatives unfolded in a similar way: they fled together and reached Kharabagh, then moved to Bayandur and from Bayandur they relocated to Yerazgavors and finally settled here.

They were a wealthy family and left behind a mill and an oil press but when they resettled here my uncles and our family gradually started to prosper again. In 1930, when the kolkhoz was formed, the family gave up two oxen to the kolkhoz and my uncle gave a cow. They did it voluntarily to support the collective farm. My brother was the village accountant and my cousin worked at the village council. Each village had its council then. All of the family had jobs, worked and lived.

In March [19]37… March 18th, they came by night and took my uncle to KGB. They tortured him, did things to him but in the end let him out. They demanded information about people but my uncle answered that he didn’t know much because he had come from Western Armenia. “How would I know about Shoragyal [name of the village], I have no idea who tells on whom, who doesn’t tell and why”. He was a man of stone, you see.

Two-three months past, they again came at night and carried my uncle away. We didn’t even know where he was taken and eventually found out that he was in Kazakhstan. There, in Kazakhstan, he worked in the fields, watered cabbages etc. He caught cold and having no one to look after him, he succumbed to the illness. Uncle was an educated man and had studied in a seminary there… he studied in St. Karapet Monastery of Mush. Unlike my father he was a very knowledgeable person. My other uncles were not educated: two of them got killed and the other one died on the way from Western Armenia. My uncle Karo was affiliated with Andranik, my second uncle Ghukas was the first person who dared to sneak arms to Tachkastan from Russia. That one didn’t change until his last days: nobody would have the nerve to criticize him. He cursed Stalin and Lenin openly, even in front of KGB officers. But they did not arrest him, instead, they took away my uncle Karo. Ghukas lived until 1984, he reached 105 years of age. He never hid his dissatisfaction and was always cursing them [the Bolsheviks].

When uncle Karo was taken in [19]37-38 my father when after him to KGB or, it was more of a military unit. He was beaten and driven out. When he inquired about the whereabouts of his brother and asked what his guilt was, they assaulted him. Then my mother went and after a lot of arguments and shouting and with some leads from the people of neighboring village, we got to know his location. It was 1937-38s and KGB was in Akhurian.

Uncle Karo had five girls and one boy. The boy went to war and didn’t return. My father took care of the girls. We arranged all the funerals of their family, who would do that but for us. My father was harassed for that but he always insisted that he wouldn’t differentiate between his own children and the children of his brother. For that he was beaten, for looking after the children of a prepressed. But there were also other motives in play. They wanted to use him to learn other things – information on secret anti-Soviet meeting, or the identities of whoever spoke against the Soviets. My father said he didn’t know anything about such things. He explained that he worked hard laying and repairing rails and the work got him very tired to do anything but sleeping, therefore, he didn’t have any information about those meetings. My father continued to take care of his brother’s children despite everything. He would always say, “I might fail to feed my children but will never stop feeding my brother’s children”. He supported them openly and never tried to hide that.

He worked as a sweeper around the church, served as a station guard with three other men. Once, it was late at night, they heard screams and cries from a house not far from the station. They ran up there and drove the attackers out. The next day, they were taken to the KGB and severely beaten. My father explained that they were on duty and heard screams from the house. Thinking that people were in danger or were being robbed, they rushed to help. The answer was that they should have backed away when they saw a military vehicle at the door and what business they had helping people who were not even related to them. My dad said he had no relatives in the village and declared that if they intend to exile him, they should go ahead and do it, otherwise leave him be.

There was no way to get rid of them. The people were so naive then and the officials were vile. They continued asking questions and my father had only one answer, “I don’t know, I don’t deal with them, I don’t know who they are and what they do.”

The person who had informed on us is dead. He eventually lost his leg. They moved to Yerevan and he fell down from the sixth floor. The leg was amputated but he survived. His son was a school principal. What could his son do? They were different people with different thinking. It must have been his way of living, I don’t know… his guilt was not officially confirmed. We knew about it, the people of the village talked about it. When they confronted him, he said, “What could I do, they forced me into it. They made me sign. I am illiterate and I just put a cross as my signature”.

He did not socialize a lot and was indeed an illiterate and dumb person. If you talked to him seriously he would say, “I did nothing, I know nothing about it. Who am I to do such things?”. Many perished at his hands: he denounced people and ruined the lives of many families. When my cousin became the chairman of village council he made inquiries. People from Yerevan, from KGB came and covered up the case. My cousin knew who was behind it but he wouldn’t say. When we returned my father forced him to find out who informed on us.

They exiled us instead of my uncle. When they took us at night, there were repatriate Armenians in the same train. They were banging at the doors with cries: “We have repatriated, we are aghpars [colloquial name for a repatriate]. Our children are innocent. Why are you exiling our children? What is their guilt? Why are you suffocating them?”. The wagon was overloaded with people and the air was stuffy.

The same day we were deported, my father received a Certificate of Honor from the railway administration. He was decorated in the afternoon and deported in the evening. He asked the KGB officer, a major, what he was accused for and the officer told him not to worry. Father told his name, surname and asked to find it in the list. The officer looked for his name in the huge journal. He looked through the entire journal and didn’t find my father’s name: “No father, there is no such name. You might have been taken instead of someone else. When you reach your destination, send an appeal to Moscow and they will set you free”. My father also suspected that if his name was not in the list, something must have been wrong. Then, among other names, the major uttered the name of my uncle – Azat Martirosyan. A couple of months before they [the uncle’s family] had become in-laws of the chairman of village council and my guess is they exiled us in their stead. It was 1949. Who could do anything?

I remember the day of our exile very well. It was June 14, 1949. They came by cars. Two families were being exiled from our village. The car stopped, it was very late, somewhere at four o’clock in the morning. Two KGB officers, the village council chairman and the party secretary came in. They told my father: “Aristak, take the necessary stuff. We are deporting you.”

[My father] said, “What kind people you are! Are you sending us back to Tachkastan [Western Armenia]?”

– No, you are going to Russia.

Father asked: “Why?”

– We have to do it.

[My father] said: “Is it dangerous? If so, tell me. I will go, but don’t touch my family.”

– No, no, no. Nothing dangerous.

We started to prepare. My father put an axe and some linen into the staff. We didn’t take much: my brother and my uncles were staying in the village. We were told that we would stay there for a while and return. They reassured that it was much better there than here. Dad swore on that and replied that if it was so good there why they [the village authorities] were not on their way. Enough is enough he said, “people were massacred there [Western Armenia] once, you want to slaughter us here too?”

Apart from our family they also grabbed Andranik Haroyan, a fellow villager. Suddenly a short, old lady rushed in front of the car. Her son had just returned from the war. He had fallen prisoner but managed to escape and come back. She was in tears, crying to them: “Where are you taking the children?!”. She was a repatriate from Constantinople. They said, “He will be back soon”, persuaded her and calmed down.

The vehicles took us to Jajur where the train was waiting for us. They were loading the wagons, taking whatever staff we had and throwing it inside. We were put into an overcrowded car and we had to wait for them to finish loading the cargo. It was still daylight when we arrived and they finished loading in the morning, then the train moved. We were ordered to take only necessary things and not to worry about food. In fact, they fed us on the train, but by God, what kind of food it was. It was inedible, my mom got sick of it.

My father, mother and I and 18 more families were put into one car. We were suffocating. They would bring the meal and give it to each of us through a small window, precisely as they show in the movies. Each of us passed them a bowl through the small window, they would pour the meal into the bowl and return it through the same window. They would also give tea but nothing more. It was a freight wagon. There was no air to breathe. The door was locked but it could be opened as much as the chains allowed – not nearly enough to squeeze one’s head out. We knocked and banged at the door, kicked and punched it. A repatriate woman, God bless her, took a soldier by the collar and shook him, “Come stay with us for half an hour, you’ll know what it feels like in here”.

It may be inappropriate to say but nature called and people had nowhere to go, so my father took his axe and cut a hole in the boards of the floor. People covered it with blankets and that became our toilet for the month to come.

In Novosibirsk they took us to the bath then put us back on rails and sent to Altai kray. It was a month long journey to Barnaul. There were vehicles waiting for us at the station and they were sorting the people according to their skills and profession. My father said he worked on the rails and they decided he is more of a worker than a peasant. We were sent to Charezhski Zernosovkhoz. We were based on the bank of a navigable tributary of Ob river. The farm had 18 divisions – 60, 70 households in each, something like a village. They gave us some potatos, the fileds were already planted and the sprouted ones they gave to us. The locals were afraid of us; they mistook us for Chechens whom they considered dangerous people. We would explain we aren’t chechens, we are Armenians. A commandant was appointed to oversee the deportees and collect monthly signitures to confirm our presence. So many young people were sentensed to 3-4 years for going to Barnaul without permission. They framed those cases as attempted escapes and jailed people. There was no law… My brother came and said he had made an appeal… well, that’s how it was. We stayed in Altai krai for 9 years.

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