Photo above was taken in Constantinople /Istanbul, at the beginning of the 20th century. The next from the right is my grandfather Ruben Armenyan. In 1915, Ruben was studying at famous Armenian Kedronakan School of Constaninople. Here are some of his school papers.

Rouben’s father Grigor was also in Instanbul when deportation and massacres of Armenians began. His wife and three other children were living in Mancusun, Kayseri (Kesaria) vilayet. All of them disappeared. My mother used to tell me her father was trying his best to get some news about his family, but in vain. They had left no trace.

“My dear brother Ruben Armenyan, I got your letter and it gave me joy… My mother, Annik and Garegin are all well. Garegin can walk now, he goes to everywhere… Bring me some papers please. I go to school, I read Meghraget, and Annik reads Qerakan, and what is my father doing there?
Mister Fox the Tricker
appeared suddenly
lay down on the road
pretending to be dead.
There were so many things I wanted to write you about, but there is no more place on the paper. Greetings to my father”.

This is Haykuhi Armenyan, living in Manjusun, writing a letter to her brother Ruben in Istanbul. Meghraget (as well as Qerakan) is a textbook name and Mister Fox the Tricker has most probably jumped out of it. Haykuhi and Annik were Grigor’s younger sisters, and Garegin was the smallest of all four, he had just started to walk, he would just put his fingers into ink and then leave his fingermarks on the paper as a hello. All three of them disappeared, together with their mother, on the roads of exile. Only my grandfather Ruben and his father Grigor escaped, because they were in Istanbul.

The paper above was written, most probably, after 1915, it certifies that Grigor (Kirkor Sarkis ), father of my grandfather, was working in Gul-Hané hospital as carpenter. Whereas Ruben had become a student of Istanbul Veterinary Institute and in the photo below wears a fez.

However, Rouben did not wear fez for long, in 1922, he came to live in Soviet Armenia, together with his father Grigor. His veterinary education was highly important in Armenia of those days, a country on the edge of famine, its countryside devastated by animal epidemic. Ruben Armenyan became chief veterinaire officer in Armenia.

My grandfather in the photo above is on the left, sitting. I don’t know why is it that this photo is torn a bit, neither do I know what year and where it was taken —when I found this photo, neither my mother nor my uncle were alive to tell me— but no doubt it was taken in Soviet Armenia. My grandfather Ruben —everyone who knew him asserts this—was a self-controlled man, not disclosing his emothions or thoughts to everyone, but when I look to this picture, I see anger in his eyes and also in the posture of his hands. I look to the hand with cigarette of the man wearing sapogs, then I look to my grandfather’s hands, and it seems to me I can read his thoughts: “damn fate”.

On the other had, if not that “damn fate”, I would not be born. In Yerevan, Ruben Armenyan married Henaz Messiayan— born in Sebastia/ Sivaz and having come with her family to Yerevan in 1927— to give birth to my mother in 1935. I never saw my grandfather, he died in 1956, before I was born.