In Yerevan, clouds covered the view of Massis, only occasionally the lower snow-covered part appearing. Nearing the village of Pokr Vedi (Khor Virab), the mountain was revealed, each and every snowy slope seemingly a short walk away.
Entering the large courtyard and eventually the newly-renovated village house, the talk soon turned to our roots in Western Armenia, mainly Van and Moush. “My grandmother, whose name was Mafo, was born in a village in the Plains of Moush, near Bulanukh,” Hasmik said. “Her father’s name was Israel. She was already married and had a family, a husband and two children, when the massacres started. Mafo fled with her family, traveling with General Andranik. Along the way, her husband and children died. In Yerevan, she remarried a Mshetsi from Liz, also in the Plains of Moush.
“Even late in life, she never forgot her first husband, Armenak. But she used to say, about Eastern Armenia, ‘What is this, a land of rocks, you should see Moush, a paradise, if you see it, you’ll know what I mean...’ Years later, I saw Moush, and Bulanukh, and I understood she was right...”
The Vantetsi continued, saying, “I was in Van in 1992, and know what you mean. A land of milk and honey. The Turks left us with 10% of our homeland, and the worst part. We have to make the best of it, and I’d never leave to some imaginary ‘greener pastures’ in Russia or elsewhere, but, in reality, there’s not much here.”
It happened that our host’s father was born in the same village as Hasmik’s grandmother. “My family left in 1914, before the massacres started. They were friendly with a Kurdish tribesman who knew what was being planned. The Kurd arranged for our family to leave the area, to cross into Russian Armenia. I laugh when some say that the massacres were spontaneous, that the Genocide wasn’t planned, and planned for years. The Kurds knew what was going to happen, as did the Turks. They just chose the right moment. Luckily, a good Kurd saved our family. Still, our family elders had seen too much, and until they died, refused to speak Kurdish, even though they knew the language well, saying it was a ‘dog’s language.’”