An old Vanetsi pointed at the large rug hanging on their living room wall.
“My grandmother brought this from Van, in 1915,” he said. “They came here on foot, traveling with Russian soldiers. Somehow, I don’t know how, she brought this rug with her.”
I looked back and forth at the man and the colorful, hand woven rug, which was laden with deep red colors and designed with dragon-like symbols.
“My grandmother wove this rug, as well as several others that were left behind. In the end, she was making bullets, helping the men defend the Armenian Quarter in Van. My grandparents on my father’s side were also Vanetsi, and were in Van when the massacres started. Some made it, some didn’t.”
In Yerevan, the man lives the life of a Vanetsi, and still speaks the dialect, mixed with the dialect of Yerevan. Small statues, vases, and other artifacts from Van are lined up along the wall and on shelves.
“Starting in 1972, I traveled to Nakhichevan, usually twice a year,” he continued. “My wife has roots there. We went all over, including Agulis. You should have seen the church there, St. Tovmas. What a structure. On the inside walls, there were paintings by Hovnantan. No more, though, as the Turks destroyed the church. Everybody knows about the khachkar destruction in Old Julfa, but losing St. Tovmas was terrible too.
“You know, I never liked Turks, even when they were our so-called friends in Soviet times. In Nakhichevan, their true colors came out in the late 1980s, when they sent people from Baku to run the government. Before that, we got along with the leadership there, but the people they sent…there was no way. Our last trip there was a good lesson for us. When we got near Agulis, locals told us we were in danger, so we went to a remote village on a hill and hid for 10 days, then went back to Yerevan. Slowly, the few remaining Armenians left Nakhichevan. I had seen villages that were 100% Armenian slowly turn Turkish. It was sad. Now, no Armenians remain.”
About today’s Armenia, he had this to say: “After all our ancestors went through, the massacres, everything…and we’ve come to this? The Turks are still out to get us, to finish us off, no matter what they say. And another thing…before 1915, it was the ‘Armenian Question.’ Now it’s ‘Genocide recognition.’ It’s all a big game. Europe and the others sat back and watched in 1915, and they’d do the same again. The US and Europe care about one thing: business. In this case, Azeri oil and gas, and the Turkish army bases. Nobody cares about Armenia. As soon as Armenians realize this, the better off they’ll be.”