In a Turkish town that had 10,000 Armenians, now there is only one
Chris Bohjalian is the author of 16 books. His new novel, “The Light in the Ruins,” comes out on July 9.
A woman I met last month in southeastern Turkey is going to die, probably sometime soon. Asiya’s death will not be covered by any news service, and for all but a few people in her small village of Chunkush, she will not be missed. Even the relatives who love her will probably think to themselves, well, she was 98 years old. Or 99. Or, if she survives until 2015, somewhere in the neighborhood of a century. She will have lived a long life.
When I met Asiya in May, her daughter brought me strong Kurdish tea and fresh strawberries from their yard, and when I return to her village someday and find that she has indeed passed away, I suspect I’m going to weep.
Why cry for a woman I met but once, who lived a long life and who couldn’t understand a word I said? Who spoke only Turkish, a language in which I know how to say only “please” and “thank you”?
Because Asiya is what some people call a hidden Armenian, and she is the last surviving Armenian in Chunkush. I met her when I was traveling with six Armenian American friends through a part of Turkey that many Armenians (including me) refer to as Historic Armenia.