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Looking Back: the Dovajyan Family Miracle

Looking Back: the Dovajyan Family Miracle

Author: Eleonora Uzunyan
Abkhazia, Gagra 

A century has already passed since the Genocide of the Armenian people in Turkey, but the stories of different families, told from generation to generation, return us into the past again and again. Life in the Western Armenia, childhood, fold…there is already nobody alive who might remember about the motherland. The descendants of them have moved away to different countries. The things the Armenian people had to get through during the Genocide are in the past, but the memories are still alive…

Today, with a few exceptions, there is no witness of the most tragic pages of the Armenian people history. There are memories which have conveyed the idea of those times. There are stories of survivors’ sad fortunes which still should be told the world. Hamshen Armenians have the same fate as the Armenian people. Those who managed to survive were leaving their homeland, as death and humiliation were expecting them there. Many families and relatives lost each other during those horrible moments and, being separated by state boundaries, never found each other again. Sometimes miracles were happening and the relatives managed to find each other in several years.

My interlocutor Hrant Hrant Cholaqyan – born long after the tragic years, in 1979 in Gagra, Abkhazia- told me an interesting story. 

“Here is the story, my family has kept in mind”- tells Hrant Cholaqyan. “My grand grandfather Mkrtich Dovajyan was living in Ordu, Turkey. As other families, he also left Turkey during the Genocide. In 1915, a ship with refugees and my grand grandmother and grand grandfather’s families arrived close to the shores of Abkhazia. During the disembarkation of people, the Czar authorities ordered to stop it. The part of refugees did not manage to land. The two of the children of Dovajyan family were still on the board. Armenak - the youngest child- was still three years old, while Astghik- the oldest one - was twelve years old. Only their eight-year-old sister, Khngen, remained with the family. The ship, with the children on the board, left for Turkey again. For several years nothing was known about them. The attempts to find them failed, and the following years of closed borders buried hopes of the family to find out something about their children.

Years were passing by, but the pain of loss still lodged in the hearts of Dovajyan family members. In 1964, a journalist from Bulgaria came to Abkhazia. It turned out that he stayed in a house where my father – Hrant Albert Cholaqyan- was living. One day my father was looking through the Bulgarian magazine, which the guest had left on the table. Then he saw a note with a name Armenak. In the evening, the Bulgarian journalist translated the text of the note. It turned out an announcement, that “Armenak Dovajyan was looking for his relatives for several years” and was announcing it in the magazine all the time. The match of the name and surname was already a miracle, but it was difficult to believe that their sweet Armenak turned up. On request of the family the journalist from Bulgaria found out everything. It was him, the little Armenak Dovajyan, who left on the board and returned  to Turkey.

After 50 years of separation, Armenak Dovajyan, accompanied by his wife Nune, arrived in Abkhazia. Armenak’s sister, Khngen, was living in the village Kalachi, Gagra. She was informed nothing beforehand. The long-waited day arrived and Armenak, followed by the relatives, went to the village to see his sister Khngen, whom he had not seen since childhood.

Armenak slowly came up to the gates and stood there for a moment. He was overwhelmed with different feelings: the sister was watering the plants on the patio. It brought tears to his eyes. He asked playfully in Turkish: “Don’t you have anything to repair?” She, while continuing to water the plants, answered in Turkish: “No, I need nothing”. Meanwhile Armenak was opening the gate to enter the patio, the sister turned around and looked at him. For a second she was hesitating and then asked: “Amenak, my brother, is that you?” They were standing still and were looking at each other, with eyes filled of tears of joy.

Slowly they came up to each other and hugged. Embracing, they were standing still and could not believe the happening miracle. Armenak told what happened to them after they had returned to Turkey. It turned out that they had been adopted by different Turkish families. Although they were living in different families, were in the same region and kept in touch with each other. His sister, Astghik, visited him in secret and reminded him of his origins and what had happened to him.

Time passed, they grew up and moved to Bulgaria from Turkey. Further, Astghik moved to Los-Angeles, USA. Armenak married an Armenian girl Nune. Children were born, but he never stopped looking for his relatives.

After that happy meeting, they were not losing each other anymore. Not only Armenak was often visiting Abkhazia to see his sister, but also Khngen was coming from far Armenia. After many years of being away, they were given a chance to meet again.

Armenak, Khngen and Astghik died, but the memory of them and their wonderful meeting is kept alive in their families and families of descendants.

The Dovajyan family, to the left - Kngnen and her brother Armenak. Gagra, 1965


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