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Krikor Zohrab: "We Need to Seek Refuge from the Earthly Storms"

Krikor Zohrab: "We Need to Seek Refuge from the Earthly Storms"

"I believe that even the whole life is too short"

Krikor Zohrab

From the Editor: 

One of the most prominent intellectuals, Krikor Zohrab was born on June 26, 1861. He had great influence in certain circles as a lawyer and member of parliament of the Ottoman empire and also made a great contribution to the Armenian literary heritage by writing many strident novels and poems. Today we will try to look at Zohrab not through the prism of his activities but through the history of his personal life.

"On July 6, 1915 6 июля 1915 года, at 5 am, Euopean time. The road leading from Aleppo to Urfa. The gendarmes accompanying the wagon, take up positions on both sides of Gaspatash and shoot aiming for those sitting in the wagon. One of the bullets struck Vardkes Serinkyulyan. He dies on the spot. But they could not kill the other deportee. The executioners approach the wagon:

— Get down! — they shout from all the sides.

He was silent, as if they were not shouting at him. Then Cherkes Ahmed-bey took him by the scruff of the neck and hitting him, says

Get down! You will not be rescued! This is an order from above.

Zohrab with eyes full of tears refused to go down.

Kill here. I cannot go down.

They are trying to pull him off the wagon but he tightly grabs the handrails on both sides with two hands. Ahmed Bey hits him with his Circassian dagger. Other followed his example too , inflifcting many times with daggers, but to no avail. Later they dragged his body and threw into the river. Just in case they shot with revolvers couple of times also to no avail."

The text was writtend down by historian and writer Aram Antonyants but there is also information from Zareh Vorbenyan who wrote that Ahmed did not calm down after killing Zohrab he smashed his head with a stone. Then they took off the clothes from the killed, dragged them to the bridge and threw them into the bushes on the other side of the road.

On July 7, the day following the murder in of the markets of Urfa they were selling the golden watch and ring of Krikor Zohrab and underwear of Vardkes Serinkyulyan.

From this market an English traveller bought and took with him to Aleppo Zohrab's bag that had his initials and blood stains on it. On the same day Talaat's adviser Ali Munif-bey informed Zohrab about her husband's death. 

For 27 years of marriage Krikor and Clara separated many times: sometimes due to business trips and for political reasons, sometimes for health issues, and sometimes Zohrab would go abroad or different parts of the empire (Ottoman empire — note). But all the separations were temporary. The pages of the calendar torn by impatient hands every day made the moment of the meeting closer and the days apart were brigthened with correspondence.

They met in 1885 and only three years later K. Zohrab asked Poghos Yazinchayn for his daughter’s hand. On January 31, 1888 a luxurious wedding ceremony was held in the house located in the Skyutar neighborhood (a neighborhood on the Asian coast of Istanbul with a predominantly Armenian population).

Years later K. Zohrab confessed to his wife: “I, Krikor Zohrab, am a lawyer by profession and deputy according to position, a writer, a proffesseur, a journalist, and finally and above all, somewhat womanizer, as 28 years ago I met a cute girl in a coffee-colored skirt, and have been living happily and loving her for 28 years and will love her till death do us apart”.

Zohrab, who was calling himself a womanizer at the age of 22-23, had strict views in relation to the freedom and role of women. He loved women for their feminity, tenderness, mildness, weakness and helplessness. Just only the revived views on the equality of rights were absonant to nature for him, especially the Armenian manifestaion of these views.

Five years later when he was married and chastened Zohrab changed his wording: he remained of the same opinion but he became more compliant and flexible. Zohrab wrote that heart of the woman is a harbor, where "one needs to seek refuge from the earthly storms", that one should love woman for her heart, and not for her mind: "an educated woman stops being a woman in my eyes." 

However, this intolerance to the social and professional activities of women will boomerang back to his family. His eldest daughter, Dolores Nvard Zograb, becomes an employee on the stock exchange and, thanks to her flexible mind and computational ability, achieves great success.

Dolores earned lots of money but she did not become the woman whose image her father promoted; she was fully involved in business. Dolores Zohrab-Lipman (she was married to the famous Lipman) lost her health and did not have offspring. None of the children of Zohrab had found that warm family hearth that Clara and Krikor had. Zohrab family did not have the third generation: none of his four children had their own kids. The love of Zohrab and Clara was unequalled.

The love story of Clara and Zohrab was more beautiful and dramatic than the stories he had written... Zohrab could spend all day searching jewely for his wife and call it a card games. He could save money and not have dinner, but he could go to a playhouse and spend ten times more. That was life. In general, according to Zohrab life is a game: "I believe that even the whole life is too short", — he wrote in a letter addressed to his son Aram in 1912.

In 1911 while in Wiesbaden (a town in Germany-note) Zohrab suddenly recalled his childhood sweetheart. This happened in 1881: he saw a youn beautfiul Armenian Catholic girl Matilda and fell in love with her. Many years later this name shooke loose his soul again. These feelings were reflected in his poems "Envy" and "Farewell" and in the novel "The Disappeared Generation."

But the memories of his first love could not fell Clara off him:this woman was too close, precious and indispensable for him. But there was one thing that spoiled their family love and peace: jealousy. Clara's jealousy. Zohrab managed to smooth over the differences, transform everything into joke and act innocent.  Or maybe he was really innocent?

He wanted very much to throw off all the problems, go away from the earthly noise and take up gardening.  It seemed that in 1913 his dream was to come true. But the war changed his plans.

In May 1915 Zohrab was returning home after playing cards with Talaat in the Eastern club, when he was arrested and taken to Galatasaray police station, and then to Konia, Adana where he dreamt of planting orange trees and from there to Aleppo... From there he continued to write letters to his wife as always when they parted. "My beloved, beautiful, lovely wife", "my the only one, gentle, my treasure, my wife, my soul" — these expressions Zohrab kep on saying for 27 years of marriage turned into "my beloved and poor wife", "my beloved and unhappy spouse." The humor, which always helped him to overcome difficulties, blinkered.

...On July 6, 1915, 5 am European time

From N.Tukhikyan's book “Confession”

Translated from Armenian by Anna Movsisyan.


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