Anton Papelian

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Editorial: A tale of two refugees

Milford Daily News (MA)
Jan 21 2003

Many of the Armenian refugees who arrived in Milford around 1915, came from the province of Sebastia and in particular, from the village of Kotni.

The stories of two men from Kotni illustrate the wide variety of circumstances and events which occurred to the Armenians who were somehow able to escape the genocide launched by the Turks in the years before World War I, and were planning to go to America.

The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey at that time was Henry Morgenthau. He later stated that when the Turkish authorities gave orders to kill tens of thousands of Armenians and deport thousands of others in the years between 1880 and 1915, that government was issuing the death warrant to a whole race of people. "As a result, the great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the suffering of the Armenians in 1915."

By the time the genocide effort was over, in excess of 1.5 million Armenians had been killed. Those who escaped were expected to somehow survive without any local, national or international assistance.

One of the survivors from Kotni was Anton Papelian. Despite the hardships he and his family had suffered, he held fast to the belief that he had a brighter future ahead of him. As a result, he concluded his first step should be to get married. He spotted a young lady who was a member of the Ananian Family. What attracted him to her immediately was the fact that, like him, she had red hair. Rather than employ a matchmaker, Anton approached the Ananian family many times but was rebuffed each time.

Some of his friends convinced him that he had to ask some matchmakers to intercede on his behalf. The matchmakers agreed to help him but they told him that his job was to remain mute while they tried to erase the bad impression he had already made on the family. He promised that he would abide by their rules but as soon as they entered the house, he blurted out his desire to marry the young lady, much to the chagrin of the matchmakers and the displeasure of the Ananians.

Finally, the young woman said to him, "I'm a redhead and you're a redhead. What would happen to our children? Go look for your luck somewhere else. I won't take you." Disheartened, Anton Papelian left his friends and set sail for America where he settled in Milford.

Another refugee from Kotni had a far grimmer fate in store for him. Despite everything which the Turks had done to the Armenian people, Artin Bostarjian held an unwavering optimism about his future. Unlike many other Armenians, Artin had money. He had either smuggled his life savings out of Armenia or had somehow managed to earn a substantial amount of money. He began using that money to rent some land from a Turkish landowner. There, he built a house made of grass and sand mixed with soil.

One day while Artin was alone at his primitive house, the three Turkish sons of the landowner came to the grass house and asked Artin if he wanted to buy the property on which his house rested. Apparently they had heard that Artin had somehow accumulated some money and they wanted to discover if the rumors were true.

Given all that had happened to Armenians at the hands of the Turks during the years before 1915, most Armenians would have been wary and hesitant about telling these Turkish brothers anything about their private affairs. But Artin believed in the New Testament statement: "Love Thy Neighbor." He said, "I can buy your land, I can buy your house, I can buy anything."

That was all the brothers needed to hear. They grabbed Artin, tied him up and began threatening him, saying if he did not hand over his money, they intended to kill him immediately. After tongue-lashing him and pushing him around, Artin confessed that he indeed had some money and that it was in a hole under his bed.

The brothers quickly found the money. However, not satisfied with robbing Artin, the brothers tied Artin with more rope, twisting it around his wrists, neck and feet so that he could not move at all. Then they poured kerosene on him and lit him on fire. Soon the contents of his house and Artin himself, burned. When Artin's family returned they found only the ashes of their belongings and those of Artin.

The Armenian people in that area were so incensed by this horrible crime that even though the criminals were Turks, they demanded justice from the authorities. Either the authorities responded to the protests or else people took the matter into their own hands, for shortly thereafter, the three brothers confessed that they had indeed killed Artin in that heinous fashion. Apparently the Old Testament adage, "An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth," prevailed in that part of the world. The three brothers were tied up and executed the same way that they had murdered Artin.

The story of Artin's death and how it occurred was told and re-told among the Armenian refugees in order that they be made aware of the fact that the harassment and death which so many of their family members had suffered before 1916 had not ended [END OF ARTICLE MISSING]

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