Handful Of Earth -nyt191804
HANDFUL OF EARTH
Reprinted from Professor Lulejian's book, "Gleanings", (1955) Mshag Press, and Fresno.
And just as the more modern tragedy is characterized new refinements of horror, just so much pathetic and appealing is the modern prayer.
We are left in no doubt the personality of its author. The same, Donabed Lulejian, will call to many Armenians the vision of a thoughtful and scholarly young man know the them, it may be, at Cornell University where he studied for two years, or at Yale, where he received the degree of M. S. He was also a graduate of Euphrates, the American college at Harpoot, when he came to our country, and it was to Euphrates he returned in 1911 to serve as professor of biology there. He was the last surviving member of the Armenian faculty, until Death took him also.
Part of his story comes to us tersely in Viscount Bryce's "Documents presented to Viscount Greay." The testimony is that of the Principal of the College.
"Professor Lulejian served college about 15 years. Arrested about June 5th, 1915. Beaten about hands, body, and head with a stick by the Kaimakam himself, who, when tired, called on all who loved religion to continue the beating. After a period of insensibility, taken to Red Crescent Hospital with a broken finger and serious bruises. Now Free."
Professor Lulejian contrived somehow to escape from the Hospital, and to flee on foot to Russia, from whence he later returned to Erzerum to assist the American Consul in relief work. There he died of typhoid. It is his young brother, Levon, who was his companion on the flight, that we are indebted for the details of the piteous circumstances which attended the writing of the second prayer:
"For four months we had been hiding in a stable," he writes. "When Kurds told us of the fall of Erzerum, we came out from our hiding places and saw the sun again. A few days afterwards, when we were passing through the ruined villages of Unghag, where we saw the bones and hacked bodies of men, women and children, my brother sat near by and began to write this, I, standing at a distance, was crooning a melancholy Kurdish song, and when I turned toward him I saw that his eyes were filled with tears and that he was shaking with emotion. In a few minuets he had finished his Handful of Earth. This is only a skeleton, he said. There is much to add. But I have no more paper. Let us go."
This epic of suffering was written a bit of thick window paper, torn from the window-paper, of the stable in which they had been hiding. I use a translation made by Mr. Garabed H. Papazian:
"At least a handful of earth for these slain bodies, for these whitened bones! A handful of earth, at least, for these unclaimed dead!
"We bury the dead: we keep their memory sacred: the grave is holy to us: we place our dear ones into its bosom, and we imagine them always to be there. We dislike to fancy the bodies of our dear ones worm-ridden; their eyes lonely eyes, filled with worms; their cheeks their kiss-deserving cheeks, mildewed; their pomegranate-like lips food for reptiles. We dislike to fancy the ruin, destruction, and annihilation. Our heart is there under the earth with the embalmed dead, waiting to rise in the glorious dawn of the resurrection. With a handful of earth we cover the scene of death and decay. With a handful of earth we cover our dear bones.
"But here they are in the mountains, unburies and forlorn, attacked by worms and scorpions, the eyes bare, the faces horrible, amid a loathsome stench, like the odor of a slaughter-house, -- a dreadful spot from which to flee. We flee from those we love; we abhor those for whom we would give our lives. A handful of earth, to cover this frightened scene!
"There are our women with breasts uncovered and limbs bare a handful of earth to shield their hearts and in their heads: a handful of earth to cover them! There are our brides, disemboweled, hacked to pieces, with babies yet unborn: a handful of earth, only to screen from our eyes this sorrowful scene! there are our young men with feet cut away and heads battered against the stone: cruel fiends hacked them to pieces, ferocious Bushmen, wild Kaffirs. A handful of earth to shut from our sight this heart-rending scene!
"A handful of earth, God! Sprinkle a handful of earth so that thin eyes, through the stars, may not see the immolation of these weak and defenseless creatures, the piteous sacrifice on the altar of Thy wrath. Throw a handle of earth upon them!
"A handful of earth, at least! Let the drama end, the age long drama of Armenian's torture. Let the Armenian become a fossil. Let him to be disgrace of the civilization which tore him to pieces, cruelly and without mercy. Let him be the curse of the religion which abandoned him and left him without succor. A handful of earth, that he may become a fossil inscription to reveal to the man of tomorrow the story of Armenia's woe. Give, God, the handful of earth requested of Thee!"
The New Armenia, April, 1918 pic. 191, A photo of the professor as he appeared in 1911 pic 191, A photo of the professor as he appeared immediately after his release from prison, 1915
A hard copy of this article or hundreds of others from the time of the Armenian Genocide can be found in The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922