Souren Aprahamian is a Genocide survivor.
During the first mass exodus from their home village of Lezk, Aprahamian's father died, leaving the youngster's mother to guide the family safely through the dangers of World War I.
The family returned home in 1916. Their house was intact, but vandals had found the hiding place of their stored valuables and everything was gone. However, they had brought back with them a donkey and an ox, and life in Lezk returned to fairly normal.
But it wasn't long until war intervened again and a second order to evacuate the village was issued because the Russian army had left.
"After almost two weeks of tortuous, hellish suffering, we arrived in Shengavit, a town outside Yerevan" writes Aprahamian.
They barely settled down in a camp there, however, when word came that the Russians had returned to occupy the Van region, making it safe from the Turks. But, once again, the reprieve was not longlasting. The Russian Bolshevik Revolution came in October 1917, and again Russian troops left the Van and Lezk areas.
Fighting broke out in the region and yet another evacuation was ordered for the populace, this one on March 21, 1918. After much hardship, the caravan made it to the Kodol Valley near the Caucasus. A treacherous bandit named Sumko, however, ran this region.
The caravan was moving through the valley on a balmy day when "the silence was shattered and a hailstorm of bullets drenched us," as Aprahamian writes. The bandits had begun a terrible slaughter, firing on the unprotected masses in the valley from the rim above.
Aprahamian and his family dove behind a huge boulder and then were ordered to cross the river. They were able to make it across. Dodging bullets, they climbed up the opposite side of the valley to relative safety.
Thousands died in the onslaught, many from enemy fire and some who drowned in the river crossing. Aprahamian writes, "Latecomers told us that they had to walk over the bodies of the fallen."
At the village of Sarin Kaleh, the Turks caught up with the caravan. Everyone dropped everything and ran for their lives. They made it to Tazakand and the British army. There, trucks took them to the safety of refugee camps.
They remained two years in the tent city. An Arab rebellion broke out and the family once again was subjected to gunfire. The refugees were moved to a camp on the Tigris River near Basra.
Aprahamian's older brother Nahabed, who was working in America, found out his family was in a refugee camp and arranged to send $2,500 so they could come to America.
They were later married and returned to the Detroit area. Aprahamian had two engineering degrees, chemical and mechanical, and was also in the grocery business. His wife died in 2002. As for 2005 Aprahamian, at age 98, still lived in the Detroit area.
- ONE FAMILY'S LONG JOURNEY TO U.S., By Bob Kostoff, March 15, 2005