Ashot Tadevosyan

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By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

You prophesied light with `Let there be light',
The Moscow wolves told you to stop,
My sweet Paruyr that became Sevak,
I keep your heart more than a quarter of century,
And I will - unless I die,
I am a lost lamb without you: what can I do?

Ashot Tadevosyan wrote the lines for the poet he admired, Paruyr Sevak. They were friends. And Tadevosyan was an admirer. Sevak - considered one of Armenia's greatest poets - stole Tadevosyan's heart with his poems.

And Tadevosyan stole Sevak's heart. Literally.

`Sevak was a great person and his place was near all other big people in the Pantheon. When I learnt the Central Committee had decided to bury him in his native village, I thought I should take his heart to have it buried later in the Pantheon.' (The Pantheon is a cemetery in Yerevan where many notable Armenians are buried.)

Former judge, lawyer Ashot Tadevosyan, 77, is moved when speaking about Sevak, drinks to him, and recalls the awful day of June 17th 1971 when he learned the poet had died in a car accident.

`I was lost. I understood they had killed him and did not want to bury him in the Pantheon, shamelessly. So I decided to get Sevak's heart by all means, to keep it until they agree to give him a place in the Pantheon,' tells Tadevosyan.

To realize the plan Tadevosyan spent 3 days and nights near the morgue. As he says - his friends were cigarettes, cognac and tears.

`There were three morticians: the door would open frequently and I could see Sevak's and his wife's bodies on the other side of the hanging sheet.'

The admirer had been waiting for a proper situation to approach the doctor with his strange address.

`I noticed suddenly the doctor had taken Paruyr's heart out. Taking advantage of my authority of a judge I went in, asked everybody to leave the room and approached the doctor, who stood holding the heart in his hand,' remembers Tadevosyan.

`The doctor would agree in no way, saying that I am a judge and I want to bring him to court. I was lost because of the excitement: I was asking him to give the heart on behalf of Sevak while holding his head. I lied down on the bloody floor and began begging him at his feet.'

The doctor gave way only when Tadevosyan reached into his pocket and took out all his money. He bought the honest heart of Paruyr Sevak with a bribe.

Tadevosyan kept the heart of his hero at his home for 10 years in a corner decorated with flowers and the poet's picture, where candles always burnt. Then he took it to his office, where he spent most of the time.

`His last book `Let there be light' is in front of my eyes: he never saw it. The reason of Sevak's death was the book. The approval of the title took six months. Sevak said he was told he should call it `The Lenin Bulb',' says Tadevosyan. (The term was introduced during the electrification of the settlements across the Soviet Union to symbolize progress, life improvement and enlightenment after the Bolshevik revolution.)

Published in 1971, `Let there be light' was literally translated into Russian and was sent to Suslov (a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee, responsible for ideology in Brezhnev times), who hated Armenians and prohibited dissemination of the book: Sevak was silenced forever several months later.

Tadevosyan gets excited again: He takes his head in the hands and says with a trembling voice: `Oh, Sevak is my sorrow; I can't get along with his death for 34 years, my pain will not be soothed until his heart is buried.'

The Soviet times have passed but Tadevosyan is still unable to convince the authorities to bury Sevak's heart in the Pantheon.

In 2001 Tadevosyan let go of Sevak's heart, giving it to the Museum of Literature, with the hope that the museum could assist getting it buried in the Pantheon.

`I felt I couldn't solve the problem alone, that's why I handed the heart over to the Museum of Literature, then I moved it to the Genocide Museum. The directors of the museums have appealed to appropriate bodies for many times, but in vain,' says Tadevosyan.

`My Sevak's heart is longing for relief; it suffered while he was alive, they make it suffer now.'

A group of Armenian intellectuals, including Silva Kaputikyan, Zori Balayan, Sos Sargsyan, several years ago wrote an open letter appealing to authorities to bury the poet's heart in the Pantheon.

Writer Zori Balayan says: `What a cold-mindedness should one possess in his heart in order to keep from responding to the great poet's still continuing moans. Not solving this problem is a sin.'

Tadevosyan is hopeless: he is afraid he will not live up to the time when his favorite poet has a tomb in the Pantheon. His only consolation is that he has written a book to honor Sevak.

He is soon to publish `Sevak in My Heart and My Memories'.

And Tadevosyan has instructions for how the heart should be cared for, should it not be buried before Tadevosyan's death.

`If my Sevak does not find a place in the Pantheon before I die, I have told my son to bury his heart with me, having put it on top of my heart.'