Like a ghost, his silhouette hovers
tall through the street shadows of Smyrna--
until all that will be left
will be traces of its skeletal remains.
The beloved Doktor's vision is blurred by tears
and the smothering smoke.
He's overcome by the stench of burning flesh,
the moans of the dying, the piercing screams,
and the destruction surrounding him!
Aghast he gazes down at his empty hands
that until these days healed the sick
and held the newly born.
Now, his fingers tremble.
Not to be obvious,
he exits his home wearing his fez
and summons his courage
needing to understand the
Elisa his wife; their children,
Hatcher, Sirarpi*, Krikor,
their youngest is one;
Araxi their housekeeper,
and their neighbors.
Night after night,
from the end of August through September,
he ventures into the side streets,
into his journal:
Wednesday, the 13th
I see a Turk, he thinks I am one of them,
he says to me,
"We did what was due; you turn back."
The Turk, who assumed an active role
he advises me not to advance,
but to turn back. I answer, "Very well"
with the attitude of someone who understands
the situation. I stop for a moment to distance
myself from the Turk-- to avoid conversation.
At last, the Doktor finds escape from this hell.
Except for his smoke scarred journal,
nothing remains of his worldly goods.
As he embarks on the rescue ship
to unknown safe Greek shores,
he holds his wife, his five children,
and their housekeeper
with all his might, and hides his journal,
the lone witness to all he has seen
deep within his double vest.
Fifty miles far from the billowing black clouds over Smyrna--
in his home town of Akhisar,
Christians --- ten from his and his wife's family,
all were massacred!
Men, women, children;
butchered, hanged, machine gunned,
--the young pretty ones violated,
then dragged away to harems, and the young males
forced into slave labor battalions- were never seen again!
Their fatal mistake was to believe the empty promises of peace,
made by those who swore on the Koran.
-- © SOFIA KONTOGEORGE KOSTOS
WITNESS was inspired by Dr. Garabed Hatcherian's journal. An Armenian Doctor - Garabed Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922 Edited by his daughter *Sirarpi's daughter, Dora Sakayan, Ph.D. Montreal: Arod Books, 1997. Translated into 9 languages--including Turkish. The Turkish publication was banned in Turkey; its publisher and translator have been repeatedly summoned to court and relentlessly fined.
Garabed Hatcherian, M.D. (1876-1952) held the position of general surgeon and gynecologist at The Armenian Saint Gregory's National Hospital in Smyrna. (SKK)