1915

Holding a cane in his right hand, Movses Haneshyan, 105, slowly approaches a life-size landscape.

He pauses, looks at the image, and begins to sing: “My home... My Armenia.”

It’s the first time Movses is seeing his home in 98 years.

A century ago, the Ottomans initiated a policy of deportations, mass murder and rape to destroy the Armenian presence in the Ottoman Empire. By the war’s end, more than a million people, from what is now modern-day Turkey, were eliminated.

It was one of the first genocides of the 20th century, one that Turkish authorities deny to this day.

Movses and his father survived.

I traveled to Armenia to meet Movses and other survivors to ask them about their last memories of their early home. I then retraced their steps in Turkey to retrieve a piece of their lost homeland.

One hundred years after having fled his birthplace, Movses caresses its image, as if by holding it close he will be taken back to the place he called home many years ago.

This is his story, and those of other survivors.

A story of home — everything they had, everything they lost. And what they have found again.

2015

 Movses stands outside of his home in Armenia, looking at an image of his former home in present-day Turkey.

Movses stands outside of his home in Armenia, looking at an image of his former home in present-day Turkey.

Logo_M.jpg
 Once the capital of an ancient Armenian kingdom, Ani was known as the "city of 1,001 churches." Today, the city remains abandoned.

Once the capital of an ancient Armenian kingdom, Ani was known as the "city of 1,001 churches." Today, the city remains abandoned.


 Yepraksia Gevorgyan, now 108, escaped by crossing the river to what is now present-day Armenia. She watched the Ottomans kill the Armenians, throwing the bodies into the river.

Yepraksia Gevorgyan, now 108, escaped by crossing the river to what is now present-day Armenia. She watched the Ottomans kill the Armenians, throwing the bodies into the river.

 A clipping from The New York Times from 1915.

A clipping from The New York Times from 1915.

 A portrait of the Sargsyan family in Kutahya, Turkey before the deportation in 1915.

A portrait of the Sargsyan family in Kutahya, Turkey before the deportation in 1915.

 The waters of the Akhurian River trace the border between present-day Turkey and Armenia. Yepraksia crossed the river to escape the massacres of 1915.

The waters of the Akhurian River trace the border between present-day Turkey and Armenia. Yepraksia crossed the river to escape the massacres of 1915.

 A box containing the remains of Armenians from Der Zor, Syria: a destination to which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were forced to march in 1915.

A box containing the remains of Armenians from Der Zor, Syria: a destination to which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were forced to march in 1915.

1915_1.jpg
 Scenes like this were common in the spring and summer of 1915, as Ottomans turned much of modern-Turkey into a killing field.

Scenes like this were common in the spring and summer of 1915, as Ottomans turned much of modern-Turkey into a killing field.

1915_2a.jpg
 A hand-drawn map of a village in Musa Dagh mountain, which Movses and his father fled from.

A hand-drawn map of a village in Musa Dagh mountain, which Movses and his father fled from.

 Yepraksia holds an image of the location from where she recalls escaping with her family. This is the first time she has seen it in 100 years.

Yepraksia holds an image of the location from where she recalls escaping with her family. This is the first time she has seen it in 100 years.

  “I remember the river,”   recalls Yepraksia Gevorgyan upon seeing the panel.  “I saw the Turks kill the Armenians, throwing their bodies in the water.”

“I remember the river,” recalls Yepraksia Gevorgyan upon seeing the panel. “I saw the Turks kill the Armenians, throwing their bodies in the water.”

1915_3.JPG
 I followed the map Movses had given me.

I followed the map Movses had given me.

 I discovered everything he described to me: the sea, the tree with the fruit he remembered eating. I found it all, even the rubble that was once his church.

I discovered everything he described to me: the sea, the tree with the fruit he remembered eating. I found it all, even the rubble that was once his church.

A century later, a part of Movses found it too.

1915_5.jpg
 The town of Sason, Turkey was a major site of massacres. Once populated predominately  by Armenians, the district is now inhabited by a handful of hidden Armenians.

The town of Sason, Turkey was a major site of massacres. Once populated predominately by Armenians, the district is now inhabited by a handful of hidden Armenians.

 Mariam Sahakyan, 101, was born in Sason, Turkey. She escaped to Syria with her mother and older brother, whom they dressed as a girl for safety.

Mariam Sahakyan, 101, was born in Sason, Turkey. She escaped to Syria with her mother and older brother, whom they dressed as a girl for safety.

 Mariam’s chair.

Mariam’s chair.

 Mariam never saw her birth-home. Her one request:  “Go to my village and bring back soil of me to be buried in.”

Mariam never saw her birth-home. Her one request: “Go to my village and bring back soil of me to be buried in.”

 The Sahakyan family tree depicts four generations dating back to 1915. Mariam spent most of her life separated from her brothers and sisters who stayed in Syria.

The Sahakyan family tree depicts four generations dating back to 1915. Mariam spent most of her life separated from her brothers and sisters who stayed in Syria.

 Mariam sits in front of a panel of an unpaved street in her hometown. She recalls hiding in the grass and walking at night for three days to flee the soldiers.

Mariam sits in front of a panel of an unpaved street in her hometown. She recalls hiding in the grass and walking at night for three days to flee the soldiers.

1915_4c.jpg
 A family icon brought from Turkey during the deporation.

A family icon brought from Turkey during the deporation.

 In the shadows, Haydarpasa train station in Istanbul, Turkey. On April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested several hundred Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul.

In the shadows, Haydarpasa train station in Istanbul, Turkey. On April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested several hundred Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul.

 An archival image of a couple on their wedding day in 1910. The image was ripped in half during the deportation, and pieced together only after they arrived in Armenia.

An archival image of a couple on their wedding day in 1910. The image was ripped in half during the deportation, and pieced together only after they arrived in Armenia.

 A drawer of photos, including a portrait taken in 1909 of Yepraksia’s family in the city of Kars, now Turkey.

A drawer of photos, including a portrait taken in 1909 of Yepraksia’s family in the city of Kars, now Turkey.

 Movses remembers when soldiers entered his village,  “I was with my father, holding his hand. Half the road was covered with dead people,”  he recalled.

Movses remembers when soldiers entered his village, “I was with my father, holding his hand. Half the road was covered with dead people,” he recalled.

 The Ottoman archives of 1915 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Ottoman archives of 1915 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Yepraksia with her daughter and grandson in their home in Armavir.

 A century later, Yepraksia can’t help but cry when recalling the events of 1915.  “You’re lucky you didn’t see it,”  she told me.

A century later, Yepraksia can’t help but cry when recalling the events of 1915. “You’re lucky you didn’t see it,” she told me.

1915_6.jpg
 The route I traveled to re-trace the memories of the survivors in this project.

The route I traveled to re-trace the memories of the survivors in this project.

 An image of Movses at the ruins of his church in Turkey.

An image of Movses at the ruins of his church in Turkey.