Andonios Dalgas, (1892-1945) was a Rembetiko (Greek Blues) singer of the nineteen twenties and thirties.  Dalgas is the Turkish word for "wave," and was probably the stage name for Andonios Diamandithes.   He escaped with his life to Greece when fleeing the Ottoman Empire's genocidal campaign in 1919 against the non-Muslim population of Asia Minor. 

''Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?'' - Adolf Hitler,
August 22, 1939

As the young child of a Greek Orthodox priest, I would sometimes listen from another room to horrifying stories elder family members and Greek immigrants would tell my father about their lives under the Turkish occupation.  During that dark period of history, speaking Greek in front of a Turk was grounds for death by evisceration, permission to marry (or to be buried) had to be granted by the Turk governing the village, churches were turned into stables and Christian people were forbidden to worship or congregate. 

All these stories stemmed from an incomprehensible event; a time where our people were forcibly evicted from where they lived for generations, of families torn apart, public executions, acts of brutality that fifty years later, still make me sick to think about.  When I asked about what I had heard, my father described this cataclysmic event as the, "diaspora."   

The murdered do not get to tell their stories. 

According to written record, many Christians were burned alive in their homes, driven into the seas to drown, disemboweled in the streets where they lived, crucified - and much, much, worse.  Not unlike the native american indian tribes, the Armenian, Assyrian, Kurdish, Chaldean, and Pontian Greek populations suffered to the point of near erasure from history; while the civilized world watched and did nothing.  Some survived

As a child, my great-grandfather was stolen from his family during one of the raids of small islands that contained non-muslim inhabitants.   Gathered with the rest of the village captives, he was separated from his siblings, all of whom were sold at a slave market in Istanbul.  His eventual escape, and search for his family is part of my history.  The difference is that he survived, to write his story in the Book of Life, creating a lineage that would not have come to exist had he been killed, or assimilated into his captor's population. 

While these events happened nearly a lifetime and a half ago, sometimes late at night or when alone in the desert, I am haunted by the unseen faces and forever stilled voices of the family I never knew.   

Who remembers or speaks for the murdered, the victims, the bloodlines severed, the family and friends who never came to be because children, mothers, fathers, all were put to death by Turkish hands?  

I do.   Others do.

Eonia H Mnemel - Forever in Memory

Some related links:


"The right to be servants, the right to be slaves"



"The Dance"
by Siamanto (Atom Yarjanian). 1910
(Translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian)

In a field of cinders where Armenian life
was still dying,
a German woman, trying not to cry
told me the horror she witnessed:

"This thing I'm telling you about,
I saw with my own eyes,
Behind my window of hell
I clenched my teeth
and watched the town of Bardez turn
into a heap of ashes.
The corpses were piled high as trees,
and from the springs, from the streams and the road,
the blood was a stubborn murmur,
and still calls revenge in my ear.

Don't be afraid; I must tell you what I saw.
so people will understand
the crimes men do to men.
For two days, by the road to the graveyard …

Let the hearts of the world understand,
It was Sunday morning,
the first useless Sunday dawning on the corpses.
From dawn to dusk I had been in my room
with a stabbed woman —
my tears wetting her death —
when I heard from afar
a dark crowd standing in a vineyard
lashing twenty brides
and singing filthy songs.

Leaving the half-dead girl on the straw mattress,
I went to the balcony of my window
and the crowd seemed to thicken like a clump of trees
An animal of a man shouted, "You must dance,
dance when our drum beats."
With fury whips cracked
on the flesh of these women.
Hand in hand the brides began their circle dance.
Now, I envied my wounded neighbor
because with a calm snore she cursed
the universe and gave up her soul to the stars …

"Dance," they raved,
"dance till you die, infidel beauties
With your flapping tits, dance!
Smile for us. You're abandoned now,
you're naked slaves,
so dance like a bunch of fuckin' sluts.
We're hot for your dead bodies."
Twenty graceful brides collapsed.
"Get up," the crowed screamed,
brandishing their swords.

Then someone brought a jug of kerosene.
Human justice, I spit in your face.
The brides were anointed.
"Dance," they thundered —
"here's a fragrance you can't get in Arabia."

With a torch, they set
the naked brides on fire.
And the charred bodies rolled
and tumbled to their deaths …

I slammed my shutters,
sat down next to my dead girl
and asked: "How can I dig out my eyes?"