By Marylinda Bozian-Cruickshank
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
YEREVAN — On October 18, the documentary film “You Can’t Cover the Sun with Mud” had its premiere in the Arno Babajanyan Concert Hall. Well over 200 invited guests gathered in this historical venue, as the evening’s master of ceremonies, Sarkis Hatsbanyan, who briefly talked about the film. The film, mostly in Turkish with Armenian subtitles, is a documentary about the more than four million ethnic Armenians that are hidden, just over the border, near Mt. Ararat, in the villages of Van, Mush, Varto, Bayazed, Iqdir, Dersim, and Hamshen, Turkey.
Realizing that they might be Armenian, from grandparents, or their parents, and now because of DNA testing, they are able to trace their roots and prove their identity. As I watched this touching and heart wrenching film, facing their obstacles, and the fear they had to endure, there wasn’t a dry eye insight, mine included, as it touched everyone in the audience.
The footage and interviews comprising “You Can’t Cover the Sun with Mud” took many years to compile by Canadian filmmaker , who served as executive and co-producer, and Nairi Hokhikyan, director and co-producer, from Armenia.
Other guests participated in the premiere for the special program, including Turkish novelist Erdal Sahin. He had been to Armenia three times, the first in 2013, for two days, just to see the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial and to pray for forgiveness for his ancestors, he said.
The second time he came to visit the museums in Yerevan, to understood the rich Armenian history, culture and heritage, he explained.
And the third time he visited Karabagh. When he told the villagers he met he was Turkish, he said he was surprised that they came to “hug me, I thought that were going to beat me.” He quoted a verse by Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” He was born to tell the truth and write about the Genocide, he said. “I am very lucky man to meet and have Armenians as friends, and in Germany, to write a book in German, then translate it in Turkish,” 1915 Fail’e Dönüsüm (published in 2014).
Another guest was a young Kurdish musician. His parents told him that one of his grandparents had survived the Genocide, had Armenian roots, so he wanted to be tested. He found out that he did in fact have Armenian blood, so strongly he felt that he changed his name to Stepan Yepremyan, and then married an Armenian girl. He sang many traditional Armenian songs while he played the oud, one the popular, Ay Lorik. He spoke with passion to the audience, and gave the news that he recently had a son, baptized him in Echmiadzin Cathedral, and named him Antranig. As the audience gave him a standing ovation, he did another encore of Armenian music, with pride.
At the end of the program, this writer was anxious to meet Hokhikyan. I introduced myself, and told them I related to the film because my grandmother had lost her 2-year-old firstborn daughter during the Genocide, and because she was beautiful, with blue eyes and fair skin, that she might have been rescued. My grandmother believed this in her heart as she raised four more children with love and compassion, never an ounce of hatred.
The filmmakers both shook my hand and the look in their eyes told me they understood. They had come across so many “zohrs,” children and grandchildren, who had lost family members in 1915.
The documentary is a tragic, eye-opening topic of the existence of these hidden Armenians, that has been denied for too long.