GWL 3rd May 1919

“I have come back from Kars.  It has not been the slightest use writing as no posts go from that part of the world except once in a blue moon.  On the whole we had a very comfortable journey, but I hate travelling on these railways.  They only go fast when it is positively dangerous.  The engine driver looks round calmly tells you he cannot stop the train.  All the track is littered with derailed engines & trucks.  Five of us had a saloon carriage with compartments to sleep in, and a saloon for day time.  We arrived in Alexandropol and found that the man we wanted, or rather one of them, was in Kars, so we paddled off there.  Alexandropol is one of the big centres for Armenian Relief and really it is an awful sight.  At present they are feeding 56,000 Armenian refugees there.  All are or have been starving & they expect that about half will die from the effects.  The death rate is now about 120 a day; it has been as high as 400.  I went into some of the compounds and really it is too awful for words.  If those Turks are not made to pay in money and life for what they have done it will be an everlasting disgrace.  You see children and men and women crawling about eating grass.  In Erivan they have dug up their dead and eaten them.  Things should improve a bit now a good deal of flour and food is coming through & thank goodness there is no epidemic.  From Alexandropol to Kars you can only go in daylight, as the Tartar has a cheery habit of monkeying with the rails and when you come along, your train quietly sits down in between them.  On arriving in Kars we were cheered by the news that another man we wanted, having got there first, was 80 miles away in the mountains.  18 feet of snow in the passes and they said he could not arrive for 5 days.  Lord be praised, on going up, he had dug out the drifts and he got back in two days by motor car.  Kars is a very big fortress indeed.  Rather bigger than Port Arthur, I think.  I was offered the military governship of it, but refused.  A very interesting place from the military point of view, but desperately lonely & just now you and I have had enough of being lonely.  The whole impression the country gives you is intensely sad.  Somehow when you look at the place you forget that the people in it are still Armenians.  You only see their ruined homes & churches & you seem to be looking at a dead civilization.  Of course you see prosperous villages, but they are all Tartar.  The Turk took all the farm implements & seed grain from the Armenians & gave it to the Tartar.  Then came massacres.  The result is that the population is physically incapable of work.  There is just a chance that we may be able to get seed so that they can sow before the rain stops.  It is all very terrible and I think it would do a lot of people in England, who do nothing but dance and enjoy themselves, a great deal of good to do a tour in this country.  Tiflis seems quite civilised again after the South.  

Should start home soon.”

Alexandropol, modern day Gyumri in Armenia, was destination to a large number of refugees who escaped from the Turkish genocide of the Armenian population within the Ottoman Empire.  Estimates of the number of Armenians who died during the protracted and systematic attempts to eradicate them range from 1-1.5 million.  The men were generally assassinate.. The women and children were murdered locally by a variety of means including burning, drowning, toxic gas and medical experimentation or were starved to death on the “Death Marches” into the Syrian desert without food or water.


Armenian corpses

Corpses of Armenian women and children by the roadside


Armenian woman kneeling by a dead child in the Syrian desert on a “Death March”

{next post 5th May}


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