The family of Sevak Shahin Balikchi (Balikchrian), the young Turkish-Armenian soldier killed five years ago just days before ending his service, left Istanbul several months ago to settle in Armenia.
Sevak’s sister, Lerna Balikchrian Ozder, and parents, Ani and Karpis Balikchrian, are widely known as the family of Sevak who was killed on the April 24 Genocde commemoration day.
After the assassination of Hrant Dink, the editor-in-chief of the Istanbul-based Armenian weekly Agos, Sevak was the second Armenian martyr to fall prey to the Turkish xenophobia. Despite the Turkish authorities’ repeated claims that his death in a gendarmerie military unit was a tragic accident, Sevak’s parents are sure that it was a murder committed against the background of ethnic hatred.
An Armenian columnist for T24.com.tr, Raffi Hermon Araks, has shared the story of Balikrchians’ tragedy and their decision to move to Armenia to revive the memory of the lost son and brother.
Below are excerpts from her conversation with the late soldier’s sister:
“I had never been to Armenia. I wasn’t closely familiar with Armenia or the Armenian culture. I had a dream to open a restaurant in Istanbul, which I could really do, but after what story with Sevak … After my son’s birth … I started thinking about the future. I was beset by fear. I couldn’t stay on … [I could go anywhere-] the United States, Canada or any country in Europe. But after Sevak’s death I wasn’t able to come to my senses …
“So my husband said, ‘time has now arrived’ and left his job to come to Armenia. He later returned to stay here a week and then go to Armenia again. Upon his return, he said, ‘Why not buy a house in Armenia.’”
“… A lot changed in my mind. So I am now thinking about the reasons I came to Armenia. Sevak … As I set down my foot at the airport in Armenia … I cannot explain my emotions. Upon seeing those advertising banners in Armenian letters … It seemed to be an absolutely different kind of world.”
“… Sevak was fond of cooking and eating dinners and salads. My mother and grandmother would always give me instructions about food. My dad would cook sweet things, and guests would come to our place to taste them. But all that was crushed all of a sudden … Yes, it was like a stab. I wasn’t able to do anything for five years. And five years after Sevak’s death, I found the formula of killing that pain. Did they want to murder him? If that’s really true, I will do something else to make Sevak live forever…
“Listen to the voice that has been inside you to this day. You have always turned a deaf ear to that. See the coming light, I beg you! Come to Armenia …!”