Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lilit speaks of her husband's death on March 1st


This is the story of the death of Davit Petrossian, as told by his wife, Lilit. It's a tragic story. It reminds me of a folk song, North Country Blues, where the narrator is a woman left destitute by her brother and husband in a decrepit mining town. David Petrossian was not a miner, of course, and neither did he leave her voluntarily, but the loss and the feeling of abandonment are the same. This story is a very personal story. I'm translating it because I think it is important to get to know the real people, the real lives, the real stories of the real people going through these difficult, difficult times.

The chance bullet found the chance passer-by

[During the gatherings of early March] Lilit, wife of David Petrossian, victim of the tragic events that took place near the French embassy on March 1st, still in shock over her husband's death, put her sorrow to one side, and declared through the PA system that announcements were being made regarding the political views of her late husband and the circumstances surrounding his death that had nothing to do with the reality of the situation. The talk and false rumors that have followed those events have turned her life into a nightmare. Lilit has uniformly maintained that David never went to any meetings, was never a political activist, and was never a sympathizer or supporter of any political forces. "He was truly an innocent victim, because he wandered unto the scene of the event purely by accident," she maintains.

Davit Petrossian resided at Maltia-Sebastia neighborhood's 102/1 Gagarin street. He lived there with his wife and 13 year old son, Varoujan. He was a goldsmith by profession and had a small production shop in the Gold market on Khorenatsi street. "He used to finish work late, and the 67 trolley arrives infrequently at that time of night, [so] he would often walk to Prostpect in order to take one of the many trolleys that stop there." Lilit has trouble surmising what happened: Did David decide to walk to Prospect with forethought or by accident on that day? The manager of the market has said that shortly before the events on that day a loud explosion took place that shook the market. That sound was of a gas explosion that took place in one of the cabins neighboring "Ayrarat Cinema-Theater," whose loud resonance frightened even the workers in the gold market. Alarmed, they decided stop working and go home immediately.

"At exactly what time they stopped working, and when did he arrived at the scene of his fate, I don't know. The office of Armenia's chief prosecutor is conducting an investigation. I don't know too much about what happened. I only know that, because of the explosion, everyone left early. I want to declare openly, while taking full responsibility for my words, that David did not care a whit about either the government or the opposition. Even while watching television at home, he would not watch the news," recalls Lilit, adding that she, herself, did follow television news programs, but David would always get agitated over his wife's interest in politics.

She recalls, "He used to come home from work and say, 'Sweetheart, I'm tired, change the channel and let's watch a movie. I don't have the patience for politics.' And I would jokingly tell him, 'David, why are you so aloof from politics and disinterested when it comes to those topics? Doesn't what goes on in the world interest you?' He would answer, 'Dear, know this well and always remember it: I am your government, and these hands are the ones that take care of you. If Levon, Paulus, Serj, or Petross takes the seat of power over there, he isn't going to take care of you--I am.' He would say, 'Don't worry. Whatever is going to happen, will happen.' He always had that attitude."

On March 1st, David called Lilit in the evening and let her know that they'd finished work early [in the market] and that he wanted to call his friends and invite them over to their house, so they could have a little get-together on the occasion of his purchase of a new television set, just to mark the event [This having a get together over the purchase of a television set is not a matter of crass materialism, but another sign of the poverty that ordinary Armenians endure]. After her husband's call, Lilit began preparing for receiving guests.

"I prepared the food and began to wait. Two-three hours passed, and he still wasn't there. I called him and told him, 'David, what happened to you? Where are you?' He said, 'Ay, Lil, bad things are happening here.' Truth be told, he put it that way so that I would not become worried, become frightened. He said, 'It looks like bad behavior... a bit of a dangerous situation has been created here.' He was putting it as mildly as possible. He said, 'I want to see if Arsen is around.' Arsen is a close friend of his, who works for the police department. I didn't realize the gravity of the situation and went back to waiting for him to return," recalls Lilit, whose worries then began to increasingly intensify, because, by 22:00 [10 PM], David had stopped answering his phone. She says she doesn't remember David ever failing to answer her calls, yet, later on that night, David had already become unreachable. Alarmed, Lilit called Arsen who, upon learning that David was looking for him, was livid.

"He angrily told me, 'What do you mean he's looking for me? Find him and tell him to come home. Terrible things are happening here. Let him not come near.' And I became terrified, because I knew that, if Arsen had gotten that angry, it was doubtless that very serious things were going on. At midnight my heart was ready to burst from fear. A deep unease, a bad presentiment was haunting me," recalls Lilit, who at that hour of the night decided to go to the Gold market to look for David. Her son, Varoujan, insisted that he go with his mother to the market to look for his father. When she reached the station, she ran into her neighbor, Zakar Hovhanessian (who was likewise killed that day). Zakar asked where she was going at that late an hour, and with her son.

"I was so full of fear and worry that I began to cry. I explained that David was nowhere to be found and that I wanted to go look for him. He said, 'Lilit, calm down. I have David's number. I'll keep calling him, and once I find him, I'll call you. Take the child and go home. We're going to go now. When I find him, I'll call and let you know.' Then he turned around, got in a taxi, and went up toward Leningrad," recalls Lilit, saying that she, nevertheless, didn't return to the house with her son, but decided to go [look for David]. She recalls that on that night at that hour no taxi driver was to be found that would agree to take her near the gold market, arguing that terrible things were happening there.

"Whomever I would hail would tell me, 'Are you crazy? Don't you know that things are all mixed-up over there?' I was going weak at the knees from fear. I tried to convince them by saying, 'Take me as far as you are willing to go. We'll walk the rest of the way.' " One taxi driver, seeing Lilit's terrified state, agreed to take her up to Kiev street, where she disembarked and walked with her son down toward the center on Baghramian. She says, "All around me I saw tanks, soldiers, smoke, fires, armies... I had never seen anything like in my life. I was thinking to myself, 'Where have I come? What is happening?' It was past midnight. I was yelling out of fear, 'David! David!' I was watching the soldiers and the tanks. I was in a state of shock. Those scenes and and my not knowing where David was had driven me into a state of complete insanity."

The ambulances and firetrucks stationed next to SAS supermarket jarred Lilit. But then she all of a sudden came to a standstill--stood firm and attentive. "A frightening silence took over inside me. The fact that I had my son woke me up, because--I had entered a war zone with my child. My uncle's daughter lives nearby, on Saryan. I called her and said, 'Sus, I'm here, but I am very frightened for the child.' She said, 'I was just calling you to see how you are.' It seemed a bit awkward because she didn't know where I was, what had happened, that I was there. She said, preparing me psychologically, 'Lil, dear, why don't you come over to our house.' I started out and on the way thought about the things that she'd told me. I called her again, asking whether she had any news about David. She said, 'No. Be calm and come,'" recalls Lilit, who upon arriving at her cousin's house found out that, in spite of everything [meaning they told her they didn't have any news], they did have news about David. Susanna wasn't able to tell Lilit everything she knew about what had happened to David. She lied to her, saying that he'd been beaten by "Dubingas." They left for Markarian hospital immediately, and during the trip, Sussana, in order to prepare Lilit [for the news], lied to her again, saying, "They shot David in the leg."

"We entered the hospital. They confirmed that they had a patient by that name. Truth be told, he's never been to the doctor. Whenever he's gotten sick, I've given him his injections and taken care of him. At the hospital, I asked them, 'Please, take me to him. He needs my help. He doesn't trust doctors.' We waited for the doctor for a long time. My nerves couldn't take it. I screamed for the doctor to come. For their part, they didn't know how to break the news to me. We went up to the doctor's office. All of a sudden, the doctors filed in one by one, closed the door, and stood in a line in front of the door. No one was able to speak, and I was about to explode.

"The doctor says, 'They've shot David, from the back, and hit his kidney.' I say, 'Have you removed his kidney? We need a donor, then. I'll donate mine. What are you waiting for?' I say, 'Is he in shock? I want to see him.' They say, 'No.' In their eyes is a coldness, a transparent quality. I can't read any of their faces. I say, 'Is he in a coma? He'll come out of it.' They say, 'He won't come out of it...' I screamed out in pain, and that scream still echoes in my ears at night." Lilit bit-by-bit remembers what happened in the hospital. Driven "insane" by the news of David's death, she tried to throw herself out the window, but the doctor's had foreseen and prepared for that, too. "My son screamed, 'Go ahead, throw yourself out the window, so I'll be left with no one at all.' Those words woke me up like a shock of cold. I was banging my head against the walls like a person who has lost her mind, but..."

The doctors informed Lilit that, after the operation, David had not come out of the coma and had died. He'd lost too much blood. His internal organs--his liver, his diaphragm, his lungs--had been torn to shreds by the bullet. "I felt like I wanted to die, but I was unable to die. I was in agony. That atrocity, that pain, that event beyond words... I don't want to live anymore," says Lilit and bursts into tears, because, she was able to control herself throughout her telling of this whole story, but...

Lilit is hurt because untrue stories are being told about her husband: "They say he used to always go to meetings, that he was an activist, but that's absurd. He was never interested in politics. They've written that we live in a hut, but does a jewler live in a hovel? Simply put, he is an innocent victim," says Lilit, who asks that what she has to say about her husband be printed.

"David was an amazing man. Cheerful by nature, kind, friendly, and good, good, good, limitlessly good... He had a unique outlook on life. His sense of indebtedness and desire to help and support the people around him would never leave him be. It used to always seem to him that he was not going to be able to do everything that he wanted to do for the people around him. A life with a meaning, and a death that is meaningless. Yes, meaningless, because revolution and politics in general not only never had a place in his life, but he, as an individual, had nothing but contempt for those things. He used to say, 'Whoever grabs the seat of power, it is all the same. The provider for this family is this pair of hands.' And he would proudly motion with his hands, occupied by the art of the goldsmith and accustomed only to work. With those hands, out of fine metals, out of gold and silver, he would fashion only crosses and cast miniature statues of Jesus, because that was work that to him was extraordinarily satisfying. That was also a means of expressing his peace-loving and noble nature, I think. On that ill-starred day on March 1st, before going to work, David gave me violets as a gift for the first day of Spring. He worked that whole day affixing miniature statues of Jesus to crosses, and it could not have possibly crossed his mind that in a few hours time he would merit the same fate: crucifixion at the hands of miscreants. The chance bullet found the chance passer-by. Ultimately, he fell victim to the irrepressible conflicts between mankind's filthy idols."

(Original Armenian at 168 Hours, via nazarian.)

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