Mountains Away: Poems About the Fedayees

by Aram Hovasapyan

General Andranik in Paris, 1921

For this blog, I wanted to share with you a few poems I had written in a poetry class I took at UC Irvine. My professor had instructed the class to choose a historical figure and write a couple of poems about that person. I decided to write a set of poems depicting events in the life of legendary fedayee, Andranik Ozanyan. In addition, I saw this as a great opportunity to educate the class about Armenian fedayees and their cause.

The fedayee movement is firmly implanted in Armenian culture, and we sing the songs which glorify those patriotic Armenian fighters. These two poems are my attempt to catch in action the life and deeds of fedayees.

The first poem, “Mountains Away”, tries to capture a brief moment of the guerrilla fighting which fedayees utilized. The second poem, “Upon the Demand of Our Surrender in Arakelots Monastery”, captures an instance during the siege at Arakelots Monastery. An entire Ottoman regiment consisting of 1200 men had besieged 30 to 40 Armenian fedayees in Arakelots (Holy Apostle’s) Monastery in 1901. After a more than twenty day siege, the Armenians were able to secretly escape. Andranik’s courage, leadership and witty escape from the monastery with his men brought him great fame among Armenians and fear among Turks. While this poem is not entirely historically accurate (the Turks did not retreat, as the poem suggests), the Turks did send a messenger into the monastery demanding the surrender of the Armenians. I hope you enjoy both poems.

Mountains Away

We heard the rumble of hooves fast approaching.

Pressed against the trench dug along the mountain pass,

A dozen of us eagerly waited

For the Ottoman platoon riding through,

Galloping towards us,

Unaware of the ambush the highlands presented.

The butt of that Mosin

I firmly placed against my shoulder,

Lining up the sights

With the red fez bouncing on the commander’s head.

I could not miss this shot.

Revenge, I had promised for the thousands of innocents dead.

I held my breath as I squeezed the trigger.

A riderless horse raced past me.

Andranik, center, with his fedayees in WWI

Upon the Demand of Our Surrender in Arakelots Monastery

He stood there,

Looked down at me,

Fidgeted.

My height sparked discussion

Among new recruits,

But any battle tested Turk

Knew that the glare of a fedayee

Was to be avoided.

It was a fanatical glare,

One that would sober up a drunkard

Upon eye contact.

His right hand held the note

His commander had scribbled.

It had begun to shake

And he stuttered the last words:

De-de-mands your sur-surrender.

Twelve hundred Turks stood uneasily at-ease outside,

The older soldiers taking their time with the greens

To convey the menace of the fedayee stare.

We were outnumbered thirty to one

But they would retreat.

We were sure of it.

No man wanted to encounter that glare.

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