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1916: Hakkiari: Refugees From Hakkiari: Letter From Surma, the Sister of Mar Shimun, to Mrs. D. S. Margoliouth, of Oxford.
by Surma d'Beth Mar Shimun
Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 03:20 pm CST


I was very glad to get your sweet letter, for which I was longing and looking forward, my dearest friend. I know how you loved Ishaya, and he always asked after you. I wonder if you ever got his letter that he wrote to you in Syriac.

I wrote to you while at Quodshanis (before the war) but got no answer ; I wondered if you might be away from home. I wonder if Mr. Wigram and Mr. Heazell got my letters, written since we came to Diliman; I am afraid you won't get yours, the address was incorrect.

You most kindly asked after Hormizd. I wish we knew his fate, dear boy; we have no news of him since the 20th February (5th March), 1915. I asked Mrs. Wigram if she would be able to tell us something of him by way of Dr. Wigram's letters; we are most anxiously looking forward to the answer.

The hospitals which are endowed by great Russia to help the sick are a great help. Now the people get nursed well, and, of course, the sickness is growing less. But outside the hospitals, although they do get help from Russia (recently some clothes, too), England and America, still their miseries are great, and their living very poor.

I trust and hope you will read the report recently written by Mr. Paul Shimmon. A copy has been sent to Mr. Heazell. It is all quite true, and there you will see our nation's wretchedness. Really, Russia couldn't have done more than she has by helping with hospitals, money and clothes.

Now the Russian Government wants us all to go up to Bashkala ---the people to be provided with oxen and wheat to be able to plough land for themselves. Of course, Mar Shimun is quite willing to make the people do what they are ordered, and what is best for them. It really is a very good thing, but I am much afraid it won't come to pass, for two reasons---first, the difficulty of finding enough oxen and corn, and, secondly, because it is getting too late for sowing. Soon after Easter Mar Shimun intends to go to Khoi and talk the plan over with General Tchournazoukov.

I wanted very much to go to England, but Mrs. Wigram wrote to me that my friends didn't think it advisable. I don't understand well what you say in your letter about directing to me through Mr. Shipley. If it is anything to help the poor, it is most welcome.

One can't help longing to read the London Times and the Church Times, especially the Bishop of London's sermons. What will be the end ? Is the world being refined ? Who will endure to the last ? We can only pray for mercy. Its will be done. My heart is yearning to hear that "England has conquered " ; pray God it will prove so-although one does feel for all the young men's lives, whether friend or foe, no difference, and for the world's misery.

Last October David and I went down to Urmia and stayed with dear Mr. Nisan. His house seemed to me quite desolate with no Beatrice or her mother, but he was the same, cheering and helping others. His daughter-in-law Nanajan is very nice, and, with her little dear boy, she will be a comfort for his old age. Samuel is still in America; it is rather hard for the young wife. I have twice written to Mr. Nisan to send service books, which he kindly sent. We often wonder what our church would have done if it were not for English printing presses ? Nearly all our church books are gone. Mar Shimun has consecrated little tablets, and nearly every priest in Diliman has one to celebrate on for the people; it is the same in Urmia and Khoi.

You will like to hear that David, Zaya, Paul and Ishaya fought most bravely in Dizan. Twice the Kurds were driven away with twelve killed, and the third time Paul and Zaya alone with four servants fought against the foe and saved the little ammunition they had. I intend to write a report of all that happened (what I saw and heard) in the mountains. But really I can't, as long as I am with ten children playing in the small yard and making as much noise as a herd of the Kurds, poor little kids. I don't think you know that David is father of two boys and four girls, and Romi is mother of three girls and two boys. Are not they old ? The children are as happy as children ought to be, only they are disappointed at not having as many new clothes as they used to have at home, and especially the boys, for they are not going to have any new clothes for Easter as they had theirs at Christmas, and now it is the girls' turn for Easter. The market is another difficulty for them---seeing new toys and sweets (they were free from that in Quodshanis) and with no money to buy them. However, they get used to it, poor dears.

I teach the four boys for two hours a day; they are promising pupils if properly taught. The little girls read their alphabet, too.

Romi and Esther have suffered very much under the circumstances. It was too much for them, although they have gone through it quite bravely, especially Esther, who was with child all this time, and during the last days of flight was expecting the child every hour. However, God was merciful, and the baby girl was born nearly a fortnight after we arrived in Diliman. She is baptised Helena. I am rather uneasy about Esther. She is very weak, and after Easter she will go to Urmia, both to visit her father's house (the Mutran's brother) and see the doctor.

I can't say it was too much for me ; if it were not for certain reasons I should have been rather enjoying the struggle between the Kurds and Turks and us. Thank God we are very well at present, except for being over anxious for our poor nation's misery. The living here is very hard for us ; we simply have no money for our ordinary necessities, and at times we have people coming to our door who can hardly stand on their feet for hunger ; how could one turn them away ?

However, all the world is suffering, and so must we and our nation.

Would you kindly tell Mr. Heazell that Mar Shimun got the £50 which he sent. I never wrote to him that the Mutran was let free by the Turks and has come to Urmia safely, although quite broken and very weak.

I rather enjoy the plan of going up to Bashkala after we have lost our country and home. It will suit us to turn into nomads, like the Israelites---Mar Shimun for Moses; can't make David into Aaron, he has no beard, so dear old Peter for Aaron, with his white beard; I suppose I must be Miriam, and we must take a tent, too, for celebration, which we will call the "Assyrian Tabernacle" ; and very likely we shall always be having skirmishes with the Canaanites to get to our fathers' land. Wouldn't you like to come and see us, the new Israelites

The houses in Bashkala are all ruined.

Mar Shimun sends his blessing to you and Professor Margoliouth, and we our best regards.

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