Maryam (Arabic/Hebrew variation for Mary) – The mother of Jesus and the only woman named in the Quran.
Hatun abla (hatun– Persian/Turkish) an honorific for women during the Ottoman period; abla – sister.
One can only guess why the women of Keramet village held my paternal grandmother, born Egsapet or Elizabeth in such high regard that they called her Hatun abla.
One can also imagine why my maternal grandmother, Heranoush – born in Kilis, Turkey, married and who ultimately raised her children in Marash – was called Maryam by the Turkish army officer who had taken over her home following the Battle of Marash 1920. This same man almost killed Heranoush and her children one night.
Both Egsapet and Heranoush were brave, honest, plain-spoken women with absolutely no tolerance for heartless, demeaning behavior. They were very generous with their time and talents.
Egsapet always had time for communal food preparation and fed those who helped in the house and in the fields. Heranoush lovingly cared for all of her children (step-children or biologically hers) when my grandfather had fled Marash for his life. Especially notable was the way she cared for her epileptic stepson, Hrant. Watching her selfless actions must have impressed the Turkish army officer.
Grandmothers, your good deeds did not die with you. This is a tribute to you both.*
*To learn more about Egsapet – Read the book: Deli Sarkis: The Scars He Carried.
To learn more about Heranoush –Read the book: We Armenians Survived! Battle of Marash 1920.