Thomas Cosmades





 "A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.  The strong tower of the wicked comes to ruin, but the root of the righteous stands firm.  The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God" (Proverbs 12:3, 12; Psalm 92:12, 13).

In the mid-Anatolian town of Sungurlu a lad called Vahram was working for a Muslim grocer, Hanif bey[1].  Clever and amiable, he was just the right kind of youngster to attract customers, and Hanif bey was well pleased with his apprentice.  A few years passed and the boy’s father, Apraham, sent his son and two daughters to Istanbul.  A long time later Vahram, now grown up and much changed, returned to Sungurlu.  The first person he went to see was Hanif bey.  "Hello, Uncle Hanif.  Do you recognise me?" he asked.  The aging grocer strained his failing eyes to study the visitor.  "If I'm not mistaken, you're Vahram!" he exclaimed.  The two joyfully embraced and kissed each other, expressing their feelings of affection after long years of separation.

Then came the surprise: "Uncle Hanif, I have an account to settle with you.  Take this money!  It's the money I pilfered while working for you."  The startled grocer could hardly believe his ears.  “Let's forget the past, son," he said.  "I was always pleased with you.  Let bygones be bygones.  Let’s put unpleasant memories behind us.”

Vahram insisted: "No way, Hanif bey.  I've been cleansed from sin.  I've found salvation.  The Lord Jesus has made me a new person.  He has given me eternal life.  I must admit my past sins and make amends for my dishonest dealings.  This money is yours — with just a little added.  For me to keep it would be a sin!"

Tears welled up in Hanif bey's eyes.  Again he hugged and kissed Vahram.  "May you be recompensed for this a thousand times over, my child," he cried.  And with that they sat down and started talking.

Hanif bey was not the only person to be touched by Vahram’s testimony.  So many were to be influenced by Vahram's life and words that his name became legendary.  Great joy had been brought to the home of Apraham and Siranush Tatikian when their first child was born in 1909.  They belonged to a generation that was moderately religious adhering to the Armenian Gregorian tradition.  Some of Vahram's uncles had even chosen to serve as priests.

Apraham was a blacksmith.  His two brothers were next door neighbors and the three homes shared a courtyard.  All three houses had been built by their father who had planned that his three sons should live close to each other.  The trouble was that they just could not get along with each other!  Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to know about the sons' unpleasant relationship.  The word would go around, "The Tatikians are at it again!"  Usually their wives would join in too.  Happily, Vahram's mother Siranush was a peacemaker who lived up to the meaning of her name, 'Sweet Love.'  As a girl she had attended an American school.  She taught prayers in the Armenian language to Vahram and his four younger sisters.  In accordance to the light she possessed she instructed them in the elements of the faith.  Because of this some called her, 'Godly Mother.'  Apraham wasn't much interested in matters of faith; he saw nothing wrong in quarrelling with his brothers.  Siranush, on the other hand (being true to her name), tried to build bridges of reconciliation in the extended family.

The courtyard formed by the three houses was full of life and bustle.  Camel caravans, mail-carrying Tartars and all sorts of visitors would camp for the night there.  The poor, the hungry and the naked, having once experienced the bounty of 'Godly Mother' never hesitated to come again.  Siranush treated each one, whether known or unknown, according to the person's needs.  To some she handed out provisions; others she invited to her table.  No caller ever went away empty-handed, and from the information she gleaned from them she would delight her children with wonderful tales that fed their imagination.  Siranush was a true Anatolian mother.  With her own hands she prepared her bulgur[2], tarhana[3] and cheese.  When the men finished their work in the evening her work would start all over again.  When Apraham's two older brothers died, the care of all three families fell to him, and Siranush had even heavier demands upon her.

Vahram passed his childhood in these surroundings.  He loved playing games.  Best of all he liked flying his kite or playing knucklebones.  He painted the knucklebones in a variety of colors which proved quite an attraction to the neighborhood children who often gathered in the Tatikians' courtyard.  For a brief time he was enrolled in one of the primary schools founded by the Americans.  But in adult life he would say, "I don't recall ever being promoted from one class to another."  And yet he had a very sharp memory.  He continually memorised passages of various writings.  The whole neighborhood loved to listen to his enthusiastic recitations.  Many would stop him in the street and say, "Hey, recite something for us!"  And Vahram would launch into a spirited performance.  When the 0ttoman Empire entered World War I in1915, Vahram's school closed.  He never attended school again.  Once he was struck down by a paralysis of unknown origin.  Some suggested that this was the malicious attack of 'an evil eye.'  But health returned after the application of a few folk remedies!


  [1] bey: ''Mr. '' in Turkish

  [2] bulgur - cracked wheat, cooked like rice.

  [3] tarhana - a dried foodstuff made basically of curds and flour, used for making a delicious soup.


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