Thomas Cosmades





When the Ottoman Empire entered World War I, Apraham Tatikian was conscripted for military service.  Vahram had no alternative but to work in his father's blacksmith shop.  At that stage of his life he could scarcely read or write.  Feeling that ignorance was a dreadful thing, he taught himself to read from a primer that had come into his hands.  He applied himself to the blacksmith work and at the same time was learning to read and write.  In a short time he had mastered the primer.  Under the ever-present influence of 'Godly Mother' his interest turned to spiritual books.  The biography of Gregory the Illuminator was given to him.  Vahram was captivated by the illustrious life of this historic Armenian who had become a Christian and was ordained bishop in Caesarea by the Greeks in the year 302. Afterward he led his people to the same faith.  Those who heard Vahram's subsequent recitations were deeply stirred and concluded that he was a religious child taking after his mother.

One day he came across an interesting volume which related how Abraham was called to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God and how God retrieved Isaac from the altar, providing a ram in his place.  The contents of the book so captured Vahramís imagination that he summoned all his neighbors to listen to him read the fascinating account, which he did with great sincerity and suitable emphasis.

Vahram had been keen on music from early childhood and he chanted this long account like a folk ballad.  It became the talk of the whole area.  Some committed 'the hymn' to memory and also repeated it.  But neither Vahram nor his hearers could appreciate the profound truth of the story.  There was conviction of sin in Vahram's heart but he didn't know how to get rid of it.  He didn't understand the reason for his spiritual hunger.  He was constantly going to church, lighting candles, giving alms, fasting and visiting the sick.  All this time his passion for music was growing and he occupied himself by singing folk songs, the kind of music he was familiar with.

The burden of responsibility for the family had fallen upon his mother when his father went into the army.  Income dwindled and conditions worsened.  Siranush had to trek to the other end of town to grind her wheat.  The family had fruit trees and gardens but there was nobody to tend them.  From time to time bandits raided the villages.  Surrounded by fields and orchards, Sungurlu suffered constant harassment.  In those days Sungurlu was a town of two thousand households, two thirds Muslim, one third Christian.  There was a Protestant church with a congregation of twenty people and a preacher by the name of Kirkor Atmajian.  Vahram's uncle Haygaz, a good musician, played the violin beautifully and led the Armenian community orchestra.  It was he who taught Vahram to play the violin, a skill that became very useful to him later on.  From his other Uncle, Yervant − a tailor − Vahram learned this trade which was to become his occupation.

At the end of the war, poverty and destitution were widespread.  Apraham returned from military service but it was well nigh impossible to collect the debts that people owed him.  In these circumstances he decided to settle his family in Istanbul.  In 1922 he sent 13-year-old Vahram and his two sisters to stay with their uncle who lived in Gedikpasha, the section of Istanbul where all migrants from Anatolia settled.  A few years later after disbanding their Sungurlu home, Siranush came to Istanbul with the two youngest daughters.  They rented a house in Kumkapi and waited for their father to join them.  

It was at this time that Vahram became a master tailor.  Having reached the age of sixteen, he decided to open his own shop.  In partnership with another tailor he rented a place in the Covered Bazaar.  From the outset, work was plentiful and they worked long hours.  They hired many apprentices to help.  But Vahram could not forget Sungurlu and particularly the spiritual books he had read when he was small.  The story of Abraham's offering Isaac and God's providing a ram was foremost in his memory.  He could not get that remarkable story out of his mind.  Too bad his partner Daniel had no interest in spiritual matters.  Vahram could not talk about anything other than work with him.  Work, productivity and profits were thriving, but Vahram longed for something more.


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