Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 40322  Pasadena, CA 91114 USA

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 20 


             Aneta and Haralambos had a few more visits together. Then the situation took a grim turn. One day someone brought her a note in her husband’s handwriting. It read, “Please bring me some money. They’re taking me to Marash. This will probably be our last farewell.”

            It was November 13, 1916. Anastasia and Aneta immediately set off from home for the forty-minute walk to the jail. As they approached the prison, their eyes fell on a tortuous scene. Two heavy chains were hanging from Haralambos’ shoulders down to his hands. An Armenian boy of seventeen in the same condition was standing next to him. One would think they were the most unmanageable criminals.

            Aneta threw herself into his arms and saw him cry for the first time. They wept together without uttering a word. He couldn’t embrace her because his hands were chained. The guards ran out of patience at this moving scene and started whipping Haralambos.  Next to him stood the kind prison chief, weeping. They were never to forget this good man’s kindness to the very end. If they see him in heaven, she said, it will be a delightful bonus. He must have been deeply touched by the witness he had heard and by the moving songs he had listened to.

            Aneta placed the last kiss on Haralambos’ cheeks and turned to the gendarmes who were in charge. “Please don’t let him walk like this. Go and hire a horse carriage. I’ll pay for it.”  They said they would, but it soon proved to be an empty promise.  In actuality her plea made no impression on their hard hearts whatsoever. They were intent on obeying their orders to the letter by marching him the three days’ journey in chains.

            There in front of the prison Aneta and Haralambos parted with indescribable pain and sadness. Their predicament was clear. He was being sent to Marash, where only a few years before there had been a great spiritual awakening.  Evangelists from Anatolia and outside the country had been used in a mighty way in the numerous evangelical churches in that city to draw people to the Savior. These were now priceless memories. A chain of despairing events had already shaken Marash, and more was in the making. Pitch darkness was closing in with ever increasing intensity. But the enemy was not going to score the final triumph.  

            Aneta had no news from her husband for two long weeks. Her suspense turned into desperation. She and her mother-in-law appealed to official channels for ways to wire him. The reply was exact, “Sentenced men can not receive telegrams.” The meaning of this message was beyond the grasp of the suffering women.  There had been no further trial, verdict or sentence. Was the reference to some secret court case unknown to them?

            The thickly-populated Christian city of Marash hardly had any believers left. Only the German missionaries were still there. They retained an orphanage. The Ottomans and the Germans were in an unholy alliance known as the Central Powers. They extended special favors to each other’s citizens.

            As Christians pieced together the various fragments of news later on, they learned that the trip from Aintab to Marash, a mere eighty kilometers, took exactly three days.  The whole distance was done on foot with heavy chains hanging over the shoulders of the condemned men. It was noon when the company of prisoners arrived.  An unanswered question remained as to where and how those hungry and thirsty men had spent the cold November nights. 

            An Armenian woman, one of the few left in the city, happened to be in town when the prisoners arrived. She immediately ran to the German missionaries: “I just saw a group of prisoners, but one stood out as being completely different than the others. He was a tall, handsome man and his countenance was like that of an angel.” Then she burst into tears and said, “I want to go to see him.”  She was a local helper of the German sisters.  These missionaries had obtained special permission for her to visit non-Muslim prisoners and provide for their needs. So they immediately sent her to the prison to inquire about who this person was.

            Before she reached the prison, he had already been thrown into the rat-infested dungeon with a dirt floor and permeating dampness. He was separated from his young Armenian fellow-prisoner. The woman had no idea who this man was. She didn’t know his name, nor any detail about him. She only surmised by looking at his face that there was something very special about him.

            Having obtained official permission to enter the prison compound, she immediately set about inquiring who the man she was looking for could be. The prison official holding a kerosene lamp in his hand brought her to a dingy crypt. There was the prisoner she had been seeking! She introduced herself as Katerina, an Armenian, and asked for his name. She discovered that she had not been mistaken in her observation. The man was a Christian and an evangelist.  She ran to the missionaries, related the story to them and then brought a mattress, blankets, food and other essentials to him. She said, “I’m going to come and see you every day.”  He asked her to bring him a Bible.

            Katerina was back early the next morning with a Bible in her hand. He asked her, “Have you been born-again?” She didn’t know what his question meant. This unusual encounter brought Katerina into the reality of her redemption. Haralambos became her spiritual father in his imprisonment (Philemon 10). She went back and related her story to the missionaries and the girls at the orphanage.

            The girls were greatly surprised.  The identity of the prisoner immediately dawned on them.  They recognized his name from the books they were reading! They sought every possibility to visit him. Permission was granted. So there was no shortage of visitors, primarily because of the influence of the German sisters. They brought him food daily. Otherwise the regular diet was only a small ration of dry bread. This arrangement lasted two weeks.

             One morning when Sister Katerina made her regular call she found the dungeon empty. She immediately surmised that the inevitable had happened. Her spiritual father must have met his impending doom. “He is absent from the body and present with the Lord,” she reflected.  Without wasting any time, she ran to the public square.  She got there just in time for the execution.  Ordinarily under Ottoman law executions were carried out at night and the bodies were left hanging for several hours until morning in order to display them to the public.  The execution of this group of prisoners was somehow an exception.  It was done at midday.  The condemned men were prisoners from different places.  The sad spectacle attracted many people to the scene.  Katerina related that this must have been the divine plan.  This way, the vibrant testimony of Jesus Christ could be heard from Haralambos for the last time when all the crowds were around.  The message of Jesus Christ which for decades had resounded from many pulpits in Marash this time was declared from the gallows from a faithful Christian who was joining the company of the martyrs.