Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

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

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 28 


             Until this point, some information has been shared about Anastasia.  Since she was a typical Anatolian woman and the reader doesn’t possess a clear concept of what that entails, it is appropriate to try to draw a picture of Anastasia.  This will provide an insight into the life and role of an Anatolian wife, mother and mother-in-law. 

            Anastasia was born in Cappadocia, third daughter of the architect who had built the girls’ academy in Talas. Her mother died in giving birth to her, so she never knew a mother’s love and care. The father remarried, bringing in his three daughters. The new wife did not have any feeling for her husband’s daughters.  This attitude resulted especially in Anastasia’s suffering at her hands. The harsh stepmother tormented her from early childhood up to the time of her marriage.  The woman had six children from Anastasia’s father in addition to his own three daughters.   Who could have been better suited than Anastasia to fulfill the task of a convenient maid? She was offered free education at the girls’ academy because of her father’s appreciated contribution in building the school. But to the dismay of Anastasia and the whole neighborhood, the stepmother stubbornly objected. “Girls are not for education!” was her determined argument. The motive behind this shrewd manipulation was apparent. Consequently, Anastasia remained illiterate.

            She was a beautiful girl with unusually attractive hands. Everyone remarked about them, to the displeasure of the stepmother.  She refused to give Anastasia soap, hoping to impair the beautiful appearance of her hands. Anastasia and her two sisters lived in perpetual fear of the stepmother’s deliberations to stymie their chances for marriage. The tyrannical woman was adamant in controlling all the affairs of the three girls.

            When Anastasia was eight, the woman gave her a sock to mend. Longing for some fun, the little girl went out instead and played ‘knuckles’ with her cousin, not foreseeing the consequences. ‘Knuckles’ was one of the most common games of Anatolian children.   Animal joints were saved, dried out and then conveniently used as dice.  The children threw them on the ground, trying to guess which side would turn upward.  The youngsters enjoyed this pastime so much that they would continue playing for hours without even seeking another toy which might have been purchased for money. The punishment for her negligence was a severe beating on her hands. It was the opportunity the cruel stepmother had been waiting for. Permanent injury was caused to Anastasia’s hands which left her increasingly self-conscious and withdrawn. The beating was not confined to the hands, but to Anastasia’s head, as well, which resulted in complete deafness in one ear.  The father was entirely unaware of what had happened because Anastasia didn’t dare tell him. 

            When she was a beautiful girl of sixteen, a young man came to ask the father to give her to him for marriage. Early marriage was common practice in Anatolia.   To be rescued from the heartless stepmother would be decidedly advantageous. The woman couldn’t bear the thought of it so she contrived a shrewd plan. Anastasia was locked into one of the built-in closets. The stepmother then brought in her juvenile daughters and presented them one by one to the young man in hopes of acquiring him as a husband for one of them. She was frustrated when the young man laughed and took off.

            The stepmother was very religious, believing in the merit of good works. There certainly was a measure of unrest in her soul which motivated her to present a spectacular offering to God.  This deed would bring commendation and appreciation from the whole community. The noblest contribution that an Anatolian Greek mother could make was to offer her son for the priesthood. She did this with deep gratification, also receiving satisfaction from the pageantry that went with it.

            Twenty-four years had passed. Anastasia was still unmarried, still illiterate and worst of all, still a slave. The woman’s chief concern was to secure husbands for her own daughters, who never came!  However, the loving heavenly Father had different plans for forlorn Anastasia.

            One of the neighbors who had been observing her plight pitied her. She thought to herself, “A girl who has gone through so much suppression and inhuman treatment will make a good and loyal wife to someone.”  This was a wealthy woman. Coming to the house with a large piece of gold, expensive dress material and an attractive pair of shoes, she announced to Anastasia’s father that she was selecting her to become the wife of her son, who was trading in Adana. The whole neighborhood was elated. Only the stepmother’s face was downcast at Anastasia’s new-found happiness. Her future mother-in-law was showering her with pieces of gold during the waiting period. The bitter years suddenly were transformed into a time of joy.

            The husband-to-be, whose marital affairs were entirely in his mother’s hands, asked her if the bride-to-be knew letters! This was the way of asking about a person’s ability to read and write. He desired to correspond with his sweetheart. The relationship entered a crucial stage. Anastasia realized the pressing need to acquire letters, and she knew how to go about it.

            Her half-brother, the priest, was the one to help. Considering all her past service to him he did not turn her down. She asked him to put down the alphabet and then write a sample letter. This was all she needed. She started comparing the alphabet and the script in the letter. Many nights were given to this impractical, arduous method. Nevertheless, she persevered.

            Achievement was hers at last. She shouted, “I can read and write!” It was a happy discovery for a girl reared in servanthood. She composed the first letter to her future husband. The challenge of marrying a respectable merchant induced her to achieve the impossible. She mastered the alphabet, until then unknown to her.

            In six months, she departed for Adana where she and John Bostanjoglou met for the first time. He was already attending the Evangelical church in the city. He suggested to her that they marry in this church. “If you don’t like it,” he said, “you can go straight back to your own church.”  Anastasia wouldn’t consider refusing this proposal. She readily consented. When it was learned that she had adhered to the Evangelical faith, a storm broke out in her family. As could be expected, the one most antagonized was the stepmother.

            Anastasia completed her education by studying the Bible, a method adopted by many uneducated persons throughout Anatolia. Becoming Evangelical invariably meant, and still means in many places, becoming literate. Spiritual motivation drove many of the more than fifty percent illiterate Greek community in Anatolia to learn reading and writing.

            In the course of time she had five sons. Two died in infancy and three survived. Of these, Yacovos, the eldest, migrated to the United States. The middle boy, Enoch, died in his youth and Haralambos was hung at the age of thirty-two.

           One day in Adana, Yacovos met an Armenian coming from the interior who was trying to get to Mersin.  He needed help.  So Yacovos offered to accompany him to the port of Mersin.  In the course of time he lost touch with this man.  Following the first massacre of the Armenians (1895) when he was eighteen, he decided to leave Turkey and go to America.  But he didn’t have any money.  So instead he went to Switzerland where he got a job at a print shop run by an Armenian.  One Sunday, his boss invited him home for dinner, where Yacovos found out that this man was none other than the Armenian he had helped get to Mersin!  From there his host had proceeded to travel to Europe where he started a business in Switzerland.  After the meal was over, Yacovos found an envelope under his plate.  In it was a five-dollar gold coin, with a note, “In appreciation of your kindness to a stranger seeking to find his way from Adana to Mersin.”  This was God’s provision for Yacovos to realize his goal to sail to America, albeit by the cheapest way. 

            Enoch, the second boy, was a brilliant and handsome fellow.  One Sunday afternoon he disappeared from the house.  The whole family was wondering where he could have gone.  They searched everywhere for him.  At around five o’clock, the father with two friends went out into the fields to look for him.  They found him peacefully sleeping under a tree.  With great joy, the father lifted him into his arms and brought him home.  Naturally, Anastasia was very upset.  She asked him why he had run away.  He calmly replied, “Mom, isn’t my name Enoch?  I wanted to walk with God and go to his house.”  That morning the message in the church about Enoch had made a deep impression on this young boy.  Following his graduation from St. Paul’s Academy in Tarsus, he got a good position as an accountant in a shipping company in Mersin.  At twenty-six, he was hit by a severe headache and in two hours he died.

            When Anastasia’s husband died he left her some money, but it did not last long. Thank God, she was an inventive and industrious woman. She wanted all three sons to receive a proper education. In order to assist them in their schooling, she established a small business and was able to send them to St. Paul’s Academy in Tarsus. 

            She bought a cow and used the services of her boys to sell the milk daily from door to door before going to school. Everyone advised the next neighbor to buy milk from ‘Protestant Anastasia’ because it was not diluted with water, a common practice in Anatolia.  Enoch, her middle son, brought extra cash home one day by selling the milk at a higher price. This did not amuse his mother. She sent the boy right back to reimburse every house which had been charged extra!  She sewed five linen shirts every week, which were sold by the boys in the large bazaar of Adana. In this way, an income for the boys’ education was secured. 

            Anastasia was a frugal and an ingenious woman which came into play much later in life.    When she and Aneta were staying in Aleppo, surviving on a very limited budget, they bought some table salt.  To their dismay, the salt was contaminated.  Dust from white marble used for building was mixed into it!  What were they to do?  Anastasia dumped the whole mixture into a pan of clean water and stirred it until the salt melted.  Then she filtered it through a thick cloth into another container, after which she put it out into the scorching Aleppo sun.  Eventually the water evaporated and the purified salt was usable!  To this day, undefined elements creep into all kinds of staples.

            When Anastasia was left alone with Haralambos, her greatest ambition was to find a suitable bride to live with them. God granted her wish. Since she had no daughter of her own, Aneta was a godsend to her. Anastasia was a good and faithful woman. Nevertheless, running true to form for mothers-in-law in Anatolia, she was despotic. She conceded no freedom to Aneta.   She knew her authority and enjoyed exerting it.  Anatolian women usually had a good balance in their behavior. While enjoying a commanding position, they could also display love and a protective spirit toward their daughters-in-law. While Anastasia’s possessive love sometimes antagonized Aneta, the constant protection she offered became a strong support and encouragement in times of dire need.

            During the period of Haralambos’ imprisonment and the ensuing disheartening events, she was Aneta’s best earthly support. She steadfastly stood with her and offered all the human strength Aneta needed until their arrival in the United States. The Father had planned everything well.

            Aneta sometimes thought that if Anastasia was not going to change then she herself would have to!  Throughout their twenty-three years together practical sanctification became a reality in Aneta’s life. This had the effect of making her a person no one could hurt or offend. It was a beneficial schooling in her pilgrimage of faith. God has his own way of maturing his children. The writings of Andrew Murray were a distinct element of support in her life.

            When in difficulty, she learned to encounter her problems in terms of, 1) I am here through God’s appointment, 2) I am here for an appointed purpose, 3) He’ll deliver me by His own appointed means, 4) His deliverance will be in His appointed time. Haralambos had instructed Aneta while still in prison not to stay in Turkey but to go either to England or America.  Considering the sad developments it became obvious that life for her in Turkey had come to an end. Through the kind invitation and financial provision of Yacovos, Haralambos’ older brother in Boston and his American wife, the way to the United States opened for the two women.  Anastasia’s and Aneta’s joy was unbounded. 

            Anastasia was a very intelligent and outgoing woman. Although she never spoke any other language than Turkish, she managed to get around well in the vast metropolis of Boston. She would travel quite easily between Newtonville and Everett by public transportation. As she did in the old country, she would strike up conversations with everyone.  With very minimal English she befriended conductors and commuters everywhere she went.

            Her last five years of old age were increasingly difficult.  She became almost totally deaf. In order to communicate with her Aneta had to resort to yelling. It was exhausting.  They were living in a single room of a house owned by Greeks from Pontus. In all their stress and strain, these people were always available for help.  Besides caring for her mother-in-law’s needs, Aneta continued her services for the Lord around the city.  She had regular meetings with Armenian folks, including young people. On Wednesday evenings she conducted a meeting for the Greek ladies.  Once a severe cold confined her to bed. This upset Anastasia. In her very weak condition she tried to take care of Aneta.  It reminded Aneta of the bygone distressing days when her mother-in-law ministered to her in Aintab.  

            One day Anastasia felt totally debilitated. Death was upon her. She suddenly raised her voice in a final testimony, “My Jesus, how much you loved me!”  Her departure from this earth was one of the hardest blows Aneta ever endured. The following morning, she read Joshua 1:2, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore, arise, go...”

            At the end of a long and exhausting task, there were now new paths to follow, new goals to pursue for the Master. Anastasia was laid to rest on March 4, 1937, waiting for the triumphant anastasis (resurrection) of the dead in Christ.  Her husband had gone to be with the Lord almost forty years before in Adana. 

            Aneta’s brother-in-law Yacovos, as a dutiful son, had taken all the financial responsibility of caring for his mother until the end of her life.  Aneta had no regular income, but did have a part-time job in a handicraft shop, doing embroidery work.  She always blessed America for the opportunities it provided to anyone willing to work.