Etude for photo

In memory of academician ANDREI SAKHAROV

In ancient Rome, gladiators bowed in front of the imperial lodge before each fight and referred to the emperor with traditional greeting; “Hail, Caesar! Those who are about to die salute you!” This terrifying greeting was likely circulating in many people’s brains on the day of the USSR People’s Congress which was later accurately  dubbed as “Afghan day” by journalists. That day, returning from the place of death, a crippled group of young people greeted the living and dead Caesars who had sent them to a terrible gladiatorial fight. They bowed and greeted because an uncoerced conscience with bright gaze and with grandfather’s mouth had received the right to speak aloud, which demanded an account from all the Caesars, like a terrible judgment, for the cannibalistic feast that had lasted nine years. 

Poor gladiators! You do not like caesars. You hate them just like me, or who knows, maybe more, but you can not admit it to yourself. Because after that, the beautiful tale that you went through fire and water to save the good, to wipe the tears of an innocent child and his black-eyed mother, breaks like a clay pot. Whereas  with a wild rage you killed and daggered your brother and the one sharing your destiny, just because he did not want to be your Caesar’s gladiator. Now you are ready to dagger the bright-eyed grandfather with the same rage, and now again, all the big and small caesars are standing to greet you…

My good, bright-eyed grandfather…

How much I would like to be with you, , to support you, to hold the hands that blame the icon, to shut the blasphemous mouths. Whereas even at that moment, you could support me and my friends again  and announce to the world about the fairness of our trail…

Do you remember, grandfather? Years ago, Caesars and their silent doers blame, judge and stone our three brothers in terrible villainy, for violently murdering dozens of innocent people, women, and children. Me too, as an immature 17 years old baby, had been ready to throw one more stone “with innocent anger”, when suddenly your apostolic voice was heard – “Zatikyan and his friends are innocent”.  And everything fell into its place – people realized that they had massacred regular victim for their bloody feast. 

My good, bright-eyed grandfather. My sweet grandfather, who understands and forgives everything… 

Do not be resentful of gladiators. They do not know that at the beginning of the last cannibal feast you raised your fair voice the first. And who knows? Maybe if I and people like me had united our voices, we could prevent the terrible violence. We were afraid,  and the Caesars did not forgive you. Forgive me, grandfather. Forgive the gladiators, because “also, they are slaves for the reason that they see poetry in material power and they see honor in being a terrifying scarecrow for people”.

My good, bright-eyed grandfather…

May, 1989


Excerpt from Hambardzum Galstyan’s book “Unwritten Letters” (Yerevan, 2013)

Translator: Marieta Stepanyan