When the tightly knotted white and blue handkerchief was untied, it revealed a small handful of dirt from a distant time.
A soldier, rushing to gather whatever spare belongings he could carry, was fleeing to board a boat on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was a boat of survival, taking him and other Armenians away from the Ottoman Empire and the campaign of genocide it was waging against them and other ethnic minorities. As he left, he knelt in the garden of his home and scooped up this bit of dirt. Carried in his pocket, it was a literal piece of the homeland to which he’d never return.
This was nearly a century ago.
The handkerchief has since been handed down for three generations. On a bright December day in Athens, it was one of several hundred objects brought by members of the Armenian diaspora in Greece to be added to what, until recently, had been only a limited historical record of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire before and during the genocide. ...