…Or, what was worse? ©


A remarkable thing about the bodies that we saw was that nearly all of them were
naked. I have been informed that the people were forced to take off their clothes
before they were killed, as the Mohammedans consider the clothes taken from a
dead body to be defiled.

—Leslie A. Davis, American Consul General

When we see those still photographs
captioned “deportations”
—showing long lines of
Christian women: Armenian, Assyrian,
Greek; full with babies, carrying infants,
children by their sides—but where are their men?
We see them walking through barren land
on their way to their deaths—
they don’t know, they’ve not been told.

What we can’t see—
or hear—
along the endless roads,
as they neared stone-lined water wells,
Turkish bayonets jabbed their backs,
and booming shouts of
“haydi yürü!” “hurry keep walking!”
filled the air.

What we can’t see—
lips quivering
and aching, craving water!

What we can’t see—
“deportees” shelterless,
no protection from the sun,
crazed by lightheadedness,
tongues swollen, teeth dust-dry,
ragged, filthy, sick. Deaths each day.

What we can’t see—
their throats shriveled,
their urine turned murky-brown
‘til there was none.
What we can’t see—
or hear—
victims’ screams piercing night skies
—violated over and over again,
children not spared!

What we can’t see—
or hear—
children fatigued, inconsolable cries,
frantic with fright. Or,

what was worse?
Was it mothers killing
their children, forever safe
from Turkish savagery?  Or,

was it their fleshless bodies and
bony feet throbbing with each step?  Or,

was it persistent pangs
like scrambling rats
that cannot be seen
inside bloated bellies?
Pain blurred by water denied,
exhaustion, harrowing hunger,

Lord, How long did it take
for them to die?’

Sofia Kontogeorge Kostos



  1. Dear Sofia,

    Your poem graphically illustrates to me the suffering endured by the Greek people. So many scars from the past to live through.

    Thank you for bringing me to a realisation of this.


    1. Dear Gabrielle,

      We all have heard that “ONE PHOTOGRAPH IS WORTH ONE THOUSAND WORDS.” Although I am a sculptor and photographer by training, I needed to know what hunger and thirst feel like. Therefore, I researched for the symptoms of hunger and thirst, and discovered that “photographs cannot define hunger and thirst,” Thus my poem, “Or, what was worse?”

      I effectively change the words “Forgotten Genocides” into
      “Remembered Genocides!” Also too: I want to change the words, “Forgotten Genocides” to “Un-Forgotten Genocides”.

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