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Maternity – Lilika Nakos

For love and sympathy, there is no boundary. Love crosses barriers and boarders. It is not necessary that you will get love from your own people. You will get it unexpectedly from strangers as well. Do not despise/hate anyone out of your prejudices. Love all and expect love from all.

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It was more than a month since they were at Marseilles. The camp of Armenian refugees on the outskirts of the town already looked like a small village. They had settled down in any way they could: the richest under tents; the others in the ruined sheds; but the majority of the refugees, having found nothing better, were sheltered under carpets held up at the four corners by sticks.

  1. Describe the miserable existence of the refugees.
    The refugees had fled from their mother land Armenia due to conflicts and settled down on the outskirts of Marseilles, France. They lived in camps made up of tents and sheds. Some refugees lived in tents while many unfortunate ones slept in sheds – all shabby and pathetic. Still others, the majority of them, having found nothing better, were sheltered under carpets held up at the four corners by poles. They thought themselves lucky if they could find a sheet to hang up at the sides and to give them a little privacy from peering eyes. When men found work and hunger was brought down, they felt almost at home.

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They thought themselves lucky if they could find a sheet to hang up at the sides and wall them from
peering eyes. Then they felt almost at home. The men found work – no matter what – so that in any case they were not racked with hunger and their children had something to eat.

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Mikali was one of the refugees in a camp in Marseilles, France. He had fled from his native land of Armenia. While everyone managed to find a work and live better, Mikali alone could not. He had his baby brother to look after.

Of all of them, Mikali alone could do nothing. He ate the stale bread which his neighbours cared to offer and it weighed on him. For he was a big lad of fourteen, healthy and robust. But how could he think of looking for work when he literally bore on his back the burden of a new-born babe? Since his birth, which had caused his mother’s death, he had wailed proclaiming his famished state from morn till night. Who would have accepted Mikali’s services when his own compatriots had chased him from their quarters because they were unable to bear the uninterrupted howls which kept them awake at night.

  1. Who was Mikali? Why was he different from all the others in the camp?
    Mikali was one of the Armenian refugees in the Marseilles camp. While everyone could earn a living in and around Marseilles, Mikali alone could do nothing. He ate the bread which his neighbors cared to offer but he was already conscious of the trouble he was causing them. Although he was a big boy of fourteen, healthy and robust, Mikali could not find a work because he had to carry his own little brother – a baby whose mother died at the time of its birth. He had to carry his brother all the while.

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Mikali lost his mother when the little baby was born. Since then, Mikali carried the baby on his back, in a rug. The problem was, the baby screamed of hunger and this disturbed the other refugees. They were too much disturbed by the screams that they wished the baby to die.

  1. How did the baby’s persistent cries add weight to Mikali’s existence?
    Since its birth, which had caused his mother’s death, Mikali’s little brother cried continuously. It was hungry, it was a motherless baby so it needed breast-milk. Although Mikali was able to do work for a living for the two of them, no one gave him any work because of the baby. Even the other Armenians chased the two of them away. They were unable to bear the uninterrupted howls which kept them awake at night. Mikali himself was dazed by these cries. His head was empty and he wandered about like a lost soul, dying from lack of sleep and weariness, always dragging about with him the deafening burden that had been born for his misfortune.

Mikali went to a place where the baby could get some breast-milk but on seeing the baby’s zombie look, the women chased Mikali away – cursing the baby, calling it Devil. Mikali himself was scared of the baby’s appearance. He was full of dread (fear) that a monstrous baby lay on his back yet he didn’t abandon the little one.

When Mikali sat down and wept (cried), a Chinese man (his angel!) came for help. Although no one liked this Chinese man and the toys he sold, Mikali decided to go with him. Following the Chinese man, Mikali reaches his home. There he meets the man’s wife – a little woman and a his baby, a pretty one. Thereafter the man asked his wife to breast-feed the baby. Like the other women, the Chinese woman cringed back at the sight of the baby but she grabbed the baby and fed it.

  1. What was the society’s reaction to the two brothers?
    The society was itself in endless suffering. They were refugees who had lost their dear ones and their address. Everybody listened to the howling of the baby with irritation. Surrounded by their own endless sufferings, they all pitifully wished the baby would die. The distracted men and women stuffed their ears and Mikali went away from them like a drunken man. They had sympathy for the two brothers but there was no one in a position to feed the baby a little milk.
  2. What for did Mikali go to the camp of the Anatolians?
    Mikali had been told that there was a nursing mother there who might take pity on his baby brother. He went there full of hope.
  3. What was the condition of the Anatolians?
    Now the story becomes more emotional to the reader. Let’s see what happens to Mikali and his brother. Will they survive? Will some God-man come to their rescue?
  1. What was the condition of the Anatolians?
    Their camp was like his—the same misery. Old women were crouched on pallets on the ground; barefooted children played about in pools of dirty water. As he approached, several old women rose to ask what he wanted.
  2. How did Mikali make his prayer to the Anatolian women?
    “In the name of the Most Holy Virgin whose Ikon you show,” he said in Greek, “have pity on this poor orphan and give him a little milk. I am a poor Armenian.”
  3. Do you think that the Anatolian women had true concern for Mikali and his brother?
    At his appeal, a lovely, dark woman appeared. She held in her arms an infant blissfully sucking the maternal breast, its eyes half-closed. “Let’s see the kid. Is’t a boy or a girl?” Mikali’s heart trembled with joy. Several neighbors had come closer to see and they helped him to take from his shoulders the sack where the baby brother was held; with curiosity they leaned over. He drew back the cover.
  4. How did the women react to the sight of Mikali’s brother?
    The women gave vent to various cries of horror. The child had no longer anything human about it. It was a monster! The head had become enormous and the body, of an incredible thinness, was all shriveled up. As until then it had sucked only its thumb, it was all swollen and could no longer enter the mouth. It was dreadful to see! Mikali himself drew back in fright. “Holy Mother!” said one of the old women, “but it’s a vampire; a real vampire, that child! Even if I had milk I still wouldn’t have the courage to feed it.” “A true Anti-Christ!” said another, crossing herself. “A true son of the Turk!” An old crone came up. “Hou! Hou!” she screamed, seeing the newborn child. “It’s the devil himself!” Then turning to Mikali she yelled: “Get out of here, son of mischance, and never set foot again. You’ll bring us bad luck!” And all of them together chased him away, threatening. His eyes filled with tears, he went off, bearing the little child still wailing its hunger.
  5. There was nothing to be done; The child was condemned to die of hunger. Mikali felt himself immensely alone and lost. A chill ran up his spine at the thought that he was carrying such a monster. He slumped down in the shadow of a shed. It was still very warm. The country spread out before him in arid, waste land, covered with refuse. Noon rang out somewhere. The sound reminded him that he had eaten nothing since the day before. He would have to go sneaking about the streets, round cafe terraces, filching some half-eaten roll left on a plate; or else rake about in the garbage for what a dog would not have eaten. Suddenly life seemed to him so full of horrors that he covered his face with his hands and began to sob desperately. When he raised his head a man stood before him gazing down upon him. Mikali recognized the Chinaman who often came to the camp to sell paper knick-knacks and charms which no one ever bought from him anyway. Often they mocked him because of his color and his squint eyes; and the children hounded him, shouting: “Lee Link, the stinkin’ Chink!” Mikali saw that he was looking gently down at him and moving his lips as though to speak. Finally the Chinaman said: “You mustn’t cry, boy. . . .” Then, timidly: “Come with me. . , .”

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