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After the genocide, the church and the few remaining Armenians of Diyarbakir became locked in a ruinous spiral, diminishing together.

My grandfather spent most of his life in Diyarbakir, a garrison town in southeastern Turkey.

Magnificent old walls surround the city; built of black volcanic rock, they were begun by the Romans and then added to by Arabs and Ottomans.

Through a friend, she spoke to him in Turkish, but he just sat there, mute, empty-sighted.

Later that afternoon, she returned and spoke to him in Armenian, and he jolted into alertness: ?

But my grandfather was always elusive in those stories, his path to survival a mystery.

For nearly a century, the Turkish state has denied the Armenian genocide—until recently, you could be prosecuted even for referring to it—and so any inquiry into such things would have been fraught. Diyarbakir, breaking with the state policy, began to indicate that, once again, its people wanted it to serve as a shared homeland.

He emerged with a Bible, its cover torn away, and told her to take the book to where it might be safe. My sister took the Bible, of course, and kept it at her house.

Shortly afterward, I visited Diyarbakir, too, and went looking for Uncle Anto, but people near Sourp Giragos said he had been hospitalized—in fact, he would never leave his bed again.

She recited it, and he wept, and then he led her into a shed behind the ruins, a cluttered place illuminated by a single light bulb.

He rummaged among his things, telling my sister that he had been waiting for her so she could protect a relic he had been guarding.

In 1915, the Ottomans turned the city, the surrounding province, and much of modern-day Turkey into a killing field, in a campaign of massacres and forced expulsions that came to be known as the Armenian genocide.