We arrived in Kirkuk, the three of us together—my mother, my older sister and myself. We were hungry, barefoot, and with absolutely no belongings. We took refuge in a tiny room at an abandoned police station. At some point in time, an elderly Turkish widow asked that my sister live at her home as her caretaker. My mother agreed, so my sister left.
Now, it was just my mother and I in that tiny room. We were utterly destitute. We had to sleep on the dirt floor, with nothing to cover ourselves with. It was so cold that we just huddled together at night, trying to keep each other warm with the heat of our bodies. We had nothing else.
One morning, I awoke to find my mother totally still on the floor. She had frozen to death. Later that day, some Armenian men from the neighborhood came by and took her body away to bury it.
Now, I was completely alone. I wandered the streets. One day, a man asked me to go to his house with him. He was a Turkish merchant with a family of his own, but wanted to adopt me. I lived there for awhile. Then, he brought a mullah home and the two of them told me I had to convert to Islam. I said I wouldn’t. As their coaxing didn’t seem to get anywhere, they hung me upside down and gave me a ferocious beating. But I didn’t give in. Finally, they untied my legs, stretched me down on the ground, and left—probably thinking I would die soon. I survived, and managed to escape.