The Burden Continues

Vrej Haroutounian
(Pasadena, USA)

In March of 2007, I found myself on the streets of Yerevan. This particular month is known in Yerevan for its crazy weather: a day of sunlight, followed by rain and possibly snow. But I found more to grapple with than just the weather.

Upon my return, I wrote the piece “The Burden of Privilege,” communicating to my compatriots the burden that comes with the privilege of our lives as young, educated Armenians living abroad. Now, after being back and forth a few times since 2007, it is summer and I am here, once again, in Armenia.

The relationships have changed. The opera and their cafes no longer have their same luster and appeal. Yerevan has revealed a new side of herself to me; a side that requires a much more genuine commitment. Now we spend our night together in old, intimate parks and around monuments and fountains that once were her jewels that wait for a chance to light her heart again.

It’s two in the morning. I find myself at Dzidernagabert, sitting there in front of the fire. This is my first time at the monument and there are no tourists around, no flashy lights, just the gentle night breeze. Until now, it was just a picture in my head. The wind blows through the pillars hitting the leaves of the flowers laying on the ground next to the ever lit flame of our ancestors. The mellow hissing that is created by the leaves clawing at the cold stone reminds me of how long we have come.

We step outside and sit in the corner of the plateau and I see all the changes she’s been through. New buildings in some places, old ones in others. But in the end, the people are there and they care and they are working on her, making sure she is well taken care of.

The next morning I am sitting with a few friends and I realize that the burden of privilege has changed and we are privileged to be a part of a generation that is putting its efforts into Armenia. There are university students of all types and forms: doctors, architects, engineers, artists, activists. They are all here from different countries to exercise their privilege of being able to give their contribution to Armenia.

I look around the table and we’re all sitting with smiles on our faces. I look at a friend and we both give each other a tiny nod and smile; communicating to one another that this is it—we’re here regardless of how long we’ll be here for. But, right now, we’re here. There’s the 20 year old college student who is here for the first time, thinking of how great her summer is going to be as she discovers her roots; there are the veterans who have been back and forth a few times sharing stories about their different experiences in Armenia and how they overcame them; and there are the Yerevantsees, some that were born here and others that have made this their home, talking to us about what we are going to do next in this privilege we are presented with.

The only burden at this point is taking the steps. It is no longer about being a philanthropist; it is no longer about raising funds for some project in a village somewhere that you have no connection to. The burden is going beyond an easy fix of maintaining your identity as an Armenian, doing your part so you can sleep well at night. The burden is coming out here and having sleepless nights with Armenia. It’s about holding her hand, it’s about feeling her breeze, and it’s about showing her you care by spending time with her. The burden is also not taking opportunity of the privilege that is available to you.

For us young, educated, and adventurous types, its about exercising the privilege of actually coming out here and planting the seeds of change with our fellow Armenian compatriots—directly with our own hands. Yerevan, Gyumri, Stepanagerd, and the many other places here are calling you home. They are calling you to come and start your relationship with them, so that your love for them and their love for you grows, and so the day comes that you will share their burdens and privilege.

The article first appeared at Asbarez Newspaper on August 7, 2010.

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