Vana Urartu Agopian
(Hawaii, USA, 2012)
We in the Diasporas are raised with the image of Genocide and Mt. Ararat, we visit Armenia, run around cafe’s for a few months, hang out at the local pub, spend our parents money, battle with taxi drivers… turn around and go home without learning much about the inner workings of the country, its history, the memories of its people, THEIR experience. I remember listening to Diaspora Armenians sitting around a dinner table saying “Armenia this, Armenia that” or “You know what the problem is with Armenia?” yet most had not spent any extended amount of time in Armenia if any.
So after college, I decided to move to Hayastan and reconnect with an estranged father who had migrated to Yerevan in 96 (from Beirut) and with whom I had not had any considerable contact with for more or less 20 years. I rented a small house above Monument Park, worked nights at a telecommunications company in Yerort Mas and began a new life in a new republic.
I had been struggling in Yerevan for a year before a friend told me about Birthright Armenia. Literally, the next day after hearing of BR, I was at their office handing in an application. Since I had been living in Armenia for over a year before applying to BR, I was quite familiar with the essence of the city, the streets, and the terrain. But over the months without proper guidance, I was tired, I wanted to get out of the country and never look back. Yes, there is deception, corruption, suicide, alcoholism, prostitution… The fall of the soviet, the earthquake, war with Azerbaijan and the geo-political situation of the new republic has left many children orphaned, many women alone and many families emotionally bankrupt; in a sense, breaking the spirit of its people. But here is the kicker:
Had I left Hayastan without experiencing Birthright Armenia, I would have no doubt left to never return. Why you ask? Well, it’s easy to see a backward country without even the vision of progress when you’re not involved with a civil society of dedicated progressive people. Through BR I participated in protests, educational forums, visited new developing schools. It was through the direction and guidance of BR that I was able to see hope and truly experience positive progress in the new Republic.
Sure, we can go to Armenia and visit historical sites, churches and orphanages, sit around a dinner table and talk non-sense, but it’s a whole another revelation to experience the progress of Armenia TODAY. BR was able to make that connection (the missing link) between the Diaspora and the Republic of Armenia today. In truth, No one is going to do for Armenia what we can do for ourselves. With Global Unity and love for one another we can build a wonderful home for future generations.
One advice I’d like to extend to the new bee: Use your wisdom to be a solid role model for an emerging society, but more importantly stay strong, there will be many internal battles.