In Love

Tatevik Movsisyan
USA, 2013
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This summer I fell in love… with Karabagh
In love with the luscious green interweaving with war torn buildings.
In love with the flowers growing out of concrete.
In love with the view of Stepanakert from Shushi.
In love with the magical jontik wanterfall.
In love with the spirit of its beautiful people.
In love with the kid that sang “karabaghtsi” at Gandsasar with so much emotion and heart that it brought me to tears.
In love with the kids hanging out of their windows at the camp in Gandsasar asking if we’d be back tomorrow.

This summer I fell in love…with Yerevan
In love with purple bus number 28 that arrived at 9:15 every morning with enough standing room to get me to work.
In love with the bus driver that smiled and said “khntrem” (you’re welcome) when I said thank you every morning.
In love with the grandpa and granddaughter who got off the same stop as me every morning and walked together hand in hand, telling jokes and laughing joyously.
In love with the breathtaking view of the city from the top of Cascade.
In love with all-you-can-eat crawfish at Station pub.
In love with girls nights with Vernashen wine and cheese.

This summer I fell in love… with Birthright Armenia
In love with all of the people I met.
In love with the nights we sang and danced like there was no tomorrow.
In love with the hats, paneer, pamidor sandwiches we devoured on excursions.
In love with Sanahin, Haghpat, Ohanavank and every other place I would have never ventured if it wasn’t for Birthright.
In love with the office and everyone sitting in it making the magic happen.
In love with the serious security guard who makes wooden boats behind the counter.
In love with the idea of being reintroduced to a city I thought I knew. Thank You Birthright Armenia for showing me how much there is to love in a country where everyone is looking for a reason to leave. My list could go on forever. 

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Being a Part of My Homeland

Meghrig Jabaghchourian
Syria, AVC 2012-2013

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I know that I was enough lucky to get a chance of becoming a volunteer with Birthright Armenia and Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) for the second time. That means sharing more experience, learning new things, meeting different people.

This time I didn’t want to stay in Yerevan meet some tourists because Armenia is not just Yerevan; it is all the places from Gyumri to Martakert.

My First night in Yerevan

I arrived at 2:00 am to Yerevan, the driver told me that I had to go to Gayane’s home. When we arrived there, we knocked the door but no answer. After a few minutes a young man and a boy opened the door. That was Araz, another volunteer and he said “We didn’t know about you” Gayane woke up and said “Oh who are you?” I said I am a volunteer too and she was surprised… Anyway she was a very nice lady, and, after all, this was the first night after a long time, that I fell sleep with no voice of bombs and arms.

Gyumri

So my first step was to go to Gyumri. It is a very nice and ancient city — you touch the culture, the history, and also the pain and unforgettable sadness caused by the earthquake. I had to do something I have never done before working in an NGO called Youth Initiative Centre (YIC). I can’t forget the first day when I had to go to my work place all I knew is that I had to stop the Marshoutka in front of the old town hall. All the people in the marshutka knew that I was a newcomer and that I wanted to go to the old town hall, because I was keeping on asking the driver where we were and whether I had to get off there. In the end, he refused to take money from me. He said, “Du Hyur es estegh, patk chi vjares”

Nelly, Arthur, Gurgen, Anni, Tamara, Kert at YIC… we used to spend all the day together having lunch together which I will never forget, especially eating watermelons.  I learned so many things from them: I learned how to make others smile, how to bring joy and happiness to others, I learned how to help and love,  to create things with  small opportunities, I learned how to give while I had nothing and to feel that happiness and the satisfaction inside when you feel the people you feel their pain and bring a piece of smile to them.

Narine, my host sister, was a mother of two children, Hagpig and Ashotig — my host nephews. They were amazing! It was Hagopig’s birthday when I took him to the kinder garden with Narine all the children there knew about me. Narine and I used to sit at nights and share our issues, our dreams and traditions.

Artsakh

During my childhood Artsakh was inside me. All I remember about Artsakh is a video of the Armenian Soldiers who were fighting in Artsakh war and the songs of my Ante (she used to sing patriotic songs). I also remember how everyone used to joke of me when I was telling them I would become a soldier in the future to keep my homeland safe…

August  2012

I was told I would work with a lady called Susanna Petrosian in Artsakh Youth Development Center and live at her house. Susanna was a nice lady; I used to teach English and organize round tables discussions. I met many young people there. Susanna had three children — Valero Maria and Ovsana, who were all  so kind! Marian, who was 7 years old, used to teach me Russian words.

After 10 days I met Liliane de Cermadec , a producer from France and her work team. She told me they needed a translator and invited me to work with her. While I worked with her I had the chance to visit every place in Artsakh and be closer to my homeland. I will never forget Elada when she told me that they lost their three sons during the war. They were soldiers and the first one died in the prison in Baku. I don’t know if crying or shouting or even whining was enough to explain what I felt inside. Continue reading

TIA – This is Armenia ~

Araz Boghossian
(Canada, AVC ‘12)

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The reason I took months to start writing my first blog was because I simply didn’t know where to begin; I’m completely lost for words and at the same time I feel like I’m going to burst because I have so much to say, so many stories to share; it’s a strange feeling. My experiences were brilliant, unique and unforgettable (These words are such understatements). I’ll simply say that those 18 weeks in Armenia were the best times of my life. I took some 22,000 photos and over 500 videos, which I go through partially everyday, so I could re-live my time in Armenia and be able to bare the distance until I can return again soon.

Having said that…I still don’t know where to begin.

11 April , 2012…

I was very excited to be coming back to my fatherland for the second time; I remember sitting in the plane thinking about Gayane and Avetis (Avo), my homestay mother and brother to be. I was thinking about how it would be to live with total strangers for months. What if we don’t get along? May be I should have gotten my own place? Then I started thinking about my work placement. I got so excited; I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store for me. I was assigned by Jenya at the AVC office to work with Professor Artak Hambarian, the dean of the Engineering Department at the  American University of Armenia (AUA). I started thinking about the different type of projects that they might have for me and what kind of work I would be doing during the four and half months. My mind started to wonder away; I started day dreaming about all the adventures that I’m going to have with my friends, Saro and Tigran whom I had missed so much. I thought of visiting Artsakh for the first time and my heart immediately started to pound; little did I know, I would be visiting Artsakh twice during my 18 week stay in Armenia. I thought of how it would be and painted a picture in my mind, when suddenly I felt my chest being pushed back into my seat and short moments later the plane was off the ground. Half way through the trip I was overwhelmed with strange feelings. At first I was excited about landing in hayrenik, but my excitement slowly dissipated.  It felt like I wasn’t going away to Armenia, it felt like I was returning home from a faraway place. I was puzzled. That wasn’t how I felt the first time I travelled to Armenia. What had happened? Where has all the excitement gone? I didn’t find the answer to that question until I actually arrived in Armenia. Still no excitement, I was “just happy to be home” is what I responded to the question “how do you feel?” from my childhood friend of 19 years,  Saro, who was picking me up from the airport. I didn’t know at the time why, but I never have a higher sense of belonging than when I am in Armenia. I don’t feel that way about any other place, not even for the country in which I was born and raised, nor the place I currently live in, which I’ve been residing in more than half my life.

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Ten hours after I landed, I had to wake up by no choice of my own. It was 5:00AM and I was heading to a military base with my friend Saro. I promised him that I would take photographs and videos of him parachuting out of a helicopter. We got to the base at 7:00AM. It was a bit chilly and rainy, so I had my winter jacket on. We stepped out of the car and the first thing I saw was mount Ara staring back at me. It was rather wide and had several peaks, I closed my eyes and I took a deep breath. The fresh smell of thyme (uorts) filled my lungs; that was my first nostalgic moment in Armenia since 2008.

Later that afternoon, Continue reading

Les Couleurs Sublimes de l’Artsakh

Marie Khatchikian
(France)Image

Me voila revenue de 5 jours intances avec l’organisme “Janapar” afin de baliser des chemins de randonnees dans les montagnes d’Artsakh.

1er jour, j’ai decouvert les montagnes de Shushi. Grandiose ! Un panorama exceptionnel, a la fois sec et d’un vert claire superbe. Parfois il m’arrivait de marcher seule, la tete dans mes pensees : des pensees qui allaient tout droit vers ma famille. J’imaiginais la vie qu’avait pu avoir mon arriere grand mere avant qu’elle quitte le pays lors du genocide. Je pensais a ma grand mere, qui est en France et qui a la maladie d’alzheimer et avec qui je ne pourrai pas partager ces souvenirs…

Un premier jour ou je me suis ressourcee, puisqu’en Armenie ou a Artaskh, je me sens chez moi.

2eme jour, le planning un peu perturbe, nous avons fait une grosse balade avec Raffi, qui est a la tete de ce projet, accompagne de sa femme Tina. L’ambiance etait au rendez-vous, nous formions une bonne equipe avec Varak, un volontaire de la Birthright Armenia et Azqanaz qui fait parti du staff de la Birthright Armenia.

3eme et dernier jour de hiking, nous nous sommes enfonces dans les forets d’Artsakh avec 2 guides pour nous accompagner  ainsi que “Arach”, notre cheval vaillant, qui nous aidait lorsque nous etions fatigues. Le paysage est a couper le souffle. Plus humide que le 1er jour, des couleurs sublimes…

Nous etions seul, dans cette etendue de verdure. 8h de marche au total pour se render au sommet, ca vaut le detour ! Une fois la haut, nous nous sommes retrouves nez-a-nez avec “Kachaghakaberd”. Cette forteresse constuite sur un bout de montagne, comme detachee  des autres, habritait autrefois des guerriers.

Maintenant, je suis de retour a Yerevan, assez nostalgique, je me trouvais bien dans ce petit bout du monde. Merci a Raffi et Tina pour leur gentillesse et ces decouvertes extraordinaire.

Artsaj un antes y un después en mí

Cristina Nerguizian
(Uruguay)

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La historia está escrita en la tierra, en  las piedras, en la montaña.

¿Quién puede negarlo? Sólo el tirano ambicioso de poder, se atreve a hacer caso omiso a la verdad. Las iglesias armenias son el mayor símbolo y lazo inquebrantable del pueblo con su tierra.

Artsaj marcó un antes y un después en mí.  Todas las palabras de un diccionario no serían suficientes. Cuando veo las montañas, visualizo en ellas a todos los que dieron su vida por la liberación. No puedo describirlo. Mi respiración se contuvo de forma  permanente, mi corazón latió a mayor velocidad. Mis lágrimas brotaron sin control.

Correr el riesgo sin importar individualismos, por el colectivo, por la patria, por la libertad.
Y  los ojos de Diguín Galia, del museo de los caídos en la guerra de Nagorno Karabagh, no tienen rencor a pesar del dolor. Ella, al igual que otras tantas, perdió a su hijo en la lucha. Como madre y junto con otras madres, decidió rendirle homenaje a todos los soldados -en su mayoría voluntarios, sin previa formación militar- que cayeron en su labor. No tiene rencor; se ve la luz en sus ojos, la luz del orgullo de madre  y el amor por la patria.

Minuto a minuto en Artsaj, la emoción aumenta. Descubrí, como algunos me habían adelantado, que lo que las canciones dicen de los Karabaghtsís, es totalmente cierto. Hospitalario, multifacético, valiente, dispuesto a dar su vida. Lo comprobé.

Ellos merecen que continuemos, desde nuestro lugar en el mundo, con la lucha. Esta lucha que nos pide a gritos no olvidarnos de Artsaj. Estoy convencida de que sobre algunas cosas no hay lugar para la duda, ni mucho menos para el olvido. Porque ellos no dudaron en salir a defender a la patria, porque la tierra nos pertenece, porque la historia está escrita en ella, en sus montañas, en sus “jachkar”, en sus santos recintos: las iglesias armenias.