Category Archives: Armenia

The Best of the Boys are Leaving… Or Are They?

We have sung from childhood about living in a diaspora pining for the homeland. I have never felt the strength of this song until the day I sat down the kids of Gyumri during the AYF Summer Camp and along with some of the most patriotic people I know, sanf this song to them. My eyes filled with tears. I have gone away from my homeland, we sang, I have left my friends and family. We sand we will once again be reunited. Such an old concept and so very relevant to our days as well. The fire in my heart consumed me from that day onward, when the group of 100+ individuals of varying ages, 8-17 years old, stood up and gave a standing ovation, each moved by the sincerity in our voices. It haunted me for years and to this day is the single proudest moment of my life. It was also the song that took over my mind every time I visited Canada after my move to Armenia in 2013.

Today, it is another song that keeps me up at night and brings me to tears. It is another melody and other lyrics that fill my heart with longing, that batters at everything I have ever believed in. I watch them leaving. Gaggles and masses heading towards flight towards lands that promise rivers of honey and fountains of milk, leaving behind that very thing. Even writing these words, my eyes fill with tears. For with every individual who leaves, thinking the grass is greener on the other side, the land I have pledged to love and protect is left crying out in pain. Like a mother who cannot bear the sight of sending her child away, so is the pain felt by the country as a whole.

So now I sing,”The best of the boys are leaving, looking for their luck in other countries… leaving behind their loved ones and looking for something to fill the void from far away…” I sing that I am the world’s foolish lover and have friends more foolish than I. Boy is that true. For I am considered the fool in leaving behind Canada and coming home to Armenia, while the day’s migrations are taking the opposite route. How wrong you are my friends, but only time will show you exactly how wrong you are….

But are the best of the boys really leaving?

While it is true that many who head out towards the country that has allowed for Syrian refuge are indeed some truly incredible individuals, there are many who are staying put, understanding that while things look shiny from here, what glitters is not always gold. Some have already tried to take a different route, head up to Sweden or elsewhere, and have returned. Some simply do not even entertain the thought of walking away from the place they considered home from the day they were born. What gives me hope is seeing these boys and girls, these men and women, these children and adults who have a certain fire in their eyes and a longing to make things better with their own hands. They say that if you love someone, you let them go. If they come back, they were always yours, and if not… well, you know the rest. I’ve come back along with many others and we are here to stay. The best of the boys are not leaving it appears, but building a better Armenia! I raise a glass in gratitude for those who have not fallen to the lure of faraway lands and who have not lost hope here. They are the best of the boys in my eyes. It’s good to be living among you!

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24 Years Later on a Golden Path: The Generation Born to Independence

I should start with a rather hearty congratulations sent out to every Armenian out there. Armenia is officially 24 years old, as of September 21, 1991. It is an incredible feeling really and I am more than just a little excited to see how the country will mark its 25th anniversary in the upcoming year.

While it may not seem like the country is very old (we have gone through so many regimes, changes in power and a mega metamorphosis over the years, making the multi-millennium old country appear no older than a mere teenager), it is clear that it is maturing at a very fast pace. Ups and downs put aside, this is a country where the most incredible things are happening every day, if only you know where to look. We are transforming into such a pretty butterfly, but one that lives for an eternity, not the type that dies within a few days. We will have our Golden Age come soon, a renaissance of sorts that will sweep the nation. First, however, we need the Independence Generation to mature a little more. They are, after all, a mere 24 years old, born in the days of homes quashed and rivers of sorrow. This is the generation that will bring about the best years this country has ever seen for they have nothing to compare with. These are the heroes of our future, the leaders who do not look back on Soviet days long gone, but to a bright and incredibly inspirational future. They are the seedlings who will bud into the most fragrant of roses, with thorns to warn off those who seek to overthrow their rule.

This brings to mind the tale of Vartevar and how the tears of Asdghig gave rise to roses thus healing the world of its sorrow, pain, anger and jealousy. The sun shines really bright these days really, brighter still than when I first move in 2013, years ago. The sun is warmer, the sky clearer and it appears that the blossoming roses are truly giving rise to a nation of positive energy, hardworking and beautiful, with a love for each other and their country that overflows from their hearts. It appears the tyrant has been slain and Asdghig’s tears turn to that of happiness, knowing that her own love has found roots in the generation born to independence. And who better to beam with pride than her lover, Vahagn, the very essence of the sun?

Independence is hard to come by but we have brought it about twice in the past 100 years. In 1918 we proved that we are ready to be free, to govern our own people in our own nation, without having to kneel. We brushed off our knees and stood tall, a feat that many could not have imagined being achieved only years before. In 1991 we once again joined hand in hand to ensure we have a nation, to ensure we save our language, our culture, our identities. We gave the vote that was overwhelming, nearly unanimous in the call for freedom from foreign regimes. We snatched our future from the hands of those who would have devoured us and thus paved our destinies with gold. Only, we failed to notice the value of the ground we walked on as we trudged forwards, forgetting that beyond the dirt, the grime, the sorrow and death was glittering warmth and a wealth that would be irreplaceable. Some failed to see because they kept looking backwards, some because they only looked to the sky. Today, however, that path is clearing, the snow is melting, the ice has become nearly nonexistent. There are still those who look back, still those who have yet to notice the gold on the ground because they are too busy looking up or to the sides where the same path does not exist, but the youth, the well-read and well-rounded, the generation belonging to the days of independence knows the truth. The sky is blue, the sun shines bright and just ahead of us the road is clear once more, the golden shimmer mirror the proud rays of the sun. The old gods and the new rejoice because Armenia is becoming whole once more, one steady step at a time. Now is the time before the rise of the Golden age and those who remain, those who dare to dream and can see beyond the fog, they will be the ones to create what will be the foundation for a new Armenia.

Happy Independence Day to our dearest homeland. May your Golden Age rival that of the most esteemed of countries in the world. May your children forever feel the call of the mountains you cave created to protect your land. And most of all, may the Independence Generation grow to become the most awe-inspiring and magnanimous of rulers, known for bringing peace and prosperity to our lands. Happy Independence Day and may you stay free for all the centuries and millennia to come!

Guest Post: #TurkeyFailed Because I Live in Armenia and So Should You

As the World’s Armenian community gears up to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman turks, the hashtag #TurkeyFailed has been trending across armenian social networks. The phrase, usually followed by accounts of multi-generational survival, uploaded onto the web by Armenians is meant to empower the descendants of these genocide survivors. As photos of survivors, and their progeny are shared and commented on, we are reminded that though 1.5 million of our grandparents had been dehumanised, robbed of their birthrights, their possessions, marched into deserts and brutally massacred, yet the five hundred thousand or so who survived managed to, as William Saroyan so eloquently put it; “laugh, sing and pray again”; build “a new Armenia” in the four corners of the globe. They passed on as best they could their culture, traditions and language to a new generations of Armenians, now totalling over 7 million people.

However, declaring that Turkey Failed at this time would be similar to declaring victory over shark-kind while still floating in shark-infested waters: Though the immediate danger may have been averted, we, as a nation are not out of the woods yet. The fact that I need to write this piece in english, rather than Armenian in order to reach the majority of my compatriots living in dispersed communities around the globe attests to the fact that we have sacrificed a lot for survival; our language, culture, and traditions, are constantly being diluted despite our best efforts, as we continue to live in lands which we do not call our own, while the concept of a hyphenated Armenian becomes increasingly solidified.

In the 21st century, it is no longer enough for Armenian people to live with the hope of indefinitely preserving Armenian identity, language, culture and traditions in suspension in their newfound homes abroad. Despite hollow promises that we make to ourselves, that we are ready, at moments notice, to return to our ancestral land, how many of us are ready to leave our cosy city lives, our jobs, and the communities we helped reconstruct over 3 generations to go back to mud brick villages in eastern Anatolia? I can recall, the times when i was back in native Canada visiting family, discussing my new life in Armenia with local armenian friends, and finishing our conversations with the question “And when will you be joining me in Armenia?” to which I would always get an embarrassed response in the form of “some day”. Our lack of readiness to leave these comfort zones was most exemplified by the destruction of the well established Armenian communities in Iraq, and now Syria.

Turkey’s failure will only truly be complete when we secure the existence, and sustainability of the Armenian nation. This, of course, can only be done when the majority of those living in the Diaspora, who see the preservation of their cultural heritage, will begin to see the Republic of Armenia as a genuine option for establishing themselves, raising families, and contributing to.

Afterall, the job is not yet done. Our young republic, which we inherited 76 years after the genocide, still deals with many of the typical issues that a start-up nation, with a soviet legacy would be expected to. Armenia still struggles to fight corruption, imperfect democratic processes, economic stimulation, emigration, and the precarious nature of its geopolitical location. Despite all this, Armenia offers unique opportunities for those who wish to contribute. The country changes at an astonishing rate. Despite a century of separation, and contrasts between the soviet and diaspora experience, many repatriates are pleasantly surprised to discover how much they share with their local contemporaries.

Almost four years ago, wishing to bank on this opportunity, I made the move here, established a business, employ a modest number of people, and pay taxes to the State. I am setting the foundations for a family here, and live what can best be described as a ‘normal’ life. I say this not to invoke the envy of the readers, but to explain why, in my case at least, #TurkeyFailed. For the first time in 3 generations, on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, a member of my family will be in Armenia. My hope is that my story wouldn’t be unique.

Those who, like me, wish to see, a strong, economically sustainable, democratic and forward looking homeland, as opposed to one that dwells in its past, should know that Armenia doesn’t need your money, or pity, Armenia needs you. Armenia needs Armenians to populate the country, contribute to its job market, its economic development, cultural institutions, and demanding political change.

Until independence, the common line was that, “As soon as we reestablish an Independent Armenia, I will the first on the plane over there”. This has only materialised for a small numer. Today, there no more excuses: Many opportunity exists for those who want to help complete Turkey’s Failure, and subsequently Armenia’s victory, but living here. Those who may want to reconnect with Armenia’s culture, can always make use of resources online, such as the Armenian Virtual College’s Armenian lessons; they can receive a world-renown education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at the American University of Armenia, or simply try out life in Armenia to see if it’s right for them, by applying for the 3 month professional internship programme at Birthright Armenia. Resources such as the Repat Armenia Foundation dedicate themselves to helping Armenians from the diaspora to reclaim their birthright, and establishing themselves in their homeland. The possibilities are endless, the reasons are countless.

100 years after we were chased out of our lands, its time to come home. Only then, we can truly say that #TurkeyFailed

Post by Raffi Elliott

Finishing Off 2014 with a Bang: Armenian Achievements in the Last Month

Armenian cook Vera Hovhannisyan won a gold medal and a cup at the Culinary World Cup 2014 held in Luxemburg from November 22 to 26. The competition featured more than 1 000 cooks from 60 countries , as well as 105 national, regional and youth teams. Vera Hovhannisyan’s twin sister Rena Hovhannisyan also jointed her in the competitions. The sisters presented two works at the contest and both won gold medals.

During the Warsaw Cup 2014, in Poland, 15-year old, Anastasia Galustyan, representing Armenia won the SILVER Medal, amongst 18 European competitors.

Garnik Harutunyan scored another gold medal for Armenia during the international boxing tournament held in Riga: http://armenpress.am/eng/news/787374/armenian-boxer-scores-medal-at-international-tournament-in-riga.html

As part of Armenian team, Nagorno Karabakh-born Mavrik Nasibyan won a gold medal in 74kg weight category at the 2014 World Sambo Championships in Narita, Japan. http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/185040/

Armenian teams participated and took home 114 top prizes in all different types of sports during 2014, out of which 32 were gold….