My Family’s Past is Fact, Not a Controversy

By Adroushan Mardirossian (Guest Contributor)

Germany, after over 100 years, has at last stopped dancing on the political stage and is now chanting the truth to the world. This influential nation has just passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide as what it was, genocide. Although this is undoubtedly a victory in the pursuit of justice, Germany’s acceptance of the genocide does not validate the facts of 1915. Neither Germany, the US, nor any other nation may tell me what did and did not occur to my ancestors over 100 years ago.

Obama can refrain from using the “G” word and Erdogan can continue to claim that the slaughtering of 1.5 million Armenians is a mere lie. That the Armenian Genocide never occurred. That my ancestors were not killed by Turks. That they did not struggle.  That they did not watch Turkish soldiers painfully kill each and every one of their family members.  That they were not marched to their own deaths, not physically abused, and not deprived of their rights.  But here’s the thing, my family’s past is not up for debate.

Every Armenian family has inherited a painful story.  These are stories that are hard to tell, and even harder to imagine. Stories of being robbed, raped, and killed. Stories that were never meant to be told and were supposed to end with the banishment of Armenians.  And although each story is different and unique, they all begin and end with the fact that we survived.   

If the leaders of the world’s nations fail to acknowledge these stories as the truth, then so be it. These political stances will not change what my ancestors endured.  They will not change their struggles, their strength, nor their courage.  They will not change what we have lost at the hands of the Turks.  And they will not change the facts.  

The fact is that we struggled, lost so much, but yet persevered. The genocide left our Armenian community in ruins, and present-day Armenia is only a fraction of its original size before the country was subjugated under Ottoman rule.  The most influential and educated Armenians in the region were taken on April 24, 1915 and later killed because they posed a threat to the Ottoman Empire. Despite losing our lands and intelligentsia, Armenians have remained strong and have overcome the obstacles they’ve faced despite losing nearly an entire generation of Armenians.

It is now up to us, the descendants of Armenian survivors. We exist and what matters is what we do with the stories we have inherited and the rich culture we are a part of.  101 years later, I will strive to be a part of the new Armenian intelligentsia.  I will strive to be a part of the modern threat to Turkey.  I will strive to take the place of those individuals persecuted on April 24, 1915. I will strive to make my ancestors proud of what has resulted from their strength and courage. And I will strive to make Armenia strong yet again.  

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, 15 year old Adroushan Mardirossian is a 10th grade high school student who spends his spare time playing ice hockey, reading, and writing. Adroushan also enjoys traveling and exploring in nature. 

Forget Me Not

By Dr. Kay Mouradian

I first heard about Ayline Amirayan’s talent from her voice coach Charles Gevoian whose tenor voice is well known here in Southern California.  When Gevoian told me Ayline would perform her first original song Forget Me Not for the 100thcommemoration at Montebello’s Armenian Genocide Memorial last April, I made a special effort to be there. When Gevoian opened the program with the finest rendition I have ever heard of The Star Spangled Banner, I knew the entire program would be filled with quality. I was not disappointed.

The Montebello Genocide Memorial opened in April 1968 and is the oldest memorial in the United States dedicated to Armenian Genocide victims. A yearly outdoor memorial service held every April attracts members of the Armenian community from all over the California southland and a capacity crowd of more than 500 attended the 1915 Centennial event on April 23rd.

Two well-known Armenian bands, the Element Band and the Greg Hosharian Band, along with solo vocalist Ayline Amirayan, helped elevate the somber energy. As I listened to Ayline, who was accompanied by pianist Greg Hosharian, violinist Garik Terzian and percussionist George Bilezikjian, I wondered why I previously had not heard of her.

Amirayan opened with three Armenian songs and her obvious love for Armenian music resonated throughout the audience and affected me deeply. I, an Armenian American born in Boston, do not speak or understand our Armenian language, and I realize how much of my heritage I have lost.

When I interviewed Ayline Amirayan she told me why she chose the Armenian songs she sang for the Centennial. Her first song “Kani Vur Djan” by Sayat Nova was meant to remind the audience that Sayat Nova’s music lives on and still influences the poetic artistry of the Armenian people.

Her second song “ Yeraz Im Yergir Hyernik” written by Yerevan’s songwriter and musician Robert Amirkhanyan is about the love for Armenia.  With today’s talented musicians such as Amirkhanyan, Amirayan understands the preservation, authenticity and beauty of Sayat Nova affecting Armenian music a hundred years later.

Her next song was “Hye Herosneri Yerke”. “I wanted to thank the heroes ofArmenia and honor those brave soldiers who have fought for the Armenian cause,” she said.

Amirayan prepared the audience for her closing song, Forget Me Not. “It was extremely important for me to write Forget Me Not in English”, she said. “As Armenians we know our story. For 100 years we’ve heard horrific stories through the eyes of our parents and grand parents. But I wanted the lyrics to be in English so non-Armenians would understand and feel why the title is “Forget Me Not!”

When I listened to her latest rendition of Forget Me Not, the melody and lyrics kept playing over and over in my head, which suggests to me that this is a song that will be remembered. I wanted to know and asked her about her creative process.

“The melancholy melody came to me easily as I pictured my ancestors,” Amirayan said. “The lyrics spoke to me through the forget me not flower, and I sang the song as if I were the flower itself. My voice reflects the flower’s black circle with the dark aftermath, the purple colors stretch toward unity and the yellow heart of the flower speaks to my vision of hope and my love for creativity.”

The day after the Montebello event Amirayan joined 160,000 Armenians in the April 24th 6 mile Marching to Justice walk in Los Angeles from Little Armenia in Hollywood to the Turkish consulate in Westward.  “We have a beautiful culture,” she told me and added, “the strength and determination of the march says we are all here, we hear the voices of our ancestors and as I walked uphill and looked back it was as if I saw thousands of our ancestors marching out of Turkeytoward Dier el Zor.  But, we were marching not to death. We were marching toward life.

“We are still here and free,” she continued.  “Not marching to death but marching to freedom.  How could an Armenian not be proud?  We are unique. Hearing stories like my grandfather, who at age six, while hidden in the barn, witnessed Turkish soldiers decapitate his three older brothers. We are the voices of those children who survived because of their strength.  Had my grandfather been killed I wouldn’t be here today.”

The story how Amirayan’s grandfather survived is every Armenian’s story.  It has taken 100 years for the world to recognize the depth of our Armenian loss in 1915 and Amirayan’s first songwriting experience gives our community a musical rendition of our tragedy. Forget Me Not needs to be in every Armenian home to acknowledge those who never returned.

Who knows how many beyond our community will be affected listening to the haunting melody and even just the first verse?  “My black eye weeps a suffering tear, Painful dark memories of 100 years. My heart wilts, my soul is denied, I cry out for truth for those who died.”

Dr. Kay Mouradian is an educator, filmmaker, and author of My Mother’s Voice, a book depicting her mother’s story as a victim and survivor of the Armenian Genocide.  She also wrote, narrated, and co-produced My Mother’s Voice, a documentary based on her book.  She holds a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University and holds degrees from Boston University and UCLA.

How The Wolf Was Made

By Melissa Lake

I used to be Armenian,
until they took that from me too.

Except they made me better.

Now I am a chimera of all the things they could not kill:
a descendant of a people who could not break.
I have evolved to be smarter and more powerful and stronger.

They killed me and created something better:
gave me an echoing howl and a tougher hide and razor teeth. Now I have claws that sink in and won’t let go.

I would never have been born if they weren’t afraid of what I could be. Now I’m greater than I ever was.

I stand at their doorway, heavy breath at their neck, blood dripping from my muzzle. They are afraid of the monster they created.

And they should be.

Finding Mayram

Story by Mayram Tikoyan Artinian
Translation by Emma Artinian Soghomonian
Edited by Missak Artinian
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Of the eight children my parents had during their marriage, I was the first born, named Mayram in memory of my father’s mother, who he lost contact with at eight years old during the Armenian Genocide.  All eight of us kids were born in Aleppo, Syria in a community full of Armenians who were mostly survivors. My father, Setrak Tikoyan, was one of them. He once told me his story of survival. This is what he said, as I remember it:

“My daughter, I was only eight years old when the genocide was perpetrated on our people. I remember my extended family all lived in the Palu region of Western Armenia. When we sat down for dinner, there were 40 spoons scooping up food at our table. There were four brothers, their wives and children and grandchildren.

When the genocide began, we were driven out of our homes. My brother and I started walking with our mom to an unknown destination. I can hardly remember how long we walked when I realized I was separated from my mother. 

I managed to sneak away from the masses by walking through an alley and into a small village. At one point, I met a man who proceeded to take me to his home. He gave me bread and said I could stay with them and work as a shepherd to herd his sheep. I stayed there as long as I could manage. But I was determined to leave.

One day, I took some bread and escaped to another village. It certainly is a long story how I travelled from village to village, begging for bread or food.  I guess I had life in me strong enough to survive. It pains me to remember or talk about that period in my life. I just can’t bear reminiscing about those tragic times.

After several years I ended up in an orphanage. After some time, the orphanage was visited by American missionaries who gathered the orphans and transported them to Aleppo, Syria.  I was part of the group of orphans who travelled with them.  When I was there, I searched for my mother and younger brother, Marsoub, who was in my mother’s arms when we separated.  But regrettably I had no luck.”

Tears streamed down his face as he told this story, as painful memories flooded back into his consciousness. After wiping his tears, he took me into his arms, and said, “You’re just like my mother.” He spoke of her often, sharing memories he had of her from his childhood. “I remember one day, my father was building a house for us in Palu, and she worked right alongside him and the construction workers. Then through some freak accident, one of the walls that was built collapsed on top of her, but she came out of the rubble unscathed. From that day on, I knew my mother was invincible.”

“I will find her,” he once told me. “My heart tells me I will find her. She appears in my dreams so often. I don’t know where she is, or whether she is alive. But I will never give up.”

One summer in Aleppo, Syria, my father and I were sitting on our porch when our neighbor Lusig Nene was returning home from church.

“God bless you, Setrak,” she greeted my father.  “Today at church we were surprised by a visit of an elderly lady who was dressed in Kurdish attire. I asked her what she was doing at our church, and to our surprise, she started speaking Armenian. So I asked her where she came from. And you’ll never believe it. She said she was married in Palu and moved to Kharpert with her husband, who was the son of a priest.”

“Did she say her name?” My father asked.

“Yes. Her name is Anna.”

My father was stunned for a moment. He realized the description fit his long lost cousin from his father’s side. Excitedly, my parents got dressed. Lusig Nene said Anna was staying with a local family called Haroutioun.  A few hours passed, and my parents returned with an elderly woman accompanying them.

My father called all of us kids and introduced us one by one to the visitor. “This is my eldest daughter, Mayram, named after my mother. This is my eldest son, Thomas, named after my father.”

We each took turns greeting the elderly lady and kissing her hand in a welcoming gesture and called her grandmother, but my father corrected us by saying, “No, children, she is not your grandmother. You can call her aunt.”

After the introductions and initial discussions, my Aunt Anna, as we started calling her, delivered stunning news to my father. She said, “Setrak, your mother is alive! I saw her about a year ago in a village called Aslan Dashi.”  My father was beside himself with joy. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He asked her for any details she could remember.

The very next morning, when I woke up, my father was gone. He had gone off in the early hours of dawn to track down his mother. Probably a week’s time passed as we were waiting for his return, when we saw a taxi pull up in front of our residence. We ran out to see our father helping an elderly woman out of the car.

I noticed that she was wearing a white head scarf and was dressed in Kurdish attire. My mother tried helping the lady, but my father informed her that her legs were broken and that she could not walk. Then my father picked her up gently from the car and brought her into our home where he sat her down.

For the following weeks, I remember our home became a revolving door of visitors wanting to see her and extol in the union of a mother and her son after 32 years. Friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances alike filled our home. The visitors had many questions for my father.

“How did you find your mother? How did you know for sure she was truly your mother after 32 years?”

My father would recount the events as they had transpired:

“When I got on the road that morning, I rented a car and drove straight down to Arab Punar, a small Kurdish village around 35 kilometers east of the Euphrates where I had some relatives. Before I continued on my journey I wanted to have security in case of any trouble. I asked around to find out who the village magistrate was. My relatives took me to the magistrate. I asked him if he would accompany me on my trip to Aslan Dashi to help me find my mother. He agreed.

Together we set off for Aslan Dashi via boat.  On the way there, I told him my story: ’When I survived the genocide, I was eight years old and was separated from my mother during the deportation. All these years I have searched for her to no avail. But recently I was tipped off that my mother may be residing in Aslan Dashi so I am going there to find her. My full name is Setrak Tikoyan, my father’s name is Thomas and I have a younger brother who my mom was carrying in her arms during the deportation. He was two years old, and named Marsoub. We are from the village of Palu. And my mother’s name is Mayram.’

The magistrate listened to me closely, and he said, ‘When we reach the village and find the woman named Mayram, I advise that you not enter her home. I will go in and ask her questions to determine if she is your mother. That way if she is not your mother, you are not involved.’

We arrived in Aslan Dashi and went around town asking the names of any elderly lady we came across. We asked if they knew anyone by the name of Mayram. For days we asked, but no luck. One day, the magistrate came across an elderly woman named Mayram. He brought her to me and asked if she was my mother. I took one look and immediately knew she wasn’t the one. I started feeling very depressed and disillusioned.  But nevertheless we proceeded with our search, asking passersby if there was a Mayram in town.

Finally, one villager we came across said she knew a woman by the name of Mayram who lives in a tent not far from where we were. We followed his directions and came upon the tent. The magistrate advised me to stay outside the tent. He went in and I heard him greeting a woman and asking her name. She answered, ‘Mayram.’ The magistrate then asked her where she was from. ‘I’m a Kurd’, she answered. He asked for her original ethnicity. She said sadly, ‘What does it matter?’

After persisting with more questions, finally she gave in. ‘I’m Armenian. A long time ago I had a husband from Palu. His name was Thomas.’

‘Did you have any children?’ the magistrate asked her.

‘Yes, I had two children. The oldest was Setrak. The youngest was named Marsoub. I lost my Setrak during the genocide. I was never able to find him. My youngest grew ill and died when he was a teenager here with me. I am now married to a Kurd. I can no longer walk anymore because four years ago I heard from a villager that there was a man named Setrak in a nearby village. I hurriedly got on a horse and raced to that village to find him. But in that town the horse got spooked when we came across cars and started jumping violently. I was thrown off the horse, fell and broke my legs. I was brought back home but nobody helped me. I remain in this tent because I cannot take care of myself or leave. This Kurd husband gives me a piece of bread every day to survive.’

‘If you were to see your son Setrak, would you recognize him?’ the magistrate asked her.

‘Yes.’

‘How?’

‘He has a mark on his wrist from an accident when he hurt his arm as a child.’

The magistrate finally called me into the tent. I was expecting to see my young mother as I remembered her 32 years ago, maybe somewhat aged. But I was shocked and heartbroken to see her handicapped and in such a dire situation. I went over to her, held her hand, and looked into her eyes.

She didn’t have to look at my wrist to recognize me. I kneeled down and scooped her into my arms, both of us weeping together, overjoyed at this unexpected and long-awaited reunion.

The magistrate finally interjected and asked my mother, ‘Do you want to come with us to live with your son? Do you want to see your grandchildren?’

‘With all my heart,’ she answered.”

Mayram Tikoyan only lived nine months at our house in Aleppo before resting in peace.  Before she died, she would randomly start singing a religious hymn, “Soorp Garabed volor molor.”  The visitors from all over Aleppo would leave our house weeping with sadness and heartache and cathartic joy for the reunion. Many thought she held onto her life only long enough to see her beloved son and his family and to bless them with her love and longing. I believed that too, but I also thought something different. I thought she lived long enough so she could finally rest in peace in an Armenian cemetery, where she belonged.

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Picture1
Mayram Kassabian Tikoyan, circa 1947

Picture2
Setrak and Mary Tikoyan with Mayram Tikoyan Artinian and her four brothers.

 

Dear Readers,

As we end our year-long journey, we would like to thank you for reading our words, sharing your own, sparking meaningful discussions, and taking part in spreading our stories to all corners of the world.  We will maintain our site and ensure continuous access to our work.

Sirov,

Team 99andCounting

We Are Honest Soldiers

By Taniel Aram (Guest Contributor)

Grandma raises her index finger high into the air, waving in a circular motion as vibrations of the plucked qanun strings pass through the iPad speakers.  Badalian’s voice comes next and with a prideful smile, Grandma starts singing alongside him.

“Մենք անկեղծ զինուոր ենք, առանց ի վիճակ, Ուխտել ենք ծառայել երկար ժամանակ:”

Hayk and Pel. The Battle of Avarayr.  Survival after 1915. Through the annals of history, defiance has been an unwavering characteristic, a defining trait, of the Armenian people.

Existence is given to us. But defiance, defiance is earned, honored, mourned or canonized, through action, in a collective pursuit of justice.

Historical consensus indicates Armenian defiance as best represented by sharp wit, innovation, a moral compass for justice, or resistance to submission, rather than military might. Outmanned and outgunned, Karabakh was liberated with an impressive tactical strategy. Operation Nemesis members planned obsessively and took justice into their own hands, despite a cold shoulder from allied intelligentsia.  And of course the 250 Armenian intellectuals, the first targets of the Armenian Genocide, who were murdered for representing these very values of intellect as leaders of the Armenian people.

While military resistance can be interpreted as a form of defiance, what that struggle stood for, as a last effort to resist extinction and protect a race in its rightful homeland, was a more accurate definition for the Armenian case. “Ազատութիւն կամ մահ,” the Armenians shouted, an ode to American patriot Patrick Henry.

Grandma follows Badalian word for word. I see the emotion in her eyes as she continues to sing:

“Արիւն, սուր ու հուր, պատերազմի դաշտ կը սպասեն մեզի:”

The timeless ballad takes on Armenian resistance in the military sense. With trust betrayed, unanswered calls for help, thousands of churches and schools burned, and an entire civilization destroyed, the bravest of Armenian men and women took up arms to defend their villages and save their families. In the absence of leading Armenian intellectuals, the fedayi became the zinvor, and the zinvor, the fedayi.

The song reaches its emotional apex as grandma clenches her fist and pounds the breakfast room table, singing with hearty pride:

“Համոզուած ենք, որ միայն զէնքով կայ հայոց փրկութիւն:”

She takes a breath and stops singing for a moment, reflective on her family’s story of survival, yet afraid of changing times.

The songs and stories of old are nostalgic, but are, after all, at risk of fading.  Fading in a world of multi-million dollar Turkish denialist campaigns, in a world of corrupt, tainted oil money in Azerbaijan, and in the evolving geopolitics of the modern world.

Defiance. Defiance is our answer to this shifting landscape.

We are the new generation of Armenian intellectuals; lawyers, investment bankers, entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, doctors, professors, clergymen, and researchers. We honor our ancestors and uphold moral integrity in our collective pursuit of justice. In thinking critically, chasing success and innovation, and challenging the status quo, we have returned to our roots of defiance, where the intellectual is the zinvor, and the zinvor, the intellectual.

Let’s ask ourselves- if we were alive on April 24, 1915, would we have been arrested for our leadership, based on our life accomplishments to this point in time? Our answer should be yes. If it isn’t, we have work to do.

Before she resumes singing, I correct Grandma:

“Համոզուած ենք, որ միայն գրիչով կայ հայոց փրկութիւն:”

By way of intellect, our defiance was, and anew is, our means for survival. As for the pen, that’s our weapon of choice.

Born in Germany and raised in New York City, Taniel Aram now divides his time between scouring the ancient ruins of fallen civilizations and surfing the waters of Southern California.  He holds three different degrees rooted in Literature and Anthropology from three different Ivy League universities, one of which he now conducts research for. Taniel still finds time in his busy schedule to explore the outdoors with his rescue golden retriever Dickens, swim with sharks, and run the occasional triathlon.

Msho Khr

By Natalie Kamajian (Guest Contributor)

msho

The Unity of my people.

Depends on my legs and internal rhythms

knowing these dances better than I do.

My soul understands the meaning of unity.

To be united, is to reach

beyond the self

& to become

One //

Movement //

Why speak of social change when we know not how to trust in Armenian dance?

Armenian dance is…

strength //

it is wisdom //

Armenian dance knocks you off of your ego,

and tells you to shut up, and F.E.E.L.

So.

Feel.

Feel the Dhol. Feel your brothers and sisters. And Move.

Ձախ—ձախ, աչ աչ ձախ—աչ աչ ձախ

“say it in your sleep,” said one ֆեդայի

“you will need it one day”, said Մայրիգ

To surrender to your movement

is to resist your erasure.

When you dance Մշո Խըռ…

Natalie Kamajian works at a community and economic development organization designing innovative solutions to responsibly revitalize low-income, urban areas around Los Angeles. After living in Հայաստան for a year she unearthed, as Charlemagne once put it, “her second soul.” She is an inbetweener: never here nor there, never making sense and never wanting to and liking it that way. Natalie loves to write but she feels life moves too fast, its moments too precious sometimes to do anything other than live it. Lover of lavender ice cream, homemade halva and handmade soaps; Gardening’s worst gardener and biggest fan; and best friend to both the young & elderly but not really the folks in between causing all the trouble. She practices traditional Armenian ethnographic folk dancing and will revel at any chance to do a mean Մշո Խըռ to some live dhol and zurna. She will gladly bring out her inner թագուհի when necessary and believes that only when she contradicts herself, is she able to seek truth. Check out her other poems, These Miraculous Hands and Kochari

Our Old Backyard

By Nora Serghany (Guest Contributor)

Let the night vie and struggle to shadow the land, but the light of truth will always pierce the darkness.

Nora Serghany is a 22-year-old Buffalo native who subsists off coffee fumes and late night studying.  She is currently studying medicine and has a passion for writing, inspired by Russian novelists.  More of her work can be found here.

Melissa Haygan Lake

By Melissa Lake

I wince as my professor calls out the attendance; “HAY GAN” he says, in two sharp, nasally syllables. “Actually, it’s pronounced like Hi-Gone.” He doesn’t correct himself and continues down the list. “Haygan” I say again, interrupting him. “It was my grandmother’s name. Today is the anniversary of our genocide.”

It is strange to think the one thing that we use to label ourselves for our entire lives, our name, is not even something we are free to choose. Our most constant and indelible part of our identity is often chosen before we even take our first gasp of air, gifted to us by people who are virtual strangers.  And yet, somehow, our names come to define us intrinsically. How strange the turbulent mix of fate and destiny and lack of free will melds together in a near perfect form millions of times a day to blindly identify an entire future. And yet, regardless of all this lack of choice, more often than not, that name that was chosen before we were ever given a chance to form our own presence can come to define us more than any other nomenclature we could staple to our persona.

I used to say that the only gift my grandmother ever gave me was my middle name, and while I know now that that statement is inherently false, as my grandmother bestowed countless intangible gifts like courage and strength and history upon me, my grandmother’s christening gift to me is my strongest connection to my heritage.

I used to hate my middle name. How bitter I was, surrounded in a sea of Marie-s and Ann-s, with a name no one could neither pronounce nor spell, a remnant of a people and a culture no one knew about. My cultural identity became reduced to the abbreviation “H.” and was something I neither talked about nor wanted to talk about. I was ignorantly ashamed of a remnant of a history more powerful and awe-inspiring than I could even fathom, and in my shame, I disgraced a culture far more noble than I.

For years I was H. , a one letter symbol of my cultural denial. I reveled in my ease at being able to conform; a white girl with a white name. But blind conformity is boring and bland. My whiteness was not nearly as fun or entertaining or interesting as my true ethnic heritage. Being Armenian actually was a lot cooler than being like everyone else, it turned out. So when I learned to embrace my ancestry, when I learned to love being Armenian more than I loved fitting in, I became Haygan again.

But Haygan came at a price, it came with a burden of history and memory and sadness. Haygan came with a sense of duty, because remembering is a holy, sacred thing, and it is a calling all Armenians share. Being born Armenian, being gifted with the name of Haygan, instilled in me an obligation to do what the world could not, bring justice to the generations of people whose future was never formed because of one of the greatest crimes against humanity to ever occur.

But there was a sense of beauty in being born Armenian as well, for we are a rich culture not defined solely by our tragic past. For a people who have suffered so much and who have experienced no closure, we are lively and welcoming and jovial. Our tiny country and its hundreds of diasporas has a voice louder than that of nations 100 times its size. We are powerful and determined and tenacious. Now, more than ever, the world is hearing what we have to say, and they are acting with us.

My grandmother is the strongest woman I have never met, gone before I had the chance to form in my mother’s womb. A woman born in the middle of a period of unspeakable blight, may the privilege and opportunity I was conversely born into paint me as the phoenix rising from her ashes, from the ashes of her past and her culture’s history, and may I bring her honor by carrying her name with the same cloak of fierce pride and strength that she shrouded herself in.

So today, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, I am not Melissa Lake. On a day that reminds us of the egregious cost that comes from forgetting, I am the name that lies hidden, sandwiched between a chorus of cultural assimilation. Today, and all days, I am Haygan.

Kochari

By Natalie Kamajian (Guest Contributor)

my generation

stands on the shoulders of our parents
on the bent backs of our grandparents
on the snapped necks of our ancestors

listen not, to what you think your people need
we know nothing without ancestors…ancient sisters
//my first sisters//

they have bled, knelt, marched, killed, hurt
loved, wrote, built and buried
so that I can breathe “hye”

strong women
&                                             ignite fires within my spirit
selfless men

when I dance Քոչարի…

IMG_3734

Natalie Kamajian works at a community and economic development organization designing innovative solutions to responsibly revitalize low-income, urban areas around Los Angeles. After living in Հայաստան for a year she unearthed, as Charlemagne once put it, “her second soul.” She is an inbetweener: never here nor there, never making sense and never wanting to and liking it that way. Natalie loves to write but she feels life moves too fast, its moments too precious sometimes to do anything other than live it. Lover of lavender ice cream, homemade halva and handmade soaps; Gardening’s worst gardener and biggest fan; and best friend to both the young & elderly but not really the folks in between causing all the trouble. She practices traditional Armenian ethnographic folk dancing and will revel at any chance to do a mean Մշո Խըռ to some live dhol and zurna. She will gladly bring out her inner թագուհի when necessary and believes that only when she contradicts herself, is she able to seek truth. More of her poetry can be found here.