By Isabella Bablumian (Guest Contributor)
I am what they call a transcultural child. I started my serial migrations by moving out of Armenia when I was eleven and have since lived in nine cities across three continents. Leaving my motherland behind was a difficult experience and always haunted me no matter how closely I integrated with the countries that became my new homes. Learning new languages and cultures became the remedy for dealing with this partial loss of identity in a continuous process of self-discovery within new cultures. I thrive in multi-cultural environments and am a local everywhere I go.
Yet, somehow, my Armenian identity remains intact. The voice calling on me from within is strong and unmistakable. On many occasions I´ve fled back to Armenia in tears, wanting to start everything from scratch; traveled across the world just to wash myself in the millennial freshwater of our high-mountain Lake Sevan, to breathe the childhood air that filled me with memories, eat a real apricot that seemed to heal me with its nectar. It never failed, but also did not last… I was forever changed, fully true to my Armenian roots, but unable to put them down again on the lands that gave me birth.
As this search continued, I came to the realization that no matter where I am (even back in Armenia), I will always feel the longing that is calling from the depth of my self to stay connected with the essence that makes up the interweaving of my being.
Therefore, instead of continuing to chase my identity within a specific location, I have since tried to find and retain particles of cultural connection in new ways. One of which occurred through finding and connecting to those dispersed pieces of Armenia that I had the chance to uncover around me in the most unimaginable parts of the world; through the people that dispersed a century ago away from their ancestral lands and formed a new world-wide Armenia.
Each encounter with our compatriots resonates deep on a molecular level and restores something that I lost when I left home. The first encounter is always replete with surprise; the awe of finding the Armenian oases that remain intact in the communities that our people have created with so much care and worked so hard to maintain. These places, whether they are churches, monuments, cultural centers, schools, all breathe something so inexplicably Armenian. In them, those of us that leave abroad find a fleeting connection that serves as a link to maintaining our tie to our culture and identity.
There are numerous flashbacks that revive some of these connections: the looks full of longing memories in the eyes of the St. John Garabed church members in San Diego as I sing some of the Komitas songs at an event; the uncontrollable tears flooding from my eyes as I hear Zulal sing Sareri Hovin Mernem in Washington D.C. ; the first attempt at singing an Armenian song by a Rio de Janeiro native of Armenian descent, who never understood her passion for a language she didn’t speak and music she didn’t know, but the love for which seems to have been passed to her by her great-grandmother before she perished in Adana; a poem dedicated to the victims of the genocide engraved on a glass in a busy metro-station called Armenia in Sao Paulo.
The uplifting memories are endless. Receiving my grandmother from Armenia, a small tree in her hands that customs somehow allowed her to bring to the US, because she HAD to plant an Armenian tree in her daughter´s garden; a French-Armenian girl running up to me in a huge crowd of strangers, eager to meet the very first Armenian from Armenia at a social event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the enthusiasm of the youth dancing shurj par at the cultural center in Buenos Aires; the four Armenians united by some incredible force of serendipity on a metro train en route to the Maracana Stadium, drawn by the Armenian flag I was carrying to a World Cup game in Rio de Janeiro.
The stories are infinite and distinct, but all connected by something truly Armenian that our people carry with them no matter where they are.
The urge to give voice to their unmistakably Armenian voices, whose individual and collective stories remain unknown to the world, inspired me to implement a project, entitled Armenia Sings on in our Hearts. The short documentary will tell the story of the Armenians a century after the genocide by capturing the common threat that persisted in the individuals that persevered, formed new communities around the world, and maintained their identity so far from home.
Isabella Bablumian currently resides in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She works in the field of International Relations and Development and is also a singer who performs classical and traditional Armenian music. She is currently working on a documentary entitled Armenia Sings on in our Hearts.