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.

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.

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.

The Armenian Who Thought She Was a Turk

By Melissa Lake

An important part of stating Armenian culture has never died is to focus on its evolution. In biology we determine the fitness of a species by its ability to adapt to and cope with its environment, and just like animals will experience the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” law of nature, cultures throughout society have come and gone, waxed and waned, morphing and changing with time, some continuing on while others are left to die. As a scientist, I’m inclined to draw parallels to the laws of nature, so Armenian culture was no different to me. I see our common ancestor, a rich but concentrated culture exclusive to almost one singular area of the world, and I see its descendants, its gradual evolution and growth, its continued adaptations needed to survive in new environments. I see the branching from the original, the creation of different sub-families within a greater species. And like species in nature, while we all share a similar common ancestor, while our basic foundations are from the same source, all different Armenian cultures had to individually adapt to survive to their unique environments.

For my personal cultural experience, I was raised believing I was Turkish while still knowing I was Armenian. Whether it be to spare a child from tales of horrific violence, the inability to speak of a wound still raw and painful, or the fact that the reason my family is here today is thanks to the kindness of Turkish strangers, my mother never really spoke to me of the genocide when I was young. So my youth was a mix of two conflicting cultures: I ate breakfast in a kitchen adorned with Armenian flags but then talked about Turkey when people asked what ethnicity my mother was. My mother never renounced her nationality but also never abandoned her heritage. She was Turkish-Armenian just as American diaspora-born Armenians are Armenian-American. But I think this cultural fusion speaks more for Armenian perseverance than it does of forced Turkish cultural assimilation. My mother and her family spent years hiding their true ethnicity, adopting a culture that had seen to the decimation of their own. And yet their root culture was not lost, it had simply changed, evolving in its latency.

I’m here now, an adult raised a part of two enemy cultures, proud to say I am both, but also acutely aware that I am an Armenian by blood and birthright, and a Turk by genocide. And thus, I don’t think it would be too bold to say that Armenian genetics are a dominant trait. Somewhere on one of our 46 chromosomes sits an allele unique to Armenians and even through generational dilution it still permeates as strong as ever.

Even I stand up here today, half Turkish diasporan Armenian and half generationally American, raised in a town where I was the only Armenian, incapable of speaking the language of my ancestors, more than aware that I am Armenian before I am anything else. And whether it be through generations of ethnic mixing or from sheer distance from an elusive homeland, this genomic marker still remains permanent and impervious to the effects of time and other evasive cultural interference.

We are a culture of a people marred by tragedy and driven by strength. We are a culture of people who refuse to be forgotten, a people who refuse to be ignored and driven into obscurity. We are a culture that has survived through insurmountable strife and impossible odds. We are a culture that has come back from the systematic annihilation of our people stronger than we were before. You can drag us from our homes, you can burn us and rape us and reduce us to nothing, you can forcefully and coercively take the people out of Armenia, but you cannot, through any form of abuse or injustice or forced assimilation, take Armenia out of the people.

Midnight at Conrads

By Missak Artinian

Since moving to Glendale, one of my chief goals has been to make some new Armenian friends. But where, I wondered, did the young Armenian-Americans of Glendale congregate? Word on the street was anywhere that served hookah.

A quick google search brought up a huge list of lounges, and since I didn’t feel like driving too far, I picked the closest one to my apartment. Before leaving, I slung my laptop bag across my shoulder because I figured it would look really awkward just sitting at the hookah lounge all by myself. At least with my laptop, I could pretend to be working on something important and look less like a loser.

I sat alone in a corner table, surrounded by people who kind of looked like me. The waiter handed me a hookah menu with an overwhelming amount of flavor choices. I went with watermelon because it seemed healthier than the white gummi bear option. This wasn’t my first experience smoking hookah, mind you, but it was my first experience smoking hookah to the tune of contemporary gems like I Don’t Fuck With You and I’m In Love with The Coco.

After about an hour of abusing my lungs and accomplishing absolutely nothing on my laptop, I asked for the check, when, suddenly, an angel walked in. She joined her friends at the table across from mine. The waiter came with the check and I was like, “On second thought, I’ll have another beer.” I couldn’t leave yet. Not without talking to the alluring mystery girl first.

Carefully observing my surroundings, I noticed that even though the Armenian customers were separated by table, they were all connected in some way through school or work or something. Literally everyone in that hookah lounge was part of a greater social circle, everyone except me. But I was no stranger to being an outsider, and if I really wanted to enter their social circle, I had a few tricks up my sleeve.

My ticket in was these two guys playing a card game. I approached them and asked if I could show them something cool. They looked at me skeptically, but they agreed and handed me the deck of cards. I performed a few card tricks for them, and by the end of the third one, a mind-reading trick, one of them uttered the magic word: “Bro.” And just like that, I was accepted into the family.

By the end of the night, I had navigated my way through the social web until I was sitting at the table with the angel, whose name was not Arpineh, but let’s pretend it was.

“The hookah here sucks,” she said to the girl sitting next to her, who looked like her name could be Anoush or maybe even Hasmik. “You should try Vartan’s hookah. It’s literally the sickest. He makes like, the sickest hookah.”

In my mind, I was thinking, Really? That’s all it takes to impress you? A dude who knows how to stuff a bowl with tobacco? Okay, Missak. You got this. Just be confident.

“So you come here often?” I asked Arpineh, which, in retrospect, is a terrible way to start a conversation, but that’s what you get when you spend most of your youth learning how to do stupid card tricks instead of learning how to talk to girls.

“Sometimes.”

“I noticed a lot of people know each other here. You all meet at AYF or something?”

“No.”

“Oh, I see.” Come on, Missak. You’re losing her. Quick. Come up with something clever. “Do you like cheese?”

“I have a boyfriend.”

NOOOOOOO! Really, Missak? Cheese? That’s the best you could do? That’s your romantic tour de force? Cheese?

“Let me guess. His name is Vartan.”

She nodded her head.

“Just curious. His hookah, how sick is it, really?”

“The sickest.”

I was a little restless when I left the hookah lounge that night, so I went to the only diner intended for the insomniacs of Glendale: Conrads. There in a corner booth, I sat staring at a blank document on my laptop for about an hour when someone approached my table.

“Hi.”

“Hey,” I said, snapping out of my daydream. She was pretty, about my age, wearing a black t-shirt and gray sweatpants that seemed a little wide for her thin frame. Her forehead was covered by bangs similar to Anna Karina from Vivre sa vie and her eyes were framed by thick-framed glasses.

“I didn’t mean to bother you, but I feel like I recognize you from somewhere.”

“Really?” I said, thinking maybe she was confusing me with one of my celebrity doppelgangers. Such as Ryan Gosling or Channing Tatum.

“Are you the guy who wrote that article about A Douchebag from Glendale?

“Whoa. You read that?”

“It was on my feed.”

“How’d you know it was me?”

“Don’t judge. But I kind of Facebook stalked you.”

“You know, I really think that’s an exclusively female privilege.”

“What? Being a creeper?”

“Without being creepy.”

She smiled, which I interpreted as a good sign, though I had to stop myself from getting too excited because I have a handicap when it comes to reading signs. That I’m actually able to obey any traffic law at all is a miracle.

“Are you Armenian?” I asked.

“What makes you think that?”

“Your bracelet.”

She was wearing one of those evil eye bracelets, which is based on a superstition that I believe was created by old Armenian ladies to make pinching the butts of little children socially acceptable.

“You’re an observant one.”

“Not really. This is Glendale. I had a one-in-three chance.”

“True.”

“What’s your name?”

“Michelle.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Missak.”

“I know.”

“Did you want to maybe have a seat?”

“You seem like you’re in the middle of something.”

I looked at the blank document on my laptop. Closed the lid.

“It can wait.”

She sat down across from me.

“So what brings you to Conrads, besides boosting my ego?” I asked in a cheeky tone.

“Don’t flatter yourself. I was studying.”

“For what?”

“Criminal procedure.”

“That’s cool. Is that the kind of law you want to practice?”

“Not sure yet. Still figuring it out. What about you?”

“I’m done with school.”

“I mean what are you doing here, besides staring at your laptop?”

“Oh. Nothing. Just thinking.”

“About?”

“I don’t know. Before moving out here, I was kind of excited about the idea of being surrounded by Armenians, you know? But the more I stay here, the more I’m starting to think I don’t have much in common with my own people.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, before I came here, I was at this hookah lounge and I was talking to this Armenian girl whose boyfriend makes like the sickest hookah. You don’t even understand how sick, okay? It’s literally the sickest.”

“Oh, God,” Michelle said, chuckling. “That accent brings me back to high school.”

“Did you go to high school here?”

“Yeah.”

“What was it like?”

“Ever see Mean Girls? Imagine that movie, but with the Kardashians.”

“Sounds awful.”

“I have stories.”

“Tell me.”

“No. I’m not good at telling stories.”

“Come on. You can’t just tease me like that.”

“Fine. But only if you promise you won’t write about it.”

“That’s a promise I can’t keep.”

“Then no deal.”

“Okay, I promise.”

“Now you’re lying.”

“Says the aspiring lawyer.”

She flipped the bird, a playful jest, I think, which I interpreted as a good sign, though I had to stop myself from getting too excited for reasons I explained earlier in respect to signs.

“If you think about it, no one ever really questions that stereotype,” she said.

“About lawyers?”

“Yeah. It’s weird. Why is saying ‘all lawyers are liars’ less offensive than saying ‘all Irish people are heavy drinkers’ or ‘all girls are bad at sports?’”

“I guess because those stereotypes are about race and gender.”

“Yeah, but why do we make that distinction?”

“I don’t think saying ‘all lawyers are liars’ is as offensive as saying ‘all Muslims are extremists’ or ‘all Mexicans are lazy.’”

“You’re talking about the content. I’m talking about the logic behind the content.”

“What logic?”

“It’s like this. If I said ‘all Armenians are reckless drivers,’ you would say that’s offensive, right?”

“Not really. That one’s actually on point.”

“I’m being serious.”

“Okay, sorry. It’s offensive.”

“But if I said ‘all blondes are dumb,’ would you think that’s equally offensive?”

“Probably not.”

“What I’m saying is they should be because we’re not asking enough out of ourselves if we think simplistically in those terms, no matter what those terms may be.”

She was right. I began to think about Arpineh from the hookah lounge and how I didn’t know anything about her. What does she study? What is her family like? Is she happy? I didn’t consider what her goals and dreams are or whether she had her own set of problems. She could be an incredibly complex human being, yet I had reduced her to an accent and painted her as an ethnic stereotype.

“What’s wrong?” Michelle asked.

“Nothing,” I said, snapping out of my daydream. “I just had never thought of it like that before. I actually do it all the time.”

“We all do it. I’m sure if you met me back in high school, I would have told you all Turks are bad.”

“What changed?”

“Before my great grandmother passed away, I asked her if she hated the Turks for killing her family during the Genocide. And what she said really stuck with me. She said, ‘Look, my child. There are bad Turks and there are good Turks. There are bad Armenians and there are good Armenians.’”

“Wow. What an amazing woman.”

“Bro, you don’t even know. She was literally, like the sickest, okay?”

We laughed. It was starting to get late, and we decided to call it a night. I walked Michelle to her car, which, for the record, was not a white Bimmer.

“Hey,” I said, before she closed her car’s door. “I want to ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“Do you like cheese?”

She smiled.

“I love cheese.”

I smiled back nervously, contemplating whether or not I should reveal that I’m actually lactose intolerant. But it was a beautiful night in Glendale, and I didn’t want to ruin the mood.

100 Years Later

By Melissa Lake

There is absolutely no rebuttal in saying that the Armenian Genocide was a horrific and senseless display of human cruelty and indifference. It is a large, unsightly stain upon the history of the world. I’m certain that if it were scientifically possible, most people would have it so that such an immense human tragedy had never happened.

However, while some may think it callous to say so, it would be historically and culturally ignorant to not take into consideration the few positive outcomes that resulted from the Armenian Genocide.

Armenians today could be described as a diaspora culture. Our ethnic heritage may have its roots placed in a small area in the west of Europe but the branches of our cultural tree have grown far and wide across the globe. A culture once fenced in and limited to a specific geographical region of the world has both developed and evolved, changing and morphing into something much different from what it began, as well as much different from other branches on the same familial tree.

Armenians are a people united in origin and fundamental cultural and dogmatic practices and yet it seems almost as if that is where our unity ends. The mass displacement of Armenians during the years preceding and during the genocide caused an irreparable cultural tear from traditional practices that we can easily see the effects of today. Armenians raised generationally in Syria, or Istanbul, or on the East Coast of the United States, while sharing some lasting and vital cultural characteristics, could be labeled as their own unique subcultures, somewhat similar but still astoundingly different.

I first realized this when I dated an Armenian who had grown up in New York City. At a young age, he had been adopted from Armenia. Both his parents were Armenian, so he spent the entirety of his young adult life immersed in his personal sect of Armenian culture- a small diaspora located in the New York/New Jersey area. So much of his appeal to me was a chance to connect with someone with a similar cultural background- to be able to share common beliefs and ideals and family lifestyles. But the more time I spent with him, the more acutely aware I became of the dissimilarity we shared culturally. His family life was much more reserved and conservative, full of professionals who behaved, well, professionally. And my family life was far different. The Armenians I grew up with were carefree, eccentric and astoundingly loud. So when I tried to joke with him about how the most cheetah print and stripper heels I’ve ever seen in my life were at the Armenian church on Easter Sunday, he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. And it was then that I realized exactly how much our culture has changed. The diaspora I grew up in, a large community of mostly Turkish and Syrian Armenians, was bound to be immensely different than others across the world. So much of our cultural traditions had adapted and grew with our change of scenery so that now, intermingled with our traditional beliefs and practices, are customs native to the places Armenians have found themselves. So my reality was that my culture was as much Turkish as it was Armenian, regardless of the fact that my mother and my family had spent their whole lives immersed in “Armenian” culture.

Many see this as a terrible tragedy, as an egregious calamitous aftermath of a horrific event. Yet it seems that the people who see it this way are also those that believe that change is terrifying. Cultural evolution, especially from a biological and historical context, is not only intrinsically necessary but humanitarianly beneficial. Culture changes with the evolution of time. The fact that Armenians as a people were able to experience such an immense tragedy and still maintain a base foundational cultural identity is less of an unfortunate loss and more of a remarkable achievement.

For a people who were ignored for much of history, Armenians across the world have been gaining renown and spreading Armenian awareness with their success, all while breathing new life into Armenian cultural identity. And still all Armenians share the cultural pain of our genocide. For such an immense act of human injustice, the Armenian Genocide is in all likelihood one of the largest sources for encouragement on Armenian communal gathering today. To say it is culturally irrelevant or unimportant would be to disregard what Armenian culture has become. Through such immense hardship and strife, Armenians have endured, and this shared strength and pride and yet also immense sadness has woven itself into a key block in the foundation of Armenian culture.

So through all of the varying differences Armenians culturally share today we are bonded together foundationally by our shared history and our distant past. Where we may lead different lifestyles and have different beliefs, as a culture we are bonded by what we were and what we’ve endured but also by what we may become. As the 100 year anniversary of the genocide looms ever closer, Armenians have become more active in their communities than ever and slowly but surely gaps that have existed between varying diasporas are narrowing. For a country that once struggled to maintain its cultural identity in the midst of war and systematic annihilation, it has flourished and grown into something even greater than what it began.

Irrepressible

By Semaline Joukakelian (Guest Contributor)

semaline

Semaline Joukakelian is a graphic designer living in Montreal, Canada.  She enjoys painting and reading, and finds inspiration in the voices of Arthur Meschian and Ruben Hakhverdyan.