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Sassoun Pilgrimage: 82 Year-Old Hayk Khamoyan Travels to Ancestral Home in Aghbi

August 17, 2012 Armenia, Arts No Comments
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10:35, August 17, 2012

82 year-old Hayk Khamoyan pulls out a slip of paper from his vest pocket.

He’s recently returned from visiting his family roots in western Armenia and the paper lists the names of the places he saw along the way.

“I have trouble remembering all the names, so I had my son jot them down. When my neighbours ask me where I went, I give them the paper to read. Everyone is curious. Just this morning I showed the list to some people here,” says Mr. Khamoyan.

Grandpa Hayk examines the paper and turns to his son Radik, “Hey, you forget to put down Aghtamar. I got on the boat and went to the island. I lit a candle at the church.”

Hayk Khamoyan is the first of the descendants of those who fled the Aghbi village of Sassoun during the Genocide, and made their way to Verin Bazmaberd in Aragatzotn Marz, to return to the ancestral home of Gyalarash, a neighbourhood of Aghbi. The various neighbourhoods of the Aghbi are miles apart from each other, nestled in the mountains and valley of Sassoun.

“I really wanted to take my father and uncle there; the place of their roots. God granted me the pleasure to go myself and see their native home. I had always dreamt of going to western Armenia with them,” says Hayk’s son Radik.

Radik is the secretary of the Sassoun-Taron Patriotic Union and has sung in the Akounk, Zvartounk and Maratouk groups. He’s also taught traditional dance.

Hayk Khamoyan’s father was the only member of the extended clan who made it out alive.   Some forty members of the clan died during the Genocide, many during self-defence battles in the mountains.

There a woman named Shoushan in Verin Bazmaberd who also made the trek from Aghbi. She was an eye witness to how the village was raided and plundered and how Hayk’s relatives, except his father, were killed. She has related all this to Hayk.

Hayk’s father made his way to eastern Armenia and the village of Verin Bazmaberd where he married and tried to make a new life.

Grandpa Hayk says the family story goes that they wanted to remain close to the border in order to return to western Armenia one day. “They always preserved that longing to go back but it never happened. Would the Soviet Union allow anyone to cross the border?”

“I also remember that old woman Shoushan,” says Radik. “They came here and died here. But they always talked about their home and village back over there. Over the years, I heard so many stories about the place that I could actually picture it all.”

The Soviets exiled Hayk’s father as a subversive in 1942 to Siberia where he died or was killed. Nobody can say for sure. He left eight children in Bazmaberd and a widow.

“Exile, massacres, the KGB, WWII, eight fatherless children, etc. Talk about fate. And now one of those eight kids makes the journey back to his father’s native land,” says Radik.

Hayk’s mother, who hailed from Basin, was also the only member of her family to survive the Genocide. When she passed in 1996, the family had 156 grand and great grandchildren. Hayk has since given up counting. “But my sister’s husband is a teacher and he’s kept a list of the extended family and all the births.”

Radik is preparing to publish the family tree and history. According to his research, the family can trace their roots to Sassoun as far back as the 1600s.

97 Years of Longing: Finding the House Built by His Grandfather

Grandpa Hayk was able to locate the Gyalarash neighbourhood of Aghbi village and even his father’s house. The old man was persistent and asked anyone willing to talk.

He had also learnt Kurdish over the years from the Yeminis living in the village of Matador near Bazmaberd. His knowledge of the language came in handy during his travels in western Armenia.

Hayk had been told by his father that there was a big walnut tree by their house in the “old country” and a spring nearby. The house was built by Hay’s grandfather, Khmu. The tree had been planted by him as well. Khmo had also built a basin to collect the water following from the mountains.

Hayk’s father had six brothers that lived side by side in four homes. When Hayk visited only his father’s house and another were left.

“I told the Kurds They Can Stay”

Hayk approached his father’s house and asked the current Kurdish residents who the house belonged to. They said they didn’t know. When Hayk said it was the home of Khmo, one of the Kurds, in amazement, said. Yes.

The new residents haven’t renovated the house at all. It has the same roof and inner beams.

“I told that Kurd that these are the beams built by my grandfather. He said, yes. The guy hasn’t changes a thing other than taking down the nearby tonratoun (clay pit for baking and cooking).”

Without being invited inside, Hayk opened the door, entered the house and made a tour. The Kurds did nothing to stop him.

“It was like I was entering my own home. I didn’t feel like a stranger at all. Not for one minute. I was on my ancestral land and it all seemed so familiar and intimate,” Hayk recounts.

Inside, the only furniture was an old sofa. There was a Kurd lying on it.

When Hayk entered the man got up, somewhat startled. “I told him this is the house of my grandfather but don’t worry, I haven’t come to put you out. Upon hearing this he smiled a bit and confessed that, yes, this is the home of Khmo,” says Hayk.

Hayk says the water from the spring is still following. The Kurds had chopped down most of the walnut tree, saying that it had gotten too big and the branches had covered the nearby garden. Hayk says they cut it down for its wood.

The Kurds then invited the visiting Armenians in for refreshments and even called in a singer to entertain them. One of the Kurds living in the house had been given a Kalashnikov by the government. The man was working as a village patrol member for the government, a kind of eyes and ears to monitor the movements of Kurdish separatists.

Hayk says that there are 3-4 houses occupied in each of the neighbourhoods of Aghbi, but there are no stores or medical clinics. Many of the Kurds have left the mountainous areas and moved down into the valley.

I felt right at home in Sassoun”

“Only the very strong have remained in the mountains. It’s an 8 kilometre climb. Imagine going up and down with baggage? No road existed here in the past but they’ve built one now,” Hayk says.

Hayk brought back stones from his father’s house and water from the spring. He also brought back a stone polished from years of spring water running over it.

He scattered the soil he brought back from western Armenia over the graves of Sassoun descendants and others now buried in Verin Bazmaberd.

The 82 year-old was the eldest in the group of 15 that made the trip to western Armenia. But he was one of the most indefatigable.

“I felt no tiredness there, just happiness. I extracted strength from Sassoun and its mountains. And we made our way to all the mountains even though the roads were in terrible shape and quite scary.”

Hayk has returned but now he feels the same longing for western Armenia and Sassoun in particular that his forbearers had after being exiled.

“I sit and remember what I have seen and where I have been. My longing hasn’t been quenched. Western Armenia is just like the old folk described it, a paradise. Our Sassoun folk are mountain people but down in Moush it’s a Garden of Eden. Everything grows there,” Hayk recounts.

The Vardanyans of Moush: A Father’s Terrible Choice

Hamayak Vardanyan, Hayk’s brother-in-law who also made the trip, says that Moush alone could feed all of Armenia.

“It’s all fertile land. Moush, Erzeroum, Bitlis, Basen, Sarikamish. Just go and see what I mean. We go as visitors with heavy hearts, see all that, and come back here.”

Hamayak Vadanyan lives in the village of Kakavadzor in Aragatzotn Marz. It’s his first trip to western Armenia. He too found his ancestral home in the Verin Marnik village of Moush.

The house and most of the village is in ruins. There are only 10 or so occupied house in the village. He says there isn’t even a paved road leading to the Msho Arakelots Vank of lore.

Hamayak’s father was the only sibling who survived the Genocide. On the road of exile from Moush, his father took his baby boy from his wife’s hand, wrapped it up and left the child in a wheat field. The father collected the children of is two brothers instead and brought them to Kakavadzor to keep the family tree alive.

All of the members of the brothers’ family died in the Genocide. If Hamayak’s father hadn’t saved the children, the family would have disappeared without a trace.

“When they arrived at this place there was a terrible hailstorm that destroyed the crop. My mother would cry and say that God was punishing us for leaving that baby behind. My father replied by saying that ‘God knows what I did. I left my baby behind in order to save the children of my two brothers,” Hamayak recounts.

The family of the brothers survived. One of the descendants was the physician Vahe Baghdasaryan who fought and died in the Artskah War.

Photos: Hakob Poghosyan

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. 19 Year-Old Armenian Soldier Laid to Rest in Amberd
  2. 14-year old boy hangs himself in Armenia’s Lori region (photos)
  3. The “Football” Process Between Armenia & Turkey Is Over: Hayk Demoyan
  4. Hayk Babukhanyan: Armenia Should Set March 1 As A Deadline For Ratification
  5. 28 Year-Old Independent Wins Mayoral Election in Griboyedov

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10:35, August 17, 2012

82 year-old Hayk Khamoyan pulls out a slip of paper from his vest pocket.

He’s recently returned from visiting his family roots in western Armenia and the paper lists the names of the places he saw along the way.

“I have trouble remembering all the names, so I had my son jot them down. When my neighbours ask me where I went, I give them the paper to read. Everyone is curious. Just this morning I showed the list to some people here,” says Mr. Khamoyan.

Grandpa Hayk examines the paper and turns to his son Radik, “Hey, you forget to put down Aghtamar. I got on the boat and went to the island. I lit a candle at the church.”

Hayk Khamoyan is the first of the descendants of those who fled the Aghbi village of Sassoun during the Genocide, and made their way to Verin Bazmaberd in Aragatzotn Marz, to return to the ancestral home of Gyalarash, a neighbourhood of Aghbi. The various neighbourhoods of the Aghbi are miles apart from each other, nestled in the mountains and valley of Sassoun.

“I really wanted to take my father and uncle there; the place of their roots. God granted me the pleasure to go myself and see their native home. I had always dreamt of going to western Armenia with them,” says Hayk’s son Radik.

Radik is the secretary of the Sassoun-Taron Patriotic Union and has sung in the Akounk, Zvartounk and Maratouk groups. He’s also taught traditional dance.

Hayk Khamoyan’s father was the only member of the extended clan who made it out alive.   Some forty members of the clan died during the Genocide, many during self-defence battles in the mountains.

There a woman named Shoushan in Verin Bazmaberd who also made the trek from Aghbi. She was an eye witness to how the village was raided and plundered and how Hayk’s relatives, except his father, were killed. She has related all this to Hayk.

Hayk’s father made his way to eastern Armenia and the village of Verin Bazmaberd where he married and tried to make a new life.

Grandpa Hayk says the family story goes that they wanted to remain close to the border in order to return to western Armenia one day. “They always preserved that longing to go back but it never happened. Would the Soviet Union allow anyone to cross the border?”

“I also remember that old woman Shoushan,” says Radik. “They came here and died here. But they always talked about their home and village back over there. Over the years, I heard so many stories about the place that I could actually picture it all.”

The Soviets exiled Hayk’s father as a subversive in 1942 to Siberia where he died or was killed. Nobody can say for sure. He left eight children in Bazmaberd and a widow.

“Exile, massacres, the KGB, WWII, eight fatherless children, etc. Talk about fate. And now one of those eight kids makes the journey back to his father’s native land,” says Radik.

Hayk’s mother, who hailed from Basin, was also the only member of her family to survive the Genocide. When she passed in 1996, the family had 156 grand and great grandchildren. Hayk has since given up counting. “But my sister’s husband is a teacher and he’s kept a list of the extended family and all the births.”

Radik is preparing to publish the family tree and history. According to his research, the family can trace their roots to Sassoun as far back as the 1600s.

97 Years of Longing: Finding the House Built by His Grandfather

Grandpa Hayk was able to locate the Gyalarash neighbourhood of Aghbi village and even his father’s house. The old man was persistent and asked anyone willing to talk.

He had also learnt Kurdish over the years from the Yeminis living in the village of Matador near Bazmaberd. His knowledge of the language came in handy during his travels in western Armenia.

Hayk had been told by his father that there was a big walnut tree by their house in the “old country” and a spring nearby. The house was built by Hay’s grandfather, Khmu. The tree had been planted by him as well. Khmo had also built a basin to collect the water following from the mountains.

Hayk’s father had six brothers that lived side by side in four homes. When Hayk visited only his father’s house and another were left.

“I told the Kurds They Can Stay”

Hayk approached his father’s house and asked the current Kurdish residents who the house belonged to. They said they didn’t know. When Hayk said it was the home of Khmo, one of the Kurds, in amazement, said. Yes.

The new residents haven’t renovated the house at all. It has the same roof and inner beams.

“I told that Kurd that these are the beams built by my grandfather. He said, yes. The guy hasn’t changes a thing other than taking down the nearby tonratoun (clay pit for baking and cooking).”

Without being invited inside, Hayk opened the door, entered the house and made a tour. The Kurds did nothing to stop him.

“It was like I was entering my own home. I didn’t feel like a stranger at all. Not for one minute. I was on my ancestral land and it all seemed so familiar and intimate,” Hayk recounts.

Inside, the only furniture was an old sofa. There was a Kurd lying on it.

When Hayk entered the man got up, somewhat startled. “I told him this is the house of my grandfather but don’t worry, I haven’t come to put you out. Upon hearing this he smiled a bit and confessed that, yes, this is the home of Khmo,” says Hayk.

Hayk says the water from the spring is still following. The Kurds had chopped down most of the walnut tree, saying that it had gotten too big and the branches had covered the nearby garden. Hayk says they cut it down for its wood.

The Kurds then invited the visiting Armenians in for refreshments and even called in a singer to entertain them. One of the Kurds living in the house had been given a Kalashnikov by the government. The man was working as a village patrol member for the government, a kind of eyes and ears to monitor the movements of Kurdish separatists.

Hayk says that there are 3-4 houses occupied in each of the neighbourhoods of Aghbi, but there are no stores or medical clinics. Many of the Kurds have left the mountainous areas and moved down into the valley.

I felt right at home in Sassoun”

“Only the very strong have remained in the mountains. It’s an 8 kilometre climb. Imagine going up and down with baggage? No road existed here in the past but they’ve built one now,” Hayk says.

Hayk brought back stones from his father’s house and water from the spring. He also brought back a stone polished from years of spring water running over it.

He scattered the soil he brought back from western Armenia over the graves of Sassoun descendants and others now buried in Verin Bazmaberd.

The 82 year-old was the eldest in the group of 15 that made the trip to western Armenia. But he was one of the most indefatigable.

“I felt no tiredness there, just happiness. I extracted strength from Sassoun and its mountains. And we made our way to all the mountains even though the roads were in terrible shape and quite scary.”

Hayk has returned but now he feels the same longing for western Armenia and Sassoun in particular that his forbearers had after being exiled.

“I sit and remember what I have seen and where I have been. My longing hasn’t been quenched. Western Armenia is just like the old folk described it, a paradise. Our Sassoun folk are mountain people but down in Moush it’s a Garden of Eden. Everything grows there,” Hayk recounts.

The Vardanyans of Moush: A Father’s Terrible Choice

Hamayak Vardanyan, Hayk’s brother-in-law who also made the trip, says that Moush alone could feed all of Armenia.

“It’s all fertile land. Moush, Erzeroum, Bitlis, Basen, Sarikamish. Just go and see what I mean. We go as visitors with heavy hearts, see all that, and come back here.”

Hamayak Vadanyan lives in the village of Kakavadzor in Aragatzotn Marz. It’s his first trip to western Armenia. He too found his ancestral home in the Verin Marnik village of Moush.

The house and most of the village is in ruins. There are only 10 or so occupied house in the village. He says there isn’t even a paved road leading to the Msho Arakelots Vank of lore.

Hamayak’s father was the only sibling who survived the Genocide. On the road of exile from Moush, his father took his baby boy from his wife’s hand, wrapped it up and left the child in a wheat field. The father collected the children of is two brothers instead and brought them to Kakavadzor to keep the family tree alive.

All of the members of the brothers’ family died in the Genocide. If Hamayak’s father hadn’t saved the children, the family would have disappeared without a trace.

“When they arrived at this place there was a terrible hailstorm that destroyed the crop. My mother would cry and say that God was punishing us for leaving that baby behind. My father replied by saying that ‘God knows what I did. I left my baby behind in order to save the children of my two brothers,” Hamayak recounts.

The family of the brothers survived. One of the descendants was the physician Vahe Baghdasaryan who fought and died in the Artskah War.

Photos: Hakob Poghosyan

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. 19 Year-Old Armenian Soldier Laid to Rest in Amberd
  2. 14-year old boy hangs himself in Armenia’s Lori region (photos)
  3. The “Football” Process Between Armenia & Turkey Is Over: Hayk Demoyan
  4. Hayk Babukhanyan: Armenia Should Set March 1 As A Deadline For Ratification
  5. 28 Year-Old Independent Wins Mayoral Election in Griboyedov

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

10:35, August 17, 2012

82 year-old Hayk Khamoyan pulls out a slip of paper from his vest pocket.

He’s recently returned from visiting his family roots in western Armenia and the paper lists the names of the places he saw along the way.

“I have trouble remembering all the names, so I had my son jot them down. When my neighbours ask me where I went, I give them the paper to read. Everyone is curious. Just this morning I showed the list to some people here,” says Mr. Khamoyan.

Grandpa Hayk examines the paper and turns to his son Radik, “Hey, you forget to put down Aghtamar. I got on the boat and went to the island. I lit a candle at the church.”

Hayk Khamoyan is the first of the descendants of those who fled the Aghbi village of Sassoun during the Genocide, and made their way to Verin Bazmaberd in Aragatzotn Marz, to return to the ancestral home of Gyalarash, a neighbourhood of Aghbi. The various neighbourhoods of the Aghbi are miles apart from each other, nestled in the mountains and valley of Sassoun.

“I really wanted to take my father and uncle there; the place of their roots. God granted me the pleasure to go myself and see their native home. I had always dreamt of going to western Armenia with them,” says Hayk’s son Radik.

Radik is the secretary of the Sassoun-Taron Patriotic Union and has sung in the Akounk, Zvartounk and Maratouk groups. He’s also taught traditional dance.

Hayk Khamoyan’s father was the only member of the extended clan who made it out alive.   Some forty members of the clan died during the Genocide, many during self-defence battles in the mountains.

There a woman named Shoushan in Verin Bazmaberd who also made the trek from Aghbi. She was an eye witness to how the village was raided and plundered and how Hayk’s relatives, except his father, were killed. She has related all this to Hayk.

Hayk’s father made his way to eastern Armenia and the village of Verin Bazmaberd where he married and tried to make a new life.

Grandpa Hayk says the family story goes that they wanted to remain close to the border in order to return to western Armenia one day. “They always preserved that longing to go back but it never happened. Would the Soviet Union allow anyone to cross the border?”

“I also remember that old woman Shoushan,” says Radik. “They came here and died here. But they always talked about their home and village back over there. Over the years, I heard so many stories about the place that I could actually picture it all.”

The Soviets exiled Hayk’s father as a subversive in 1942 to Siberia where he died or was killed. Nobody can say for sure. He left eight children in Bazmaberd and a widow.

“Exile, massacres, the KGB, WWII, eight fatherless children, etc. Talk about fate. And now one of those eight kids makes the journey back to his father’s native land,” says Radik.

Hayk’s mother, who hailed from Basin, was also the only member of her family to survive the Genocide. When she passed in 1996, the family had 156 grand and great grandchildren. Hayk has since given up counting. “But my sister’s husband is a teacher and he’s kept a list of the extended family and all the births.”

Radik is preparing to publish the family tree and history. According to his research, the family can trace their roots to Sassoun as far back as the 1600s.

97 Years of Longing: Finding the House Built by His Grandfather

Grandpa Hayk was able to locate the Gyalarash neighbourhood of Aghbi village and even his father’s house. The old man was persistent and asked anyone willing to talk.

He had also learnt Kurdish over the years from the Yeminis living in the village of Matador near Bazmaberd. His knowledge of the language came in handy during his travels in western Armenia.

Hayk had been told by his father that there was a big walnut tree by their house in the “old country” and a spring nearby. The house was built by Hay’s grandfather, Khmu. The tree had been planted by him as well. Khmo had also built a basin to collect the water following from the mountains.

Hayk’s father had six brothers that lived side by side in four homes. When Hayk visited only his father’s house and another were left.

“I told the Kurds They Can Stay”

Hayk approached his father’s house and asked the current Kurdish residents who the house belonged to. They said they didn’t know. When Hayk said it was the home of Khmo, one of the Kurds, in amazement, said. Yes.

The new residents haven’t renovated the house at all. It has the same roof and inner beams.

“I told that Kurd that these are the beams built by my grandfather. He said, yes. The guy hasn’t changes a thing other than taking down the nearby tonratoun (clay pit for baking and cooking).”

Without being invited inside, Hayk opened the door, entered the house and made a tour. The Kurds did nothing to stop him.

“It was like I was entering my own home. I didn’t feel like a stranger at all. Not for one minute. I was on my ancestral land and it all seemed so familiar and intimate,” Hayk recounts.

Inside, the only furniture was an old sofa. There was a Kurd lying on it.

When Hayk entered the man got up, somewhat startled. “I told him this is the house of my grandfather but don’t worry, I haven’t come to put you out. Upon hearing this he smiled a bit and confessed that, yes, this is the home of Khmo,” says Hayk.

Hayk says the water from the spring is still following. The Kurds had chopped down most of the walnut tree, saying that it had gotten too big and the branches had covered the nearby garden. Hayk says they cut it down for its wood.

The Kurds then invited the visiting Armenians in for refreshments and even called in a singer to entertain them. One of the Kurds living in the house had been given a Kalashnikov by the government. The man was working as a village patrol member for the government, a kind of eyes and ears to monitor the movements of Kurdish separatists.

Hayk says that there are 3-4 houses occupied in each of the neighbourhoods of Aghbi, but there are no stores or medical clinics. Many of the Kurds have left the mountainous areas and moved down into the valley.

I felt right at home in Sassoun”

“Only the very strong have remained in the mountains. It’s an 8 kilometre climb. Imagine going up and down with baggage? No road existed here in the past but they’ve built one now,” Hayk says.

Hayk brought back stones from his father’s house and water from the spring. He also brought back a stone polished from years of spring water running over it.

He scattered the soil he brought back from western Armenia over the graves of Sassoun descendants and others now buried in Verin Bazmaberd.

The 82 year-old was the eldest in the group of 15 that made the trip to western Armenia. But he was one of the most indefatigable.

“I felt no tiredness there, just happiness. I extracted strength from Sassoun and its mountains. And we made our way to all the mountains even though the roads were in terrible shape and quite scary.”

Hayk has returned but now he feels the same longing for western Armenia and Sassoun in particular that his forbearers had after being exiled.

“I sit and remember what I have seen and where I have been. My longing hasn’t been quenched. Western Armenia is just like the old folk described it, a paradise. Our Sassoun folk are mountain people but down in Moush it’s a Garden of Eden. Everything grows there,” Hayk recounts.

The Vardanyans of Moush: A Father’s Terrible Choice

Hamayak Vardanyan, Hayk’s brother-in-law who also made the trip, says that Moush alone could feed all of Armenia.

“It’s all fertile land. Moush, Erzeroum, Bitlis, Basen, Sarikamish. Just go and see what I mean. We go as visitors with heavy hearts, see all that, and come back here.”

Hamayak Vadanyan lives in the village of Kakavadzor in Aragatzotn Marz. It’s his first trip to western Armenia. He too found his ancestral home in the Verin Marnik village of Moush.

The house and most of the village is in ruins. There are only 10 or so occupied house in the village. He says there isn’t even a paved road leading to the Msho Arakelots Vank of lore.

Hamayak’s father was the only sibling who survived the Genocide. On the road of exile from Moush, his father took his baby boy from his wife’s hand, wrapped it up and left the child in a wheat field. The father collected the children of is two brothers instead and brought them to Kakavadzor to keep the family tree alive.

All of the members of the brothers’ family died in the Genocide. If Hamayak’s father hadn’t saved the children, the family would have disappeared without a trace.

“When they arrived at this place there was a terrible hailstorm that destroyed the crop. My mother would cry and say that God was punishing us for leaving that baby behind. My father replied by saying that ‘God knows what I did. I left my baby behind in order to save the children of my two brothers,” Hamayak recounts.

The family of the brothers survived. One of the descendants was the physician Vahe Baghdasaryan who fought and died in the Artskah War.

Photos: Hakob Poghosyan

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. 19 Year-Old Armenian Soldier Laid to Rest in Amberd
  2. 14-year old boy hangs himself in Armenia’s Lori region (photos)
  3. The “Football” Process Between Armenia & Turkey Is Over: Hayk Demoyan
  4. Hayk Babukhanyan: Armenia Should Set March 1 As A Deadline For Ratification
  5. 28 Year-Old Independent Wins Mayoral Election in Griboyedov

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

10:35, August 17, 2012

82 year-old Hayk Khamoyan pulls out a slip of paper from his vest pocket.

He’s recently returned from visiting his family roots in western Armenia and the paper lists the names of the places he saw along the way.

“I have trouble remembering all the names, so I had my son jot them down. When my neighbours ask me where I went, I give them the paper to read. Everyone is curious. Just this morning I showed the list to some people here,” says Mr. Khamoyan.

Grandpa Hayk examines the paper and turns to his son Radik, “Hey, you forget to put down Aghtamar. I got on the boat and went to the island. I lit a candle at the church.”

Hayk Khamoyan is the first of the descendants of those who fled the Aghbi village of Sassoun during the Genocide, and made their way to Verin Bazmaberd in Aragatzotn Marz, to return to the ancestral home of Gyalarash, a neighbourhood of Aghbi. The various neighbourhoods of the Aghbi are miles apart from each other, nestled in the mountains and valley of Sassoun.

“I really wanted to take my father and uncle there; the place of their roots. God granted me the pleasure to go myself and see their native home. I had always dreamt of going to western Armenia with them,” says Hayk’s son Radik.

Radik is the secretary of the Sassoun-Taron Patriotic Union and has sung in the Akounk, Zvartounk and Maratouk groups. He’s also taught traditional dance.

Hayk Khamoyan’s father was the only member of the extended clan who made it out alive.   Some forty members of the clan died during the Genocide, many during self-defence battles in the mountains.

There a woman named Shoushan in Verin Bazmaberd who also made the trek from Aghbi. She was an eye witness to how the village was raided and plundered and how Hayk’s relatives, except his father, were killed. She has related all this to Hayk.

Hayk’s father made his way to eastern Armenia and the village of Verin Bazmaberd where he married and tried to make a new life.

Grandpa Hayk says the family story goes that they wanted to remain close to the border in order to return to western Armenia one day. “They always preserved that longing to go back but it never happened. Would the Soviet Union allow anyone to cross the border?”

“I also remember that old woman Shoushan,” says Radik. “They came here and died here. But they always talked about their home and village back over there. Over the years, I heard so many stories about the place that I could actually picture it all.”

The Soviets exiled Hayk’s father as a subversive in 1942 to Siberia where he died or was killed. Nobody can say for sure. He left eight children in Bazmaberd and a widow.

“Exile, massacres, the KGB, WWII, eight fatherless children, etc. Talk about fate. And now one of those eight kids makes the journey back to his father’s native land,” says Radik.

Hayk’s mother, who hailed from Basin, was also the only member of her family to survive the Genocide. When she passed in 1996, the family had 156 grand and great grandchildren. Hayk has since given up counting. “But my sister’s husband is a teacher and he’s kept a list of the extended family and all the births.”

Radik is preparing to publish the family tree and history. According to his research, the family can trace their roots to Sassoun as far back as the 1600s.

97 Years of Longing: Finding the House Built by His Grandfather

Grandpa Hayk was able to locate the Gyalarash neighbourhood of Aghbi village and even his father’s house. The old man was persistent and asked anyone willing to talk.

He had also learnt Kurdish over the years from the Yeminis living in the village of Matador near Bazmaberd. His knowledge of the language came in handy during his travels in western Armenia.

Hayk had been told by his father that there was a big walnut tree by their house in the “old country” and a spring nearby. The house was built by Hay’s grandfather, Khmu. The tree had been planted by him as well. Khmo had also built a basin to collect the water following from the mountains.

Hayk’s father had six brothers that lived side by side in four homes. When Hayk visited only his father’s house and another were left.

“I told the Kurds They Can Stay”

Hayk approached his father’s house and asked the current Kurdish residents who the house belonged to. They said they didn’t know. When Hayk said it was the home of Khmo, one of the Kurds, in amazement, said. Yes.

The new residents haven’t renovated the house at all. It has the same roof and inner beams.

“I told that Kurd that these are the beams built by my grandfather. He said, yes. The guy hasn’t changes a thing other than taking down the nearby tonratoun (clay pit for baking and cooking).”

Without being invited inside, Hayk opened the door, entered the house and made a tour. The Kurds did nothing to stop him.

“It was like I was entering my own home. I didn’t feel like a stranger at all. Not for one minute. I was on my ancestral land and it all seemed so familiar and intimate,” Hayk recounts.

Inside, the only furniture was an old sofa. There was a Kurd lying on it.

When Hayk entered the man got up, somewhat startled. “I told him this is the house of my grandfather but don’t worry, I haven’t come to put you out. Upon hearing this he smiled a bit and confessed that, yes, this is the home of Khmo,” says Hayk.

Hayk says the water from the spring is still following. The Kurds had chopped down most of the walnut tree, saying that it had gotten too big and the branches had covered the nearby garden. Hayk says they cut it down for its wood.

The Kurds then invited the visiting Armenians in for refreshments and even called in a singer to entertain them. One of the Kurds living in the house had been given a Kalashnikov by the government. The man was working as a village patrol member for the government, a kind of eyes and ears to monitor the movements of Kurdish separatists.

Hayk says that there are 3-4 houses occupied in each of the neighbourhoods of Aghbi, but there are no stores or medical clinics. Many of the Kurds have left the mountainous areas and moved down into the valley.

I felt right at home in Sassoun”

“Only the very strong have remained in the mountains. It’s an 8 kilometre climb. Imagine going up and down with baggage? No road existed here in the past but they’ve built one now,” Hayk says.

Hayk brought back stones from his father’s house and water from the spring. He also brought back a stone polished from years of spring water running over it.

He scattered the soil he brought back from western Armenia over the graves of Sassoun descendants and others now buried in Verin Bazmaberd.

The 82 year-old was the eldest in the group of 15 that made the trip to western Armenia. But he was one of the most indefatigable.

“I felt no tiredness there, just happiness. I extracted strength from Sassoun and its mountains. And we made our way to all the mountains even though the roads were in terrible shape and quite scary.”

Hayk has returned but now he feels the same longing for western Armenia and Sassoun in particular that his forbearers had after being exiled.

“I sit and remember what I have seen and where I have been. My longing hasn’t been quenched. Western Armenia is just like the old folk described it, a paradise. Our Sassoun folk are mountain people but down in Moush it’s a Garden of Eden. Everything grows there,” Hayk recounts.

The Vardanyans of Moush: A Father’s Terrible Choice

Hamayak Vardanyan, Hayk’s brother-in-law who also made the trip, says that Moush alone could feed all of Armenia.

“It’s all fertile land. Moush, Erzeroum, Bitlis, Basen, Sarikamish. Just go and see what I mean. We go as visitors with heavy hearts, see all that, and come back here.”

Hamayak Vadanyan lives in the village of Kakavadzor in Aragatzotn Marz. It’s his first trip to western Armenia. He too found his ancestral home in the Verin Marnik village of Moush.

The house and most of the village is in ruins. There are only 10 or so occupied house in the village. He says there isn’t even a paved road leading to the Msho Arakelots Vank of lore.

Hamayak’s father was the only sibling who survived the Genocide. On the road of exile from Moush, his father took his baby boy from his wife’s hand, wrapped it up and left the child in a wheat field. The father collected the children of is two brothers instead and brought them to Kakavadzor to keep the family tree alive.

All of the members of the brothers’ family died in the Genocide. If Hamayak’s father hadn’t saved the children, the family would have disappeared without a trace.

“When they arrived at this place there was a terrible hailstorm that destroyed the crop. My mother would cry and say that God was punishing us for leaving that baby behind. My father replied by saying that ‘God knows what I did. I left my baby behind in order to save the children of my two brothers,” Hamayak recounts.

The family of the brothers survived. One of the descendants was the physician Vahe Baghdasaryan who fought and died in the Artskah War.

Photos: Hakob Poghosyan

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. 19 Year-Old Armenian Soldier Laid to Rest in Amberd
  2. 14-year old boy hangs himself in Armenia’s Lori region (photos)
  3. The “Football” Process Between Armenia & Turkey Is Over: Hayk Demoyan
  4. Hayk Babukhanyan: Armenia Should Set March 1 As A Deadline For Ratification
  5. 28 Year-Old Independent Wins Mayoral Election in Griboyedov

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

10:35, August 17, 2012

82 year-old Hayk Khamoyan pulls out a slip of paper from his vest pocket.

He’s recently returned from visiting his family roots in western Armenia and the paper lists the names of the places he saw along the way.

“I have trouble remembering all the names, so I had my son jot them down. When my neighbours ask me where I went, I give them the paper to read. Everyone is curious. Just this morning I showed the list to some people here,” says Mr. Khamoyan.

Grandpa Hayk examines the paper and turns to his son Radik, “Hey, you forget to put down Aghtamar. I got on the boat and went to the island. I lit a candle at the church.”

Hayk Khamoyan is the first of the descendants of those who fled the Aghbi village of Sassoun during the Genocide, and made their way to Verin Bazmaberd in Aragatzotn Marz, to return to the ancestral home of Gyalarash, a neighbourhood of Aghbi. The various neighbourhoods of the Aghbi are miles apart from each other, nestled in the mountains and valley of Sassoun.

“I really wanted to take my father and uncle there; the place of their roots. God granted me the pleasure to go myself and see their native home. I had always dreamt of going to western Armenia with them,” says Hayk’s son Radik.

Radik is the secretary of the Sassoun-Taron Patriotic Union and has sung in the Akounk, Zvartounk and Maratouk groups. He’s also taught traditional dance.

Hayk Khamoyan’s father was the only member of the extended clan who made it out alive.   Some forty members of the clan died during the Genocide, many during self-defence battles in the mountains.

There a woman named Shoushan in Verin Bazmaberd who also made the trek from Aghbi. She was an eye witness to how the village was raided and plundered and how Hayk’s relatives, except his father, were killed. She has related all this to Hayk.

Hayk’s father made his way to eastern Armenia and the village of Verin Bazmaberd where he married and tried to make a new life.

Grandpa Hayk says the family story goes that they wanted to remain close to the border in order to return to western Armenia one day. “They always preserved that longing to go back but it never happened. Would the Soviet Union allow anyone to cross the border?”

“I also remember that old woman Shoushan,” says Radik. “They came here and died here. But they always talked about their home and village back over there. Over the years, I heard so many stories about the place that I could actually picture it all.”

The Soviets exiled Hayk’s father as a subversive in 1942 to Siberia where he died or was killed. Nobody can say for sure. He left eight children in Bazmaberd and a widow.

“Exile, massacres, the KGB, WWII, eight fatherless children, etc. Talk about fate. And now one of those eight kids makes the journey back to his father’s native land,” says Radik.

Hayk’s mother, who hailed from Basin, was also the only member of her family to survive the Genocide. When she passed in 1996, the family had 156 grand and great grandchildren. Hayk has since given up counting. “But my sister’s husband is a teacher and he’s kept a list of the extended family and all the births.”

Radik is preparing to publish the family tree and history. According to his research, the family can trace their roots to Sassoun as far back as the 1600s.

97 Years of Longing: Finding the House Built by His Grandfather

Grandpa Hayk was able to locate the Gyalarash neighbourhood of Aghbi village and even his father’s house. The old man was persistent and asked anyone willing to talk.

He had also learnt Kurdish over the years from the Yeminis living in the village of Matador near Bazmaberd. His knowledge of the language came in handy during his travels in western Armenia.

Hayk had been told by his father that there was a big walnut tree by their house in the “old country” and a spring nearby. The house was built by Hay’s grandfather, Khmu. The tree had been planted by him as well. Khmo had also built a basin to collect the water following from the mountains.

Hayk’s father had six brothers that lived side by side in four homes. When Hayk visited only his father’s house and another were left.

“I told the Kurds They Can Stay”

Hayk approached his father’s house and asked the current Kurdish residents who the house belonged to. They said they didn’t know. When Hayk said it was the home of Khmo, one of the Kurds, in amazement, said. Yes.

The new residents haven’t renovated the house at all. It has the same roof and inner beams.

“I told that Kurd that these are the beams built by my grandfather. He said, yes. The guy hasn’t changes a thing other than taking down the nearby tonratoun (clay pit for baking and cooking).”

Without being invited inside, Hayk opened the door, entered the house and made a tour. The Kurds did nothing to stop him.

“It was like I was entering my own home. I didn’t feel like a stranger at all. Not for one minute. I was on my ancestral land and it all seemed so familiar and intimate,” Hayk recounts.

Inside, the only furniture was an old sofa. There was a Kurd lying on it.

When Hayk entered the man got up, somewhat startled. “I told him this is the house of my grandfather but don’t worry, I haven’t come to put you out. Upon hearing this he smiled a bit and confessed that, yes, this is the home of Khmo,” says Hayk.

Hayk says the water from the spring is still following. The Kurds had chopped down most of the walnut tree, saying that it had gotten too big and the branches had covered the nearby garden. Hayk says they cut it down for its wood.

The Kurds then invited the visiting Armenians in for refreshments and even called in a singer to entertain them. One of the Kurds living in the house had been given a Kalashnikov by the government. The man was working as a village patrol member for the government, a kind of eyes and ears to monitor the movements of Kurdish separatists.

Hayk says that there are 3-4 houses occupied in each of the neighbourhoods of Aghbi, but there are no stores or medical clinics. Many of the Kurds have left the mountainous areas and moved down into the valley.

I felt right at home in Sassoun”

“Only the very strong have remained in the mountains. It’s an 8 kilometre climb. Imagine going up and down with baggage? No road existed here in the past but they’ve built one now,” Hayk says.

Hayk brought back stones from his father’s house and water from the spring. He also brought back a stone polished from years of spring water running over it.

He scattered the soil he brought back from western Armenia over the graves of Sassoun descendants and others now buried in Verin Bazmaberd.

The 82 year-old was the eldest in the group of 15 that made the trip to western Armenia. But he was one of the most indefatigable.

“I felt no tiredness there, just happiness. I extracted strength from Sassoun and its mountains. And we made our way to all the mountains even though the roads were in terrible shape and quite scary.”

Hayk has returned but now he feels the same longing for western Armenia and Sassoun in particular that his forbearers had after being exiled.

“I sit and remember what I have seen and where I have been. My longing hasn’t been quenched. Western Armenia is just like the old folk described it, a paradise. Our Sassoun folk are mountain people but down in Moush it’s a Garden of Eden. Everything grows there,” Hayk recounts.

The Vardanyans of Moush: A Father’s Terrible Choice

Hamayak Vardanyan, Hayk’s brother-in-law who also made the trip, says that Moush alone could feed all of Armenia.

“It’s all fertile land. Moush, Erzeroum, Bitlis, Basen, Sarikamish. Just go and see what I mean. We go as visitors with heavy hearts, see all that, and come back here.”

Hamayak Vadanyan lives in the village of Kakavadzor in Aragatzotn Marz. It’s his first trip to western Armenia. He too found his ancestral home in the Verin Marnik village of Moush.

The house and most of the village is in ruins. There are only 10 or so occupied house in the village. He says there isn’t even a paved road leading to the Msho Arakelots Vank of lore.

Hamayak’s father was the only sibling who survived the Genocide. On the road of exile from Moush, his father took his baby boy from his wife’s hand, wrapped it up and left the child in a wheat field. The father collected the children of is two brothers instead and brought them to Kakavadzor to keep the family tree alive.

All of the members of the brothers’ family died in the Genocide. If Hamayak’s father hadn’t saved the children, the family would have disappeared without a trace.

“When they arrived at this place there was a terrible hailstorm that destroyed the crop. My mother would cry and say that God was punishing us for leaving that baby behind. My father replied by saying that ‘God knows what I did. I left my baby behind in order to save the children of my two brothers,” Hamayak recounts.

The family of the brothers survived. One of the descendants was the physician Vahe Baghdasaryan who fought and died in the Artskah War.

Photos: Hakob Poghosyan

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. 19 Year-Old Armenian Soldier Laid to Rest in Amberd
  2. 14-year old boy hangs himself in Armenia’s Lori region (photos)
  3. The “Football” Process Between Armenia & Turkey Is Over: Hayk Demoyan
  4. Hayk Babukhanyan: Armenia Should Set March 1 As A Deadline For Ratification
  5. 28 Year-Old Independent Wins Mayoral Election in Griboyedov

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Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

Image 57806.jpg

21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

“The police will no longer be either arbitrator or guard for all the cunning dubious schemes of gamblers and lottery players,” he wrote. In the past week, the ministry has announced raids on casinos in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.

It was after the Dec. 13 shutdown of one such establishment in Kyiv that the ministry warned of a possible Yanukovych connection.

“It cannot be ruled out that Oleksandr Yanukovych, the ex-president’s son, could be behind this and a lot of other clandestine elite gaming establishments in the capital city through figureheads,” said Zorian Shkiriak, an advisor to Avakov. OCCRP has previously reported on Oleksandr Yanukovych’s connections to illegal coal mining operations in the country.

In his Facebook post, Avakov said the problem should be made into a profitable industry. “Legalize the casino!” he wrote. “Get strict regulations, limited amounts of points and legal billions of hryvnias [Ukraine’s currency] into the state budget, instead of dirty money in the pockets of different people providing cover!”

The 2009 law “On the prohibition of gambling business in Ukraine” was passed after a fire killed nine people and injured 11 others at a gambling hall in Dnipropetrovsk.

reportingproject.net

Source: HetqOriginial Article

No related posts.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

Image 56686.jpg

13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

Merchants and small retailers again gathered outside the government building in Yerevan to voice their opposition to the changes in the volume tax law that requires that they keep receipts for all inventory purchases and sales.

In Yerevan, vehicle owners who have bandied together in a group calling itself “Keep Away from Our Pockets” tried to drive through the city in a convoy of cars to protest paid parking spaces many argue is just a ruse for some oligarchs to make money. Police stopped them before getting too far.The bulk of the fines and fees don’t even go to the Yerevan city coffers but is kept as income by the corporation overseeing the parking spots. The drivers are also complaining about traffic fines they say are too exorbitant.

Taking you grievances to the street is a growing trend in Armenia – whether in towns or villages.

The largest and most successful to date were the sustained protests that took place in the summer of 2013 in Yerevan that eventually forced the municipal government to rescind public transportation fare hikes.

But ever since then, demos and protests seem to have lost their verve and vigor and are more and more issue specific. While this is to be expected (those immediately affected by this or that government decision are the first on the streets), the general citizenry once again seem resigned to whatever fate awaits them.

While attempts were made to broaden the participation of these mini-protests and to link their specific interests under some kind of umbrella movement, they proved unsuccessful.

Numbers and mutual solidarity remain elusive. Strategizing and innovative tactics are also lacking.

Three opposition political parties are gearing up for a joint rally on Oct. 10.  Let’s see if it will be more of the same old, same old…

Oct. 1 – Government Reappoints Thug as Syunik Governor

Hetq readers will know that SourikKhachatryan, the publicly disgraced and much maligned former Syunik Provincial Governor, was reinstated to his old job this week. Khachatryan was forced to temporarily step down after being implicated in a June shoot-out near his Goris home in which an Artsakh Army commander was seriously wounded and his brother killed.

Here’s a tit for tat exchange between HAK (Armenian National Congress) MP NikolPashinyan and Armenian Prime Minister HovikAbrahamyan in parliament regarding Khachatryan’s reinstatement.

Pashinyan (and I paraphrase here) – That man has been charged with expropriation of public property through fraud, auto theft, the beating of several individuals, one incident when he hit a prominent woman in a Yerevan hotel was caught on tape, the beating of a child because he had a quarrel with the father…Recently, this individual murdered a man by shooting him from such a position from his house that the cameras didn’t catch him…”

Abrahamyan – Who is this man you refer to? Oh, SourikKhachatryan. Well, I nominated him for reinstatement based on his years of experience in provincial governance and organizational skills.

The prime minister added: “I’ve also taken into account the wishes of the people of Syunik. Our studies show that a majority want him as their provincial governor.”

Oct. 1 – Diaspora Minister Receives “Good Job” Watch

Armenian Prime Minister HovikAbrahamyan visited Diaspora Minister HranoushHakobyan at her office bearing gifts. Well, one gift in particular. The PM bestowed Hakobyan with a commemorative “prime ministerial” watch for a job well done.

Now c’mon folks.A stinking watch? A grandfather’s clock would have been more appropriate.

Oct. 1 – Armenia is Getting “Old”

This is the view of GarikHayrapetyan, who heads the Yerevan Office of the UN Population Fund.

On Wednesday, which marked the International Day of the Elderly (we’ll all get there sometime), Hayrapetyan told journalists in Yerevan that 13% of Armenia’s population is over the age of 60. (That’s practically bordering on senility).

Anyway, he claimed that the country is fast approaching what is termed the ranks of “old countries” (you know, where the president or dictator walks around on crutches).

Right now, thank god, Armenia is merely considered “growing old”.

Khachatryan attributes the age imbalance to the fall in the birthrate after independence.

Less young people means less people to take care of the elderly. But I only know of one old-age home in Armenia. Who’s looking after the rest?

Sept. 30 – Aznavour Wants Turks and Armenians to Reconcile Before He Dies

In an interview with RTS (Radio Television of Serbia), Charles Aznavour is alleged to have said he hopes to see Armenians and Turks reconcile before he dies.

Bonne chance, mon ami. 

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

Image 55858.jpg

21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

In recent years an agreement has been in place  ensuring that for the sake of party unity,  most senior figures would not be investigated. Zhou’s case has been the first to break the agreement and is aimed at party purity instead. Communists are hoping to stay legitimate and to win more supporters. 

The anti-corruption campaign has realized its vow of no off-limit targets, says political scientist Zhang Ming in The Guardian.

reportingproject.net

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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  2. Over 182,000 officials punished in China graft crackdown
  3. China: Victims Claim Anti-Corruption Probe Employs Torture
  4. Civic Activists Demand Action Against ‘Corrupt’ Ex-Minister
  5. Jailed Former High Ranking Armenian Officials Deny Bribery Charges

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.

The writer describes the members of the group as “gun-toting defendants” driving flashy cars “and connected to elaborate schemes in bank fraud, identity theft and other highly sophisticated white-collar crimes.”

Armenian Power originated in the 1980s by young Armenians, mainly from Soviet Armenia, to protect themselves from Mexican gangs in Los Angeles high schools. In time the organization developed working relations with the latter and shifted focus from fighting for territory to fighting for money and power.

My initial reaction to the report, like to all things Armenian, is visceral. Besides the fact that the horrific nature of the group’s actions turns my stomach, I feel angry. There are many positive contributions Armenians make to the communities they live in, so why point out the negative?

I think and catch myself in doing something very typically Armenian: reacting defensively when a non-Armenian criticizes my people. I immediately want to blame someone, mainly the person who is pointing a finger in my direction. This is a natural reaction for those of us who take pride in belonging to a lineage older than Noah’s Ark.

Ancient is the Armenian archetype – our intuitive behavior that has proven to withstand the test of time. We’ve been around so long, we consider ourselves to be wise and flawless. It is in our ethnic genome to revere the old and be doubtful of the new, to respect the elder as authority and dismiss the young as naive and inexperienced, to move in time and space, but not leave the past and the home we left behind. Any divergence from what has history and is the norm, we perceive as deficient, abnormal, lacking.

Young Armenians in American public schools faced with anything but the norm, as they know it, are caught by surprise like objects uprooted by cyclonic winds.

When life throws us into the realm of the unexpected or takes us out of our element, when it forces us to question our truths and face our shortcomings that make us seem not so perfect, we feel ashamed and become unforgiving. This quickly leads us on to the path of self-loathing. Our genesis, the very thing that is the source of our pride and the reason for our being, becomes our handicap in the youth-crazed, ever changing culture of the new world. We feel betrayed.

Additionally, we have been conditioned to put on our best face in public, regardless of what is going on inside. This archetype was reinforced during the Soviet era. We do not air our dirty laundry in public, but proudly display our clean, shiny load in front of our balconies and windows literally and figuratively. We even pride ourselves in the way we pin the pieces next to each other on the clothesline!

So, regardless of our circumstances, we find ways to put on a front like the well choreographed parades of the Soviet government. For God’s sake, we were the first people to adopt Christianity as our state religion! Never mind that our church is void of spirituality and our God cares more about the dead than the living.

Then we boast, and when others dare to not appreciate our genius with expected enthusiasm, we resort to demeaning, deprecating commentary and are not shy about projecting our negative feelings. No one is good enough, smart enough, deserving enough as Armenians. We’re the oldest and the wisest, and therefore most deserving of respect and appreciation.

More than once I have had to counsel a distraught Armenian parent complaining about how people make fun of their perfect child because he/she does not look or act like them.

When our expectations are not met, we are wounded and insulted. This is when the daredevil gene kicks in, and we don’t hesitate to give our perceived enemy a piece of our mind, or show off a flexed muscle.

We call this taseeb (honor): a sentiment that forces an Armenian to pick up a rifle and defend his physical and psychological turf. It is the same sentiment that drives a young Armenian to defend himself from insults and aggression, real or perceived, from a person of a different ethnicity in an American high school.

These archetypes are some of the underlying factors that lead Armenian youth into conflicting situations outside their circles.

In a new and changing world, old archetypes no longer serve the needs of the people, while the new ones are constantly elusive. Coupled with the desire to belong and to fit in, this drives people to adopt clichés that are readily available in a world congested with material, ideas and attitudes. Thus, to be accepted by the out-groups, to measure up and to be competitive, they quickly adopt what is more accessible to them for putting on the “perfect face.”

Designer clothing and accessories, Mercedes, BMW, Porches, attitudes and gestures we don’t quite grasp but admire, just about anything that we perceive as distinguishing and defining the out-group we are so eager to be a part of and be appreciated by, we collect. Clichés are easy to launder, polish, and pin on one’s life’s “clothes line”. Life in the new world becomes a long string of clichés.

In the absence of archetypes, reality is re-imagined, improvised like life on a theater stage, Marshall McLuhan explains. On this stage, young people are the characters of their own show, and there is nothing in the world more important than that until new archetypes take form.

The mafia or its modern day version – gangs that are a common occurrence in societies constantly in flux – is the stage where young people play out their roles. There have been Irish,   Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican gangs in America prior to the Armenians.

Every wave of new arrivals, every wave of change, brings with it a new set of expectations and challenges. While families try to decipher the laws, rules, and traditions of their new environment, the young tend to gravitate towards groups that fill the need for belonging and provide a security network.

Some, more than others, in every group are willing to break rules often to their own detriment while caught between archetypes of the old world and the clichés of the new.

Marineh Khachadour is an educator, writer, researcher working in a public school in Pasadena, California.  She lived in Armenia from 1992-1998. During that time she provided educational services and resources for Armenian women and children including refugees and served as Gender in Development Expert with UNDP, Armenia from 1995-1998.

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