BY MEDEA KALOGNOMOS
My journey to Armenia began simply in 1997 when two girlfriends and I, inspired by our children, decided to visit our homeland. In previous years, they had gone to Armenia with the Land and Culture Organization to renovate churches and cultural centers in preparation for the commemoration of the1700th anniversary of Christianity. We wanted to visit the places where they had worked and lived. That fateful decision to follow our children forever changed our lives, revealing a profound connection to our ancestral past that only grows deeper with each passing year.
On our first trip, we were in awe of our homeland and drawn into her rich soul. We were captivated by the ancient “vanker” (churches) and monuments representing our history and cultural heritage. We admired her natural – and splendid – beauty: the mountains, rivers, radiant skies and glorious fields of wild flowers.
Her capital, Yerevan, with its wide boulevards lined with giant sycamore trees, the Opera House, theaters, museums and multitude of quaint and cozy cafes and spacious parks reminded us of her rich past. We had always dreamed of our homeland but our visit far exceeded any previously held notion of Armenia. At last, after so many years of yearning for the homeland, we had arrived. We felt at home, comfortable and fulfilled, teary eyed – happy. We fell deeply in love with this ancient land.
Sixteen years and sixteen journeys later, Armenia, with her tumultuous past, continues to captivate me. When there, I feel my beloved homeland’s pull on me from the depth of my heart. She speaks to me.
I hear her asking me to love her and to take care of her.
I hear her telling me how she has endured and overcome so many challenges so I can be who I am, someone who is proud to be Armenian.
I hear her telling me to have hope and pride, to persevere and hold my head high, as she has; and, to never feel defeated.
I hear her admonishing me not to take her for granted, guiding me to a place of immense appreciation for what she means to me. Both of us mothers, both of us Armenian. I need you, just as you need me, I hear her say.
Like watching a child grow, with each visit to my beloved homeland, I have seen her change – some changes for the better– and some that are inevitable as she tries to keep up with the times.
Yerevan has the North Street complex with many gorgeous modern highrise apartment buildings, fancy shops, and trendy restaurants. Also, it also traffic – often horrendous – on its newly built roads and refurbished highways. People are trying to tie the old and the new together, they are frustrated and anguished trying to make sense out of it all. When I am there, I sense how some people are angry with Armenia.
But through it all, Armenia and her people are resolutely grounded in the values and beliefs that have helped them to endure and survive through the ages. As a culture and as people in the homeland and throughout the world, Armenia survives while many other cultures, sadly, have not.
May all Armenians in the motherland and in the diaspora unconditionally love and admire her beauty.