BY NANORE BARSOUMIAN
From The Armenian Weekly
YEREVAN—Carrying carnations, daffodils, and lilies, hundreds of thousands made the journey to the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Dzidzernagapert on April 24. President Serge Sarkisian, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II, and government officials paid their respects in the morning. Around noontime, people slowly inched forward—until they reached the monument at the summit—a walk that lasted roughly two hours. Police periodically blocked off the path to prevent congestion at the top. Many shaded themselves with umbrellas and hats from the scorching afternoon sun.
The flood of people poured in from Kievyan Street. Sellers lined the street displaying an array of flowers. Vayots Dzor native Gisane Hakobyan, 21, said it was her first time partaking in the procession. A university student, Hakobyan said it is important “to respect our victims.” Her classmate, 18-year-old Ashot Harutunyan agreed. “It is our duty. We are paying our dues,” he said.
Opting out was not an option for 33-year-old Hambardzum Harutunyan. “We have to come,” said the lawyer who revealed that his maternal grandfather was a Genocide survivor from Sasoun. Harutunyan’s grandfather and his sister were the only ones who escaped.
“This is a tragedy that will never be forgotten. It is the greatest pain in the hearts of all Armenians,” said 52-year-old Tsolag Harutunyan. Originally from Mush, Harutunyan’s family too had suffered during the Genocide—when two of his great grandparents perished.
Setrak Mandoyan, 59, said he has been partaking in the April 24 commemoration events for as far back as he can remember. “I used to go with my father, now I bring my grandson,” he said. “They used to hold the commemoration event at the Opera House, until they constructed this monument,” he added. Mandoyan’s paternal grandfather, also named Setrak, lost all six of his brothers during the Genocide. His grandparents, who hailed from Ardahan and Artvin, escaped to Batum and made their way to Yerevan.
Sixteen-year-old Tamara (“Tamig”) Tatevossian walked alongside her grandfather, brother, and 6-year-old sister. It was a walk all too familiar for Tatevossian who came every year since she was a little girl, her family too had been affected by the Genocide. Originally from Hamshen, her grandfather’s family fled from the Genocide and settled in Abkhazia until 1970, when they moved to Yerevan.
Some took a few moments to visit the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute adjacent to the monument, where an exhibit, “Book as a Witness of the Genocide,” was launched a day earlier. The exhibit—made to coincide with Yerevan being dubbed by UNESCO as the 2012 World Book Capital and in honor of the 500th anniversary of Armenian printing—displays first editions of around 300 books, some dating as far back as the 1850s. “We are expecting perhaps a couple of hundred thousand visitors today,” said Asdghig, a museum guide. According to her, April 24 and 25 are the busiest days of the year at the museum.
The pile of flowers from the night before encircling the eternal flame had turned into an almost four-foot tall wall. Dozens of wreaths rested against the outer walls of the monument representing the Armenian provinces lost during the Genocide.