BY SOSEH HOVASAPIAN
Breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and unforgettable are three adjectives that can appropriately describe my trip to Armenia with my classmates. From the moment I stepped foot into Pilibos as a high school freshman, I had heard the exciting stories about how amazing the Armenia trip was for the juniors. But living through it was so much more than I could have imagined, or asked for. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will forever stay with me and influence all my thoughts and actions.
On this trip, Pilibos visited Yerevan, Khor Virap, Noravank, Jermuk, Tatev, Stepanakert, Shushi, Gandzasar, Tsapatagh, Dilijan, Sevan, Tsaghkadzor, Ashtarak, Oshakan, Aparan, Sardarapat, Garni, and Geghard. We were able to visit a multitude of churches and monasteries, as well as other popular sites.
We spent the first day touring the capital, Yerevan, and visited the well-known genocide monument, Dzidzernagapert. As we walked to the monument and laid our flowers around the eternal flame, I saw the pride, nationalism, anger, and grief in the eyes of my classmates.
That was one of the few moments that truly stuck out to me. It was a moment where we were connected as peers, feeling the same pain, understanding the same history, and recognizing the importance of our Armenian education. It was an unforgettable moment that brought each of us closer together, reminding us of the singular, most important duty we have as Armenians—to remember and demand.
Our first day in Artsakh was characterized by despair, pride, and utter nationalism. We spent the day at the Stepanakert military base, where soldiers sang songs and played soccer with us. That night, four families met with us at Park Hotel, where they shared their stories about the brothers, husbands, and fathers they had lost during the 2016 April War in Artsakh. Their narratives evoked tears and grief among us all. But, in the darkness of their losses, we were overcome with pride for the soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting for our lands, for our people. The men who died protecting our Artsakh will forever be remembered by every one of us. They will live on through memory, and their stories will continue to inspire generations of Armenians.
That night was beyond anything I could ever have imagined. It gave me true insight on what it means to not only be a soldier, but to be Armenian. It taught me that fighting for, and protecting, our country is not a choice, but rather an obligation. Meeting a child born after his heroic father had died in battle, watching tears stream down the face of a wife telling the story of her sacrificed husband, listening to a sister fearlessly tell the story of her heroic brother, seeing the courage of mothers fighting their tears as they talked about their lost sons—these were the stories we had never been exposed to. They were more real than anything I had ever heard, and they were truly inspiring.
Every trip is shaped by different stories, people, and places. My trip to Armenia was as enlightening as it was inspiring, as extraordinary as it was phenomenal. I was filled with more love, and with more longing, for my country and my people than I thought possible. This trip made real the connections between what was taught in a classroom and what was before my eyes; it tied the roots of my identity to the roots beneath my feet. The memories and pictures that I brought back from this trip will stay with me for all my life and I wait longingly and impatiently for the day that I can return to Հայաստան.
Soseh Hovasapian will be a senior at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School.