BY MARIA TITIZIAN
If the current trend continues, it is estimated that by the end of 2013 almost 100,000 Armenians will have left the country. In a few short months we will learn the final figure of this new wave of mass departure.
If this trend holds steady, it means about 265 people will have exited the borders of our homeland on a daily basis, the overriding majority never to return.
This figure might not seem high at first glance, but it translates to about 66 families a day. Think about this number, 66 families. Now think about the street you live on or the apartment building where you reside. This figure means that most likely every single home on your street or every apartment in your building will be left vacant. The paint will chip, the grass will be covered in weeds, the shrubs will overgrow, the asphalt on driveways will crack, the pipes will rust, and the windows will be covered in a thick film of dust and soot.
The rooms of these now-empty homes will be hollow shells of what was once a life – life with all of its messy, complicated, painful, passionate, joyful moments. There will be no more babies born, or love made, or arguments or the passing of a beloved grandparent. There will be no more weddings or baptisms. There will be no more studying for exams or writing of essays. Words and conversations will no longer drift through the rooms, which would have written a story of a life lived and loved. There will be no more stories. No more dreams and hopes.
Just empty houses and apartments.
Sixty-six families a day means that every single day the lights in two entire apartment buildings in Yerevan will be forever turned off. Sixty-six families mean that half the population of a small village will leave behind homes, memories, graves of parents and grandparents…
I know what it feels like to pack up a home, a life, a family and move across oceans to another country.
I know how it feels to try and decide what to keep and what to throw or give away for every fragment represents a memory, a touch, a feel, a sensation.
I know what it feels like to walk through empty rooms, closing the blinds and turning off the lights one by one; rooms where my children had slept and played games and dreamed of fairies and monsters.
I know what it feels like to leave behind a thriving garden full of tomatoes and cucumbers, parsley and mint, mulberries and fruit trees that my husband had tended to so passionately, a garden that had blossomed with our children.
I know what it feels like to shut the front door, lock it and then hand the key over to a stranger and ask them to tend to the house with care because it held so many precious memories and where we had become a family.
I know what it feels like to stand at a gate in a sterile airport and say goodbye to parents and sisters and brothers, friends and community. I remember the tears falling down my face as the plane ascended, whisking us away from everything that was safe and familiar, while my husband held my hand and tried to shield our children from that pain.
I feel for every one of those 66 families that leave Armenia on a daily basis. I know what they went through to arrive at that decision, I know and understand the pain but while we were running toward something, they are running away from something and I don’t blame anyone yet I blame everyone.
If that figure remains steady, it will be the equivalent of the total and absolute depopulation of the Marz of Syunik or Vayots Dzor or Lori.
Think about it.
Imagine that an entire state in America, a province in Canada, an arrondisement in Paris completely emptied out. No children in school, no patients in hospitals, no priests or congregations in churches, no bakers, doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers.
It means that the villages of Akhtala, Ayrum, Dastakert, Dzynashogh, Toumanyan and countless others will turn into ghost towns. Not a single human soul left to tend to the fields and pastures, no one to remember the dead and buried, no one to write their stories.
Who to blame?
The regime for its utter failure to provide security and prosperity? Civil society for its impotence? Those who make a good living in Armenia, yet are so ready to give up on her potential? The oligarchs for sucking the blood of the people? The political parties who are more concerned with maintaining their positions of perceived “power” rather than making a serious attempt at regime change? The Diaspora for its indifference or those who offer advice from afar while never having even stepped foot on this blessed land? I blame every last one of us.
Ten years from now, we will not have the ability, capacity or human resources to protect our borders, we don’t even need to bother with industry or production because there won’t be anyone left to buy or consume it.
If this trend continues, in a decade there will be barely 1.5 million Armenians left in the homeland. It’s an interesting number, no?
Think about it.