BY HRATCH AVEDISSIAN
Five years ago today, I left my hometown of Aleppo, Syria, for a two-week vacation that is yet to end. I said goodbye to a place where I spent some of the best days of my life. From learning how throw a basketball, to learning how to hit a tennis ball at Homenetmen Bardez. I said goodbye to Karen Jeppe Azkayin Jemaran, a place that instilled in me education and all kinds of moral values. I said goodbye to Aram Manougian Getron, the building where I spent most of my Sunday mornings, learning about Armenian history with my fellow Ungers, and being taught how to become active members in the Armenian community.
A lot has changed since that day. Aleppo went from being a relatively safe city to turning into the focal point of the Syrian crisis. Many of my friends and relatives lost their loved ones. Residents of Aleppo suffered from lack of food, water, shelter, and peace.
The reality is that all the goodbyes I mentioned earlier never happened. I never got to play my last tennis match at Homenetmen Bardez. I never got to graduate from Karen Jeppe Azkayin Jemaran, the high school that I attended for five years. I never got to appreciate the greatness of Aram Manougian Center one last time, a place that has produced numerous Syrian-Armenian community leaders.
As much as I wish I knew that I would be gone for five years (and counting), my inability to say goodbye to my hometown and my life in Aleppo is nothing compared to the sacrifices my friends, relatives, and fellow Aleppo residents made. They transported food and water from one street to another while the city was being bombarded with bombs. They worked tirelessly day and night to protect Armenian churches and schools. They endured the pain of war and political aggression. To all those who stayed (willingly or unwillingly), I say, you are the protectors of the Armenian community in Aleppo. You are the architects of the revived life in Aleppo. And to those who lost their lives, I say, you are nothing less of holy martyrs whose sacrifices will never be forgotten.
And lastly, I would like to wish luck to all those who remain strong, hopeful, and willing to rebuild our beautiful Syrian-Armenian community, hoping that your strength and will to survive and thrive would resonate throughout every Armenian community and that your work is fully paid off by the complete rebuilding of our great community.
And that is why my goodbye doesn’t matter.