BY RAFFI DADAIAN
Hugging the northern edge of Artsakh’s capital of Stepanakert stands one of the most iconic monuments in the Armenian World. Known commonly as Dadik & Babig (grandmother and grandfather), the tufa stone monument is formally named after the famous Armenian saying “We are our Mountains.” I’ve always seen these words as profound, but today it rings in my mind not as a feeling but as the bedrock of a lifestyle.
Every day when the list of Armenian casualties was released I would read them out loud followed by a prayer in their names. Each day was a continued battle in the Diaspora as we all were unequivocally united in voicing ourselves across social media, calling on our representatives to act, and donating funds to support our country in its dire days of need.
Whether you were a barskahye in London, a beirutsi in Argentina, or a hayastantsi in Los Angeles, our spirits were all in an existential battle under the forest canopy of Martuni. Echoes of the disgusting Ramil Safarov’s words, “My calling is to kill all the Armenians” forced us to live day in-day out with the thoughts of the impending destruction of the Artsakh homeland and all our brothers and sisters across the Republic of Armenia. Sadly after almost two months, our fate is once again in the hands of God and the world’s superpowers.
As a Diasporan Armenians, our parents have put forward their utmost effort to imprint the Armenian tradition & heritage into our souls. Many of us have visited our homeland and felt the emotions unconsciously wash over us like cold water as we take our first steps on the soil where our ancestors flourished for thousands of years before us. Many of us take that feeling for granted; we soak ourselves in the richness of culture that is so deep that you can spend 10 lifetimes exploring with no end in sight. “How lucky are we” that we have the shoulders of giants to stand on while we gaze out at our sacred Mount Ararat. Yet these last 50 days have shown us that our bliss is frivolous and our story is not pre-written, the ink at the tip of our feather is still very much wet. Khachatur Abovian, Hovhannes Toumanian, and Raffi are dead. The blank sheets of paper now lay on our desks.
As the modern generation of our people, the torch is in our hands to raise as high as we see fit. Complacency must now meet its end at our feet. This is not the responsibility of the Republic of Armenia to burden alone but for us all scattered across the globe to approach with resolute effort. Our forefathers’ spirits demand it of us. It is not a simple task but a consecrated one.
Take a deep breath and find the fedayee in yourself that has always burned inside like an unrelenting inferno. The strength and discipline that has given you the focus to tackle the most difficult tasks in your life. That is the fedayee inferno; that is the plight of a freedom fighter.
Now ask yourself, “how can I help write our peoples next chapter?” We all have unique passions, interests, and careers that we have built throughout our lifetime. That is the secret sauce. To take your accumulated knowledge and channel it towards our mountains. Know that without a strong homeland, we are no different than the countless nations that have come and gone with the tides of time into oblivion. Moving to Armenia may not be feasible for a lot of people but that is just the tip of the iceberg. We in the western world have resources that are invaluable to the prosperity of Armenia. Do you play an instrument? Start a program where classrooms in Armenia can supply their students with the tools to become the next Khachaturian or take a couple weeks every year to go there and teach yourself. Are you passionate about sales? Start a website depicting your most valuable skills learned that can be accessed and utilized by those interested and involved with sales in Armenia. Do you love investing and the stock market? Start a fund based in Yerevan that allows locals to invest for their future. Is fashion you and your friends’ passion? Get together and start a curating hub in Gyumri where you can influence textile manufacturers to produce the hip style of the year for export. I am a dental student and had plans of opening up a dental clinic in Shushi to serve the smiles of the town, but no matter, I will now open it in Stepanakert, in Vanadzor, in Gyumri, and do the same. The possibilities are as endless as your ambition.
Forget the feelings or ideas that one of us is doing more than the other. Do what you can manage and judge yourself and your efforts only. Convince your circles to dedicate deeper with your actions. Your successes and gratitude will radiate to your surroundings. Start looking at Armenia as your home, not just your homeland. All of us are Armenian and the only words should be those of encouragement not admonition. No single project to nation-build is more important than another, we need all hands on deck regardless. Put your politics and preferences aside, they only mask and cloud our common purpose. The purpose of having a homeland that our grandparents could only dream of.
The beauty of our mission is that nearly every sector in Armenia is in need of our intellectual injection. In a small nation of 3 million people, and thus your footprint will be magnified 100-fold. Something that you do to effect 1000 lives there is equivalent to effecting 100,000 lives in the United States. This phenomenon makes all your work tremendously powerful. If you are so busy that you are unable to directly contribute with your time, then financially support the projects that speak to your soul. There are already many new and old endeavors underway and there are sure to be many more popping up going forward. Engage yourself and reap the rewards of satisfaction of knowing that you wrote a paragraph in the newest chapter of Khorenatsi’s History of the Armenians.
You Are Our Mountains.
Raffi Dadaian was born & raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. After graduating Ferrahian high school, he attended UC Davis where he majored in Neurobiology while spending two years conducting HIV vaccine research at the California National Primate Research Center. Raffi founded a non-profit project that distributed over 20,000 oral hygiene kits during a three year period to rural children in Armenian, Artsakh, and Georgia. He is now a 4th year dual-degree dental student in the dual DMD/MBA program at Temple University and a proud member of the Philadelphia ARF Chapter.