By Lianna Hakobyan
I remember the unforgettable 20 days I spent in May 2001 in a place behind the ocean—in Boston, Mass., in the United States, where life seemed to be something else. Only 20 days, and I understood that you can live for such a short time feeling so satisfied, so nice and unforgettable, that it seems you have lived a century.
That twenty days left an indelible “track” in my life and memories, and I can still recall every day and every second spent with my host family. I can certainly say that those days were the best pages of my life. They are pages on which you can write the words “humanity, generosity, and patriotism” with red ink; pages where you can read about thankfulness and glorifying admiration for an Armenian with capital letters; pages that tell us about great patriotism and love for one’s heritage.
On May 4, 2001, I left Armenia for the U.S. with nine other school directors as part of a program organized and hosted by the Cambridge Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA), with funding support from a U.S. government program called “Community Connections.” Haroutyun and Anahid Maranjian, an Armenian family whose ancestors had escaped the genocide and found shelter in a foreign country, hosted me for 20 days. CYSCA organized and hosted our group on a full 20-day program of visits, lectures, and panel discussions with leading educators and educational institutions in the Greater Boston area to enhance our educational experience with some of the best practices in the U.S. In addition, they incorporated visits to regional cultural and historic sites. In all, I had a most unforgettable experience.
When I entered the Maranjian house, my heart was excited. Somewhere, in the corner of the room, somebody was playing the piano wonderfully. Today, 10 years later, I still hear the beautiful music of Chopin that I enjoyed for the first time in America with an Armenian family. I could never imagine that I would listen to Chopin’s works in an Armenian house far away in the USA. Everything was so simple and so transparent in that house.
From the first moment I entered that house, I understood that I was in a new world. I lived with my host family only 20 days, but I felt their deep and tender care, devotion, warmth, and regard for a woman. I noticed how surprising and mysterious people and nature can be: Love and homesickness can make people generous and honest, but those who live in their homeland never appreciate the true worth of this “reward.” The Maranjian family’s ancestors had a difficult and cruel past. First Turkish-occupied Armenia, then France, and finally Boston.
Anahid is a gentle and attractive woman and her husband, Haroutyun, kind and endearing. The Maranjians surrounded me with attention, care, and love. Haroutyun took me to places of interest in Boston, where you can enjoy yourself and understand that there are many values that make you live and fight, and also understand that life is wonderful and a present given by God. He is an astonishing man with a sense of humor. I could listen to him for hours. I smiled and laughed easily and felt sorry for the nighttime when I had to sleep. He knows Armenia very well although he has never been there. He had a silent homesickness and longing in his heart as he spoke sadly that he had not visited Armenia.
Twenty days later, I returned home to Armenia with great difficulty. A year later I had a serious heart operation in Yerevan. The distance between us prevented the Maranjians from being with me. We loved each other as relatives. They sent medicine that I needed but couldn’t get in Armenia. Ten years have passed since my visit and the Maranjians continue to buy and send me medicine without my asking.
I want to express my gratitude to CYSCA and especially the family of Haroutyun and Anahid. I would like to see both of you in your homeland and especially in Kapan to ease your pain and for me to repay your kindness. And the compact disc that you gave me are kept like a treasured memory. When we meet again, I will sing a song to show my thankfulness.
With my great respect and love…
Lianna Kakobyan is the director of the Music and Art College in Kapan, Armenia. She is a CYSCA Community Connections shrjanavart (alumna).