Never Stop Running: An Open Letter to My Ungers

Over 200 AYF members from Canada and the Eastern and Western United States attend a three-day tri-regional seminar in Kinkora, Quebec, Canada in 2016 (Photo: Ishkhan Ghazarian)

Sireli Ungerner (Dear Comrades),

I am writing this open letter for ungers past, present, and future. The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) was founded on Jan. 14, 1933. Gradually, the AYF became an international organization that stood on five pillars, which continue to guide its activities today: educational, hai tahd, social, cultural, and athletic.

I joined the AYF as soon as I was allowed to: 10 years old. I started as many of us have—in the Junior organization. Gradually, while a պատանի (Junior member) and a camper at AYF Camp Haiastan, I began to grasp the concepts of the five pillars and how exactly each fits into the puzzle of this organization.

To be frank, I was never considered a star athlete on the field, in the pool, or even at playing checkers. In the beginning of my AYF career, however, I counted down the minutes until the next Junior Olympics or Junior Seminar, for the sole purpose of seeing and spending time with my ungers—a word that meant something very different to me then. I soon realized that I would focus on pillars that I was passionate about and—for lack of a better term—“good at.”

The AYF’s objectives include unity and cooperation as essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together in an effort to realize the purpose or the նպատակ (npatak/nbadag) of this organization. Over the years, I learned that I had a role in this organization that I loved.

What I have realized most recently is that although I have not been able to run the fastest on the field, I, along with all of you—past, present, and future ungers—have been running for the past 85 years. More than that, we have been able to take the lead while running. We’ve run meetings, a day camp in Javakhk, an internship in Armenia… we’ve run from one event to another… we’re always running.

So, ungerner, if you can’t be the best athlete on the field, if you don’t have the answers to every question, if you don’t scream the loudest at every protest, by all means you can still be active, passionate, and hardworking members in this organization. Just be active.

For any of you who have ever felt a feeling of exclusion or guilt that you cannot fulfill a certain organizational pillar, all you can do is try. If there is a resolution you are passionate about or a revolution you think needs to take place, all you can do is try. And when you do try, I can assure you, you will have an army of ungers behind you to push you, help you, and make that change right alongside you.

Together, we can do great things through this organization—as long as we don’t stop our run along the way.

Ungeragan Cherm Parevnerov (With Greetings of Cameraderie),

Ani Khachatourian

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Ani Khachatourian

Ani Khachatourian is a member of the Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Greater Boston “Nejdeh” chapter.
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