It was Sunday. I hurried home after an Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) meeting—the first of our fiscal year. I changed out of my Camp Javakhk t-shirt, swiped on some lipstick, and grabbed my purse. My brother and I headed out to the Toufayan home in Saddle River, N.J., stopping only to pick up our Aunt Alice on the way. I wasn’t sure what the event would be. My brother had told me he was a part of a planning committee and had asked me to support. Sure—why not?
The evening was hosted by the Armenian Cultural Association on America (ACAA) Artsakhk Fund. Attendees were free to mingle over drinks and hors d’oeuvres while gazing at the house’s stunning artwork, much of which came straight from Armenia. Renowned pianist Karen Hakobyan performed pieces by both Armenian and American composers.
The program consisted of community members who shared their experiences with the Artsakh liberation movement. Speakers included ACAA Artsakh Fund member Alex Sarafian, community leader and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Dro gomideh member James Sahagian, philanthropist and Artsakh Bank board member Hratch Kaprielian, former Prelacy and ARF Eastern Region Chair Richard Sarajian, AMAA chairman Zaven Khanjian, Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey director Vartan Abdo, and Tufenkian Foundation trustee and current ARF Central Committee member Antranig Kasbarian.
They all spoke about their early involvement in the movement, which spanned from organizing protests in New York overnight, to boots on the ground work in Artsakh; from raising thousands in relief funds, to carrying that cash on their person through the airport on their way to the homeland; from distributing socks to those who could use an extra pair, to opening their homes for refugees.
While every member and every organization’s level of involvement was different, I found a common thread in each story: Community. It seemed to me that when word spread of Armenians in need, everyone here dropped what they were doing, ignored their differences, and put in every effort to do what they could and help. In that moment of strife, Artsakh reaped the benefits of a most genuine display of community.
The Artsakh liberation movement was proof that when a community works together, nothing can stand in its way. This community, the very community that I and all those in my generation are the children of, won a war.
In 2015, while on the AYF Internship in Armenia, I visited Artsakh. It was lush and green, and the people had kind eyes and giving hands. As my brother put it, “it is a place worth fighting for.” There’s a stamp in my passport now that is proof of the work the men and women in that room did. They helped to create a free and independent Artsakh so that I as an AYF-er, some 30 years later, could touch and breath and live. Incredible.
But it got me thinking. In 30 years, will I find myself again in a room much like this? Will I be surrounded by the peers I love so much today? Will we be proud of our accomplishments? Will I be able to stand up and share what I did to help? Will we have created or defended or destroyed to the benefit of the youth? What will we do now for our children? For their children? What will my community come together for once again?
I can’t wait to find out…