What I learned in Richmond, Va.

A scene from last year’s picnic in Richmond, Va. (Photo: ANCA)

I spent June 23 in the Conference Room of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) office in Washington, D.C. with my fellow Armenian Youth Federation (AYF-YOARF) Central Executive ungers. Per usual, we had a successful meeting, enjoyed the always wonderful hospitality by the hard working team in the ANCA office, and left feeling ready to work on the second half of the AYF year.

As always ungerouhi Elizabeth Chouldjian and unger Aram Hamparian made us feel at home in the ANCA building, making sure we were comfortable, had everything we needed, and reassured us to help ourselves to anything; a kindness and hospitable attitude that anyone who knows them could expect from this extremely hard working team.

As our meeting came to an end, myself and two ungerouhis hit the road for Richmond, Va. Not prepared for the long ride, but enjoying every minute, I was able to begin to understand what to expect at the Annual ANCA picnic we were planning to attend the next day as well as some background on the Richmond Armenian community. As we walked into ungerouhi Sosy’s home (for the first time), I experienced what most AYF-ers would say they have before, or eventually will. I felt like I had been there many times before, I felt like this family was my own, and I yet again got a chance to experience how big my family truly is (our AYF family).

Sunday morning, after a delicious foul (fava bean) breakfast, we were headed to the picnic. It was at this picnic that I was able to experience the truest form of hospitality: the Richmond, Va. Armenian community. Once I was able to get past Armenians speaking Armenian with a southern accent, I was able to soak in the inexplicable love I received from Armenians I have never met, and probably never would have if it were not for a friendship the AYF brought together. I received the most genuine hugs, welcomes, “thank you”s, and “please come again”s.. This small community has everything any Armenian community would, but most importantly, it had love.

I can go on and on about this community, but instead I will share some of the things it taught me:

  • Open your arms to any Armenian, regardless of the church or organization with which they are affiliated; they are your family.
  • Hospitality goes a long way, it allows us to show our own people how welcomed and loved they truly are.
  • Work hard. It will keep anything important alive and thriving.
  • Talk to people you don’t know. The world is fairly small. I met a man who knew my great grandmother, a lady I could spend days talking about.

And the next lesson is the most important, one that all AYF-ers will feel at some point:

  • The AYF will bring into your life the most important things, unexpectedly and in the most unique ways. It will bring you endless love and family, two things that make this crazy world seem safe.

I am thankful to the Richmond Armenian community for opening their arms to me in the most beautiful way and showing me that no matter the size, our Armenian communities are capable of anything. Another friendship, brought to you by the AYF, allowed me to learn how powerful of a people we truly are. Let’s keep working hard to make these hard working communities continue to thrive for generations.

Araxie Tossounian

Araxie Tossounian

Araxie Tossounian is an active member of her local Armenian community in Novi, Michigan. She is a proud alumna of the AYF and a member of the Detroit Azadamard ARF Chapter. Araxie is a mental health professional with a deep love for poetry.


  1. Araxie, You are everything that is right about being Armenian American. As for your family, it was a joy knowing them and being a part of their lives, we should thank you, what class!

  2. I enjoyed the Richmond Armenians in 1952. Also my son Michael Manoogian was a student at Richmond Unv. and made many friends to this day

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.