It Takes a Village

Melankton and Haig Arslanian Djemaran, Class of 1998, principal Hratch Dasnabedian pictured in the center (Photo provided by author)

Glued to my phone, scrolling through feeds, trying to hold back my tears, and feeling so numb. 

My birthplace is in ruins, and I am flooded with memories, emotions, anger and guilt all mixed together in this super emotion that I cannot handle. 

The agonizing moments when I was trying to reach my relatives in Lebanon, making sure that my grandmother who lives in Bourj Hammoud and my uncle who works close to the Port of Beirut are okay, still lingering today. The terrorized voice of my aunt saying that they are okay physically, but she is not sure if they can go on any longer is still in my ears. 

In the midst of all this, my memory takes me back to the street of Bourj Hammoud where I grew up. I try to shake it off, but it stubbornly takes me to the walks I used to take from the entrance of Bourj Hammoud, where the bus would drop me off coming back from Haigazian University, to my dad’s shoe factory on Kilikia Street. I used to look forward to that 15-minute walk every day, passing through that mesmerizing Armenian neighborhood. I distinctly remember the smells of the Armenian food and how the aroma used to fill the streets. I remember the store owners having conversations in Armenian at the corner of the streets. I remember how every Friday the whole neighborhood’s fresh laundry would hang from the balconies; you could have been splashed with water flowing down from every building because Fridays were cleaning day, and the Armenian women not only cleaned their houses but made sure to wash the stairs and the entrance to the buildings. I remember avoiding visits to my grandmother in the mornings, because her neighbors would come over for their daily “therapy session” over sourj. Walking into that crowd was very challenging if you could not handle all the questions coming from left and right. I particularly loved Easter time when everywhere smelled like Armenian Easter cookies. There was also apricot jam season. The list goes on and on…

I left that country more than 20 years ago, but I dearly love Lebanon. It has always been that special place for me that gave me the best education at Djemaran, the best classmates and the best teachers. It gave me a sense of community that I have not been able to find anywhere else since. It gave me the best neighbors that were like family. It gave me Aztag Oratert, which my brother and I fought over every morning to read first. It gave me the best bookstore, Vosgetar, where I used to visit every week, spent all my allowance on books and talked for hours with Baron Djermagian, who always knew what I needed to read next. It gave me the sense of duty to visit the cemetery holding my dad’s hand every merelotz (memorial day) to put flowers on the ARF and Lisbon 5 gravestones. It gave me my deeply rooted dedication to everything Armenian. And again, the list goes on and on…

I always regret that my children will never have that sense of security I felt walking down the streets of Bourj Hammoud, surrounded by that zealous Armenian community. But I also know that things are not as they used to be when I was growing up there. Even if I grew up during the war, I guess I was still lucky to experience all that. 

The Armenian community in Lebanon made me the person that I am today, and I will be forever thankful for that. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I am so grateful that my village was in Beirut.

We cannot abandon that village now. We have to stand by that community who was always one of the pillars in the Diaspora, who gave us giants whose words and wisdom lead our communities today all around the world, and who was always ready to sacrifice everything for the Armenian people. We simply cannot abandon them now…

Donate if you can today.

Melankton and Haig Arslanian Djemaran, Class of 1998 (Photo provided by author)
Dzovinar Hatsakordzian

Dzovinar Hatsakordzian

Dzovinar Hatsakordzian (Hamakorzian) is a national board member of the Armenian National Committee of America and a regular contributor to the Armenian Weekly.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.