Saturday, September 26 began with a plan and dawned under a beautiful fall sky and seasonable temperatures. This was the day that I would correct a batch of student papers (online, of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic) while tuning into h-pem’s first virtual concert “Here’s to you, Armenia” dedicated to the 29th anniversary of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union.
These days, it’s the simple, seemingly mundane and everyday tasks that may bring a smile or a feeling of happiness. Is that what I was feeling? Happiness? Or was it a sense of relief that for one brief moment there was no additional news of tragedy or violence or the passing of someone I know whether from a “normal” illness or the coronavirus? Whatever the reason, I decided to allow myself to truly enjoy the moment. I even sat outside while I worked. Oh joy!
As I methodically graded my students’ work, I could not help but be moved by the beautiful music of the Kilikia Band musicians and singers. Some of my favorite songs were part of the program and when they began «Աղբերս ու ես», “Aghbers U Yes” (“My brother and I”), my eyes filled with tears. At that moment they were tears of pride. I imagined how our people felt as independence was declared, an independence that was born of the First Republic in 1918 and took decades to realize again. With the h-pem concert as my background music, I made my way through half of what needed to be graded. I was pleased and satisfied, with another plan for the next day, Sunday, to complete my grading before enjoying an appropriately outdoor, limited guest pandemic birthday dinner for my daughter.
And then it was Sunday, September 27. I awoke to the news that our beloved Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) was under attack…again…by Azerbaijan in the year 2020 during a pandemic. All plans to continue grading papers were scrapped as the news became the priority. Glued to the computer screen, horrified at the news of losses, injuries and forceful attacks all along the border, emotions turned to pride once again as I witnessed the dedication and determination of our people, ready and willing to fight for our homeland, gathering by the hundreds to volunteer…to volunteer…to fight, and perhaps die, for our nation.
By now, the history of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is relatively well-known, although in the classroom this may not be evident all the time. The Armenian struggle against oppression and persecution is historic and culminated in the Genocide that resulted in the deaths of more than a million and a half Armenians. Apparently, the Republic of Armenia, risen from the ashes of the Genocide with a population today of about three million people, is the “biggest threat to peace in the region,” according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan is the same person who tweets that Turkey and Azerbaijan are “one nation, two states,” blatantly supporting the genocidal militant actions of Azerbaijan against the peaceful and innocent citizens of Artsakh and Armenia. The instigation of Turkey in the region is clear, especially as news broke of a Turkish F-16 shooting down an Armenian SU-25 over Armenian airspace. As I learned this information, a familiar feeling of resolve came over me.
This leads me to revisit pride, dedication and determination, emotions that have been ever present as I’ve been following the ongoing developments from members of our community, news organizations and the ANCA. Armenians are proud of our nation, and we do not tolerate any kind of an attack on our people. We are dedicated to our nation and determined to fight for its independence and its right to self-determination. As we all work together, whether through our advocacy with the ANCA, education in the classroom and in our homes, or on the front lines, we remain determined to maintain a free, independent and united Armenia and Artsakh. We will be victorious.