This morning, we all woke up to another day of this living nightmare when Ghazanchetsots—a majestic and sacred site in Shushi—fell prey to the relentless attacks of our enemy. By now, you have all seen the images that have shaken us to our core. A gaping hole in the dome of the historic cathedral with an ominous sight of the heavens up above. Dusty icons looking on at mounds of rubble on the floor. Dozens of wooden pews, that not too long ago were filled with Artsakh’s faithful, are now pieces of lumber. What took Armenian men and women of faith decades to build in 1866 and resurrect in 1992, took mere seconds to destroy overnight. This was cultural genocide.
In this unfortunate aftermath, many Armenians have shared their photographs from their travels and memories of their indelible experiences inside that hallowed sanctuary. While I have not been as blessed with such an opportunity and remain immeasurably regretful of it, I was fortunate, however, to witness a peaceful outdoor candlelight vigil at another Armenian church five-thousand miles away on the eve of this unsettling destruction.
About 75 members of the local community met on Artsakh Street in Watertown outside St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church last night to grieve and honor our fallen heroes since the September 27 incursion. We had all just learned that day that the death toll among our servicemen and women had surpassed 300.
My role at the Weekly has afforded me the opportunity to build invaluable relationships with many members of our community, several of whom lost dear friends on Wednesday—young comrades they spent summers with and inspiring ARF leaders they gained wisdom from. I saw the eyes of our youth well up with tears as they gazed at the hundreds of names being projected; many were their age or even younger.
“Oh, merciful Lord, have mercy upon the souls of our departed brothers,” sang Tamar Kanarian in the traditional hymn “ի վերին երուսաղեմ.” Her stunning rendition was followed by the haunting sounds of our ancient instruments—the dhol and the duduk—as well as other emotional performances by AYF members Beiyna Chaparian and Meghri Dervartanian and Homenetmen member Sevag Khatchadourian. Each cathartic moment offered us a chance to mourn, to reflect, to pray.
These are unbearably trying circumstances that we have all been forced to contend with from afar. And maybe we’ll never make sense of it. Perhaps we’ll never understand why our people are dying…why this is happening to us again…and why we are, for the most part, alone on the world stage. But if I learned anything from Wednesday evening, I realized that all we have is each other in our unyielding cries for peace and justice.
They may be terrorizing us. They may try to destroy everything we’ve ever built. But, let me assure you dear reader, they will never destroy our spirit.
Our spirit is indestructible.