When I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of insight on the Armenian Genocide. I have vague memories of protests that became more and more vivid as time went on. But of all my childhood memories, there was one moment that has remained with me.
I have a very blurry memory of a man preaching to a large group of Armenians. I remember him shouting with the crowd over and over again, “Turkey failed!” I was too young to understand what my participation during that protest meant back then. Just days before, my father had explained the Armenian Genocide to me for the first time. I had so many questions. Why did they do it? How come no one tried to stop them? These were the questions of a young and confused six year-old, who took it upon herself to look it up. I did not get my answers, and I feared that I never would, but it was what I found instead that shook me to my core.
I saw countless pictures of lifeless bodies—thousands of them in piles, children crying, and so much more that I could not bear to look at or forget. I had nightmares for days. Since this history is unbearable to talk about, I felt like I never learned the full details of my Armenian ancestors. As I grew older, I decided to make genocide education a priority.
I learned the importance of growing up Armenian and upholding our traditions and our culture. My only regret was that I did not ask my great grandmother about her experiences before she passed away, but part of me also knows that her memory was not as sharp as it once was, and these memories were challenging and traumatic to recount.
Years later, I remembered the protest leader from childhood and the masses that surrounded me and I finally understood that Turkey did fail. Turkey failed because we are still here. Turkey failed because we are still united. Turkey failed because we still laugh, sing and pray. They can burn our villages and send us into the desert without food or water, but they can never damage our fighting spirit.
My father used to always tell the story about my grandfather who moved to Texas and wasn’t sure how to get around. He picked an Armenian last name out of the phone book, and that man became his lifelong friend, exemplary of William Saroyan’s timeless words that when two of us meet anywhere in the world, we create a new Armenia.
No matter how hard our enemies try, they will never have the power to destroy Armenia, because we are more than our beautiful land. We are our culture, our hospitality, our integrity, our perseverance. This is our new Armenia, and we will protect it at all costs. After 106 years, we are still fighting for recognition and justice, and we will never give up achieving it.