Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Armenia quite a few times, each visit introducing me to new people and forming long-lasting memories. Around three years ago, I traveled to Artsakh to perform with my dance group. During our stay, we visited a military base in the town of Ivanyan, where we toured the base, met with soldiers and even performed a few dances. Little did I know then that I would ultimately make a personal, significant impact on one of their lives.
Artur Voskanyan was only 20 years old when we met and had a few months left of his service. We kept in touch for three years, despite a slight language barrier. My Eastern Armenian was weak, and his English almost non-existent. However, Artur was and still is very eager to learn English, and I was eager to strengthen my Eastern Armenian.
Karen and Armine Voskanyan raised their four boys, Artur, 23; Aram, 20; Arsen, 15; and Aren, 12 in the region of Hadrut, Artsakh, where they all lived a comfortable life before the 2020 Artsakh War. Karen and Armine both taught at the school in the village, and the boys also helped them run two convenience stores and a vineyard. During his service in the four-day Artsakh War, Artur was injured. Recently, he and his brother, Aram, both fought in the war in Hadrut. There, Aram was also injured, but has since recovered. The Voskanyans thought that the Artsakh War was going to be similar to the four-day war, where they evacuated and eventually returned home to their lives. Unfortunately, they were never able to return.
During the war, I felt helpless. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, even though I spread awareness, raised money and helped organize and attend protests. When Artur reached out to me and explained their situation, I immediately tried to find ways to help get the Voskanyans back on their feet. The end of the war came two weeks before my 21st birthday, and I knew I didn’t want to celebrate it in any way. There was nothing to celebrate when I had lost a piece of my soul, Artsakh. I decided to raise money instead to send to the Voskanyan family. That was my only birthday wish.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had only communicated with the Voskanyans through a phone. When I walked into their home away from home, they welcomed me with open arms as if they had known me for years. Like most displaced citizens, they rely on the assistance from their compatriots from the diaspora for basic needs, since opportunities are limited for them in Armenia. I was fortunate enough to help them during my time here. I saw happiness in their eyes—something I thought I would never see from displaced Artsakh citizens.
My goal in life is to make a lasting impact on our homeland and our people. This experience helped me realize how important it is to engage with citizens of Artsakh and Armenia because you never know the difference that you, as a diasporan, can make until you try. I will forever be grateful to be part of an organization such as the AYF, which has helped shape me into the Armenian I am today and has given me the opportunity to start my journey in making a difference here in our homeland.