I have always held my fond memories of Armenia very close to my heart, even those that I don’t remember. Recently, I’ve been thinking of Armenia more often than usual, and I find myself reminiscing. Since the start of the 2020 Artsakh War, I have feared for the safety of my motherland and our people, and occasionally, I wonder when I will be able to go back and revisit. It truly breaks my heart that I might never be able to see some of the beautiful places I visited in Artsakh again, and I pray that I will soon be able to visit Armenia and see all of the places that are home to my most precious memories.
I was too young to remember my first time in Armenia. My entire family traveled to attend the opening of a youth center that my grandparents had funded. My mother decided to have me christened in Etchmiadzin because it was one of her greatest dreams. While I don’t remember it, I have been told countless stories of the memorable trip.
Some years later when I was six years old, my parents decided to take my brothers and I to Armenia for summer vacation. We soon started visiting Armenia almost every summer. The moment I got off the plane at Zvartnots, I would stare at the signs written in Armenian and feel a sensation of being in the place where I truly belonged.
During our travels, we would visit a youth center in Etchmiadzin that my grandparents funded. My mother wanted my brothers and I to immerse ourselves in Armenian culture. For one week, we participated in programs at the youth center. My brothers would learn to play the dhol, and I learned the art of rug weaving. While my skills are rusty, I still have the one small rug that I made with the help of one of the teachers who worked with me every day.
One summer when I was still quite young, I visited Armenia with the Shushi Dance Ensemble. We performed multiple times and toured Armenia’s historical sites. We also performed in Artsakh, where we visited Stepanakert and Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. Thinking back on that trip, I am so grateful that I was able to see all of those places and have all of those memories. I can feel my heart sink when I think of how Shushi has been taken from Artsakh. I am angered and saddened to know that so many of our ancestral lands have been taken away, and I pray that one day we can reclaim what has been lost.
I remember my most recent visits to Armenia more clearly. We always stay at the Familial Hotel. Just outside was a small park, where children and their parents walked together enjoying the sunny weather. I would walk from the hotel to Vernissage, which was just a few minutes away. I’d always beg my mother to get me something from there; no matter how old I got, I couldn’t resist getting at least one keepsake from the market. One of my last purchases was a handmade clutch, which I still use to this day. Another one of my favorite finds in Yerevan was a pair of shoes, which I ended up repurchasing after wearing out my first pair. Whenever I wear them, I feel as if I’m walking down the streets of Yerevan again.
My last trip to the homeland was with my mom. That year, we stayed at the Marriott Hotel in Yerevan. Every morning, we would walk up the 572 steps of Cascade and take in the breathtaking view of Ararat. We would always see the same stray dog, and it would follow us to the beginning of the stairs, then run off. The dog would always be there when we walked by.
Every night, we would dine at one of the many new restaurants, such as Sherep, Mayrig, Lavash and Anteb. I still find myself craving the distinct taste of the flavorful Armenian food.
Armenia will always be a part of me, and I know this. I know it when I’m walking down the streets and a certain scent hits me that used to surround me in the streets of Armenia. Or when I sit by my grandmother as she watches Armenian soap operas and I hear the thick Armenian accents that I haven’t heard in so long. Although I’m not there, I carry a part of it with me, along with my memories. Now, thinking back on every moment, I long to return to my motherland, back to Armenia.