A Newfound Love for the Homeland

Editor’s Note: The following remarks were delivered at the joint anniversary celebration for the AYF DC “Ani” and “Sevan” Chapters on November 5, 2022 at Soorp Khatch Armenian Church Arabian Hall.

Ani Mard as a counselor for Camp Javakhk 2022

I would like to take a moment to thank both the senior and junior DC AYF chapters for organizing this amazing event and for playing a vital role in preserving the Armenian cause and spirit in the DMV community for the past 80 years.

I’d like to talk about my experience participating in Camp Javakhk this past year.

After three days as a tourist in Armenia, it was hard for me to be there without contributing in any way. I decided at the last minute to participate in Camp Javakhk. I had someone who had always encouraged me to participate, and I never had the chance until this summer. I can comfortably say it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

Some of you may not be aware of what Javakhk even is. Javakhk is a region in Georgia, just north of the current borders of Armenia. I was placed at a camp in a region called Tsalka in the village of Daragyugh.

We woke up with the roosters crowing and our campers waiting outside for us every morning. We had about 100 kids from surrounding villages. These kids came to camp every day excited to take on our packed schedule. We taught the kids Armenian revolutionary songs, learned a different Armenian dance every day, and shared lessons in health, religion, culture and geography. Camp was supposed to end at three o’clock every day, but we always stayed longer to hang out with the kids.  

Daragyugh is a very special village with 200 Armenians, where everyone knows one another. There are no paved concrete roads. You walk alongside chickens and cows. The views here are unbelievable. There was this one viewpoint where we spent multiple evenings around a campfire watching the sunset. This village became another home of mine.

Meeting and developing lasting ties with the Javakhk youth was something I was not expecting. We spent every afternoon and evening exploring Javakhk with fellow youth. We played games, sang songs around the campfire, made xorovats and had the best time. The children invited us over to their homes and had the most beautiful spread of food for us every day. Their hospitality and care were unmatched. 

The ARF Manifesto notes the goal of a free united independent Armenia, which includes Nakhichevan, Artsakh, Western Armenia and Javakhk. The AYF Eastern Region is the only region and organization that allows youth to come together to develop ties and form connections with the Armenian community of Javakhk, who share our love for our nation and cause.

I encourage everyone to apply for Camp Javakhk next year. It’s always a little scary going into a new group with people you don’t really know in a country and village you’ve never been to. But after just a few days, I was able to call Daragyugh my home. You will leave Javakhk with a new family, a new home and a newfound love for the Հայրենիք.

2022 Camp Javakhk counselors Ani Mard and Tsoline Gevorkian
Ani Mard

Ani Mard

Ani Mard is a third-year law student at George Washington University Law School. She joined the AYF-YOARF Eastern Region in February 2020 and is a proud member of the Washington DC "Ani" Chapter.
Ani Mard

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