The Olympics ended on September 4. Like every other year, we all went home to resume our normal lives.
Just two weeks later, on September 19, I was getting ready to write my last article for the Armenian Weekly AYF Olympics Special Issue. That day, Azerbaijan launched an attack on the blockaded Armenians of Artsakh. The Armenians had no alternative but to surrender. Everyone at the Olympics knew an attack was likely if not imminent. It was gut-wrenching to see the results we had all feared.
This Olympics issue was postponed, as the devastating news about Artsakh clouded our lives. The Armenian Weekly staff was consumed with reporting the horrible news and publishing stories and commentary on this very sad time in Armenian history.
As of writing this, diasporan life here in the U.S. is returning to some kind of normalcy. Our protests and lobbying efforts continue, with the slim chance of garnering some justice from the powers that be. We solicit assistance for the Artsakh refugees and the Armenians held prisoner in Azerbaijan and participate in fundraisers.
It is good that the Weekly’s AYF Olympics Special Issue is going to press. In these difficult times, we in the diaspora must also focus our efforts on maintaining, serving and sustaining our communities. We are, after all, a nation of survivors, moving forward to the best of our ability, understanding that our pain is nothing close to the existential anguish and total upheaval facing our brothers and sisters from Artsakh. We must continue our traditions, the AYF Olympics being one of them. Life goes on under a veil of sadness.
A key to this is a focus on our youth. Nurturing our young people to preserve our communities and nation in exile was the very mission of Karekin Njdeh in 1933, when the AYF was founded. Over the Olympics weekend in Washington, D.C., we saw all the elements of the AYF on full display. Our current AYFers and alumni were politically active, participating in a protest in front of the White House in support of Artsakh. Robert Avetisyan, the Permanent Representative of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic to the United States, delivered a solemn and impactful message at the Opening Ceremonies, where the anthems of both Armenia and Artsakh were sung. We witnessed the athletic skills of the AYFers, who competed in the Olympic events with great passion, effort and, perhaps most importantly, the fraternalism that has come to be a hallmark of the AYF in the eastern United States.
I usually write my last article about the people at the Olympics. No matter what the final headline is, the working title is always “The Angel article,” in reference to Angel Perethian. Her articles about the AYF Olympics were an Armenian love fest written in the style of the 1950-60s gossip column. I was preparing to write my own 2023 version in homage to Angel, when the sad news hit.
While this article was written under a dark pall, there are people who deserve to be recognized and appreciated for the work they have done to make the Olympics such a wonderful and successful weekend. First and foremost are the 89th Annual AYF Olympics Steering Committee co-chairs Shirag Ohannesian and Olympic King Hratch Najarian. This is the fourth Olympics that Najarian has co-chaired. Leading a committee of over 50 people, they did a magnificent job, from the fantastic venues to the record setting Ad Book, from the social gatherings to the management of all the athletics.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time over Olympics weekend with Steering Committee members Manoug Habibian, Chris Hekimian and Yeghisapet Chouldjian, gifted individuals who have been tireless in planning the AYF Olympics. I wish I could have thanked each and every committee personally. We seem to set a new standard every year.
Kudos as always to the Olympics Governing Body: Mark Manuelian, Daron Topouzian and Ara Sarajian. They bring continuity to the operational side of planning and running the Olympics, and worked over the weekend with the host committee to make the athletic side run smoothly.
Bravo to the athletes for their training and dedication to their sports and the AYF. Congratulations to their parents and families for cheering loudly and proudly not only for their own but also the achievements and participation of all.
Thanks to the staff of the Armenian Weekly: Pauline Getzoyan, Lillian Avedian and Nanar Avedessian, and the writers and photographers Bob Tutunjian, Harry Derderian, Sona Gevorkian, Tamar Kanarian and Arev Kaligian for their tireless work to put together the Armenian Weekly AYF Olympics Special Issue. We honor the memory of Jimmy Tashjian and Tommy Vartabedian, who set the standard of reporting and photography that now requires this small army to achieve.
Lastly, God bless the Artsakh Armenians as they recover and rebuild their lives and homes. We must help them as much as we can.
Tebi Detroit in 2024.
Note: The AYF Special issue, postponed due to the Artsakh crisis, is en route to our print subscribers this week and will be available online for all next week.