Letter to the Editor: Healing, hope and breaking the cycle

Varak Ghazarian with students in the school in Askeran, Artsakh in 2018

What a year it has been. What a chaotic past three years. I feel like I am finally recovering from all the trauma, and, wow, there was a lot of trauma. It has been a world of pain, and I found myself struggling to differentiate between new wounds and those from the past, a disorienting combination that became a recipe for disaster. I tried to breathe while drowning, but every time I tried to resurface and catch a breath, I kept getting pulled down into newfound depths. Last year, I reached the depth of depths with the handover of Artsakh. It had been a whole year of struggling with the blockade, feeling useless, going insane and preparing mentally for war, a war that never came. Rather, simply, genocide – the worst possible outcome I had never imagined occurred. I was worried for my friends. I was worried for everyone in Artsakh. I felt trapped and useless yet again. The place I call heaven became unreachable for my brothers, sisters and me. I accepted this fact immediately and fell into the depths of my sadness and grief. I tried keeping myself as busy as possible to not go completely insane from the terrors of this world. 

The worst part was walking around Yerevan as if nothing had happened, as school and work continued. Life did not take a pause to grieve for the genocide of 100,000 Armenians collectively. I was furious at the government, my university and all the people in the cafes and restaurants. The anger was driving me crazy. How could people be so careless toward their brothers and sisters who had lost everything? I saw a considerable amount of people working to ensure the Artsakhtsis some sort of future, but we as a whole seemed not to care about what just happened. I felt like Komitas, who went mad walking through Etchmiadzin after the Genocide, due to the carelessness of his people.

Not a single day to grieve. And here we are, three months later, celebrating the holidays as if nothing happened. “No Varak, life must go on. We must continue with our lives and persist. We cannot grieve now,” people tell me. I am sorry, but we must grieve in order to move forward in a healthy manner and to respect all the lives that were affected by the genocide. We must grieve in order to learn from our past and create a better tomorrow, one that ensures such tragedy does not occur again, and never again truly means never again. 

A wise man compared the current moment in Armenian history to a donkey whose colt was slaughtered. He said that the very next day that same donkey would go on with his life, continuing to graze as if nothing had happened. That is what is currently happening, sadly. How are we any different than that donkey? People are told to carry on and be strong, but that makes us exactly like the donkey. 

When we actually grieve and think about what has happened, only then will we become the humans we like to think we are. If we do not stop history from repeating itself, we will live a vicious cycle like that donkey. It is time to stop, reflect, grieve and then move forward. I have grieved and feel like I am still in the process, but I will allow that process to flow naturally and not resist it. I have realized what is important to me and the value of gratitude. We must be grateful for what we have today, for we may not have it tomorrow. That gratitude has driven me to work ever more diligently to actualize my goals to create a stronger and more beautiful Armenia—an Armenia that holds on firmly to its traditions, its culture and its people. The future does not seem bright, the work seems insurmountable and the time does not seem sufficient, but I am fully committed. Are you?

Varak Ghazarian

Varak Ghazarian

Varak Ghazarian is an Armenian-American from Los Angeles who attended a Armenian school his entire life. Upon his graduation from UC Berkeley, he volunteered in Armenia for year with Birthright Armenia. He spent time in Artsakh for a month, where he mentored teenagers in border villages about fundamental topics of health. He currently lives in Armenia, which has opened up a door of imagination that was closed off elsewhere.
Varak Ghazarian

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  1. Perhaps you Armenians need to fundamentally reassess your assumptions about your past and present situation?
    A funny scene in “Trains, planes and automobiles” comes to mind:”YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY” they are told whilst driving against traffic on the left hand side, only for John Candy’s character to respond with the seemingly flawless logic: “how does he know where we’re going?”

    • Would you say the same thing to Palestinians Selim?
      You are right though Selim, though what you want for us may not match what we want for us. Thanks, however, for likening us as a people to John Candy.

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