“He died like his father, so his son could live”

Homenetmen Washington D.C. Troop 1918 and AYF D.C. “Ani” Chapter member Maria Stepanyan

The following are remarks offered by AYF-YOARF Washington D.C. “Ani” Chapter member Maria Stepanyan in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy at the start of the annual “March for Justice” held on April 24, 2024.

A line in one of my favorite Armenian songs, “Paronayk Spaner” [Պարոնայք Սպաներ] gives me goosebumps, brings me to tears, every time I hear it: “zohvets hor nman, vor apri vortin” [he died like his father, so that his son would live.]” 

And after losing Artsakh, losing so many priceless lives, I wonder: for how long will Armenians have to sacrifice their lives like their ancestors so that the future generations can live, future generations that 30 years later, give up their lives for the same struggle? 

In the Bible, Jesus says, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That’s what our ancestors have been doing for centuries – laying down their lives for their friends, their sons and daughters, their country. 

At the moment, I think I would do it, too. I think that were I given the choice to fight for Armenia, of course, I wouldn’t hesitate a second. 

And then I ask myself, am I doing the bare minimum as an Armenian in the Diaspora, without even mentioning sacrificing my life? Do I pray for Armenia every single morning when I open my eyes and every night when I go to bed? Do I call my U.S. representatives every day, demanding that they stand on the right side of history and take action? Do I go to every protest and every Armenian advocacy event? Do I put in everything I can to maintain and grow our precious faith, our unique culture and our ancient language? Do I try my best to unify our people instead of split us apart? 

Sireliner, today, this is our bare minimum as Diaspora Armenians. Instead of looking at this devastating loss of Artsakh as the end, I urge us all, myself included, to see it as a wake-up call. Instead of giving up and losing hope, let’s decide, each and every one of us, to do our bare minimum. 

We should praise God everyday that we don’t need to sacrifice our lives and instead snatch this opportunity to use our lives to make sure that no more 18-year-old boys with bright futures and loving families awaiting them – boys that at my age are given a burden too heavy for any man – have to sacrifice their lives for our country. 

Let’s put aside our differences, let’s sacrifice a bit of our free time – five minutes out of every day – not only for the future, so that our sons and daughters still have a place to call home, but for the present of every single boy standing on our uncertain borders.

Maria Stepanyan

Maria Stepanyan

Maria Stepanyan joined the Homenetmen DC Chapter in 2014 and is now the Arenoush Khmbabedouhi (Scoutmaster). She joined the AYF DC “Sevan” Junior Chapter in 2020, served as an executive member for two years and is now a member of the AYF DC “Ani” Senior Chapter. Maria is a senior at Sidwell Friends School where she is the head of the Genocide Awareness and Prevention Association through which she has organized multiple fundraisers for Armenia and Artsakh and raises awareness about the Armenian Genocide. She is also the head of the Christian Fellowship Club at Sidwell and sings in the choir at St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church in DC.
Maria Stepanyan

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