BY CATHERINE YESAYAN
Saturday September 21, is Armenian Independence Day, which I’d say holds a special place in the hearts of all Armenians. It certainly does for me. The day signifies an important milestone, the realization of a dream held for generations that suddenly and unexpectedly happened 22 years ago after the fall of the Soviet Union.
This year I’m going to celebrate Armenian Independence Day here in Glendale, but last year I had the great opportunity to be in the beautiful city of Yerevan. It was a crisp Friday morning, around 77F. What I had always heard is definitely true: the best time to visit Yerevan is at the end of September. Indeed, it was so enjoyable to walk along the wide sidewalks. The city absolutely sparkled with newly refurbished sidewalks and streets. Everything looked so fresh.
I had guests who were visiting Armenia. It was a perfect day to stroll along the streets of Yerevan and show them all the sites. The mature sycamore trees lining the main streets were shining in the sunlight and everything looked so clean and effervescent. The tricolor flags had been hoisted all over the city and along the streets just a few days earlier. The sight of them made my blood boil.
We started from Freedom Square, where the Opera is. We took a few pictures of the tricolor flags set in the center of the square and waving gracefully in the wind. Then we proceeded to the Opera, where I wanted to check at the box office about upcoming cultural events.
From the Opera, we passed by a few cafés and then came to Swan’s Lake. We took photos of the lake and the swans swimming there. Then we took a few more photos of the abstract statue of Arno Babajanian playing piano. I was full of pride – as if I owned the city.
From Swan Lake, we made our way through the newly-constructed pedestrian Northern Avenue to Republic Square where last-minute preparations were underway for the evening celebration. A light show and a concert were expected to bring thousands to the square.
Walking along Northern Avenue, we encountered a full throttle of Independence Day spirit. There we met groups of young people, marching with flags wrapped around their shoulders or hoisted in their hands. They were chanting upbeat patriotic slogans, and the sound carried across the street.
It was so heartwarming to see those kids, our next generation of leaders, keeping the spirit of the Day alive. I had imagined they had no idea how dear Independence Day was to us. For centuries, under different rulers, we had strived to regain our independence, and now we have it.
Most people were wearing either tricolor or orange shirts. Young women were wearing fashionable tricolor headbands. Most carried small flags in their hands. It seemed everyone in the city had come outside for the celebration. I met some friends that had traveled long distances to be there for the occasion.
We sat at a café to have a bite. My eyes traveled to all corners of the street, soaking in the spirit of the day. Young artists were painting tricolor tattoos on young peoples’ arms or faces. The charge was 200 dram (50 cents). I regretted that I didn’t purchase one.
More than not having a tattoo, I regretted that we had missed standing outside on Northern Avenue during early morning hours when the state philharmonic orchestra and state academic choir had put together a “flash-mob” concert. But, thanks to YouTube, we can still have the pleasure of listening to it.
That’s how the laid-back city of Yerevan, last year, celebrated Independence Day.