BY ZEPYUR KASPARIAN
My name is Zepyur Kasparian and I am a sixth grader at K.Z.V. Armenian School in San Francisco, California. I have visited Armenia on numerous occasions. But on this visit, I saw it in a different way.
On our way to our capital city, Yerevan, we had a layover in Vienna, Austria and decided to tour the city. While touring the city, I ran into a young Armenian woman from Artsakh who was studying in Vienna. She was so excited to run into me that she took a picture of me with my luggage to show to her friends that many Armenians from all around the world are going to Armenia for the Centennial. When we were hungry, my aunt Lucy and I purchased pizza from a man who was playing Greek music, so we assumed he was Greek. Afterwards, we asked him to convert our change into paper money. The pizza man told us that he did not have the right amount of money and instead asked us to try the shopkeeper across from his cafe’. We started to walk towards the shop when I turned back to pick up the purse I dropped. That’s when I noticed the pizza man signaling the shopkeeper to deny us service. The shopkeeper did not exchange our money, but noticing my Armenian Genocide Centennial t-shirt, he swore at us in Turkish and called my aunt and me a “gyavour.” Exactly a hundred years later, the Turks continue to do the same thing.
When I arrived in Yerevan, I was greeted by my loving friends and family members. A few days later, I was given the fantastic opportunity to go to Javakhk. I visited only one village out of the six: Akhalkalak. I visited the home-museum of Vahan Terian. An elderly local woman was giving us the tour and I felt bad for all the villagers because they didn’t have proper clothing. The elderly tour guide was walking in the six-inch snow in her “papooj”s or “slippers”. I was complaining about being in the snow in my converses but decided to be grateful when I saw the situation the villagers there were in. At school, we were given piggy banks to fill up. The coins that were in those piggy banks would go to Javakhk. With that money, the A.R.S. would purchase warm clothing for the villagers in the wintertime, school supplies, shoes, gifts to give to the children during Christmas, and other items that our fellow brothers and sisters of Javakhk need. I saw with my own eyes that the money we were collecting as a school was going towards a good cause. The spare change in our piggy banks would keep a child warm for the winter, give an intelligent student the opportunity to learn by reading a book, and would make a little child happy during Christmastime.
On April 23rd, I also attended the System Of A Down concert. Although I’m not much for heavy metal, I was jumping and stepping on everyone’s feet. While I was there, I ran into non-Armenian people from Brazil, Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Argentina, France, and other countries who had come specifically for the System Of A Down concert. In Armenia, those people learned about the Armenian culture and the Genocide. There, as I always am, was proud to be an Armenian. My father wasn’t very thrilled about the pouring rain and wanted to go back home, but I convinced him that this was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity and that we couldn’t miss it. So, we stayed!
During my stay in Yerevan, I went to visit Dzidzernagapert, the Armenian Genocide Memorial, three times. The first time I went to Dzizernagapert, I went right after the commemoration with the delegates from around the world. The memorial had remained just the same but I learned a new thing about it this time. The place that holds the fire resembles the twelve regions we lost to the turks after the Genocide. And the long triangular wall with crack-like line in the middle means Armenia divided.
My second time to Dzidzernagapert was the march with the torches. I walked from the Republic Square in Yerevan to Dzizernagapert. The march consisted of elderly, adults, mothers with strollers, and teenagers who were chanting Patriotic chants and singing Patriotic songs like “Arazi Apin” and “Tzayn Me Hnchetz Erzeroumi”. Whoever was unable to participate in the march, lit a candle as a symbol of saying “We’re with you!”
Some of those who were unable to participate smiled and whistled at us from their windows, congratulating us, and encouraged us to continue forward. And my third time to Dzidzernagapert was to visit the Genocide Museum. There was nothing in the museum that I didn’t know about, but what had an impact on me were the images. The images were very frightening and I do not wish to see them again. The truth can be so horrible sometimes. I thought I was prepared to see the images in the Museum, but I guess I was wrong because I left the Genocide Museum with tears in my eyes.
While I was in the Genocide Museum, I took a picture in front of the flag with the red cross on it; this was the flag that Musa Daghtzis used to gain help from the French. For this picture, I smiled because I was proud for I am fifty percent Musa Daghtzi and fifty percent Vanetsi.
On April 24, Austria had recognized the Armenian Genocide. So, I was happy to be flying with the Austrian Airlines on my way to Armenia, and back. Overall, this trip to Armenia was unforgettable. I will always remember it. I have made a pact to myself that in the future, when I have children, I will take them to Armenia on the occasion of another Anniversary of the Genocide, to experience what I experienced while on this visit.
Zepyur Kasparian is a sixth grade student at San Francisco’s Krouzian-Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School