Book Review: Zaven Khanjian’s Is This Home Yours or Mine?: Pilgrimage to Western Armenia, Cilicia and Constantinople, Pages from my Diary

Departing from Yerevan on September 22, 2006, Zaven Khanjian, well- known and respected leader in the Armenian community of Southern California and the author of this book, embarked on an 18-day tour of Western Armenia, Cilicia and Constantinople, led by Armen Aroyan.
On Thursday, September 28, Zaven, accompanied by his wife Sona and a few others, visited the village of Aghen (Agin) near Arapgir, his father’s birthplace, and found the house in which his father, Vazken Dikran Khanjian, was born the night of December 31, 1912. The current owner, a Turk named Hussein, who is a retired bank employee, told the author that his father had purchased the house from the government in 1936. Hussein had met Zaven’s father in 1969, when the latter had gone there for a visit, and Hussein’s mother had welcomed the author’s older sister Laura in 1994. Therefore, he knew quite a bit about the Khanjian family and offered the use of his home to the Khanjians whenever and for as long as they wished. Together, Zaven and Hussein planted a walnut tree in the back yard in memory of his father and all those Armenia’s who perished during the Armenian Genocide. Before Khanjian left, Hussein asked him, “Now tell me, is this home yours or mine?”
This question, which the author chose as the title of his book, pertains not only to just his paternal home but, in a broader sense, to all the ancestral Armenian lands, known collectively as Western Armenia, which have been possessed by Turkey for close to a century now.
In the epilogue entitled “Yev Hima Inch? (And What Now?), Khanjian states that “every Armenian naturally, understandably and justifiably rejects the idea of visiting Turkey” and that applied to him too. The change in his attitude was brought on by circumstances and changing times: push for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide that began with its 50th anniversary; easing of travel restrictions in Turkey and the trickle of visitors there, starting in the 1960’s; availability of organized tours led by Armen Aroyan as of the early 1990’s; greater public awareness of historical Armenian towns and villages brought about through the series of conferences dedicated to them, organized by Prof. Richard Hovannisian at UCLA, beginning in the mid-1990’s; writings of Kemal Yalchin and others, about the growing awareness among Turks about the Armenian Genocide and, in some cases, their Armenian ancestry. However, what finally made him change his mind was that he had found a common denominator with Turks: the majority of them, as well as he, were opposed to the American occupation of Iraq, which had begun with the 2003 invasion.
After Zaven Khanjian went, saw and experienced historical Armenia and the people living there, it is his wish that “we all share my feelings, renew our oath of fidelity to our grandfathers and confirm our feeling of belongingness;Every meeting, communication, contact and conversation during these pilgrimages accomplishes two things:
It kindles the fire of awareness of belongingness in all those, who disappeared from the Armenian lands and whose remaining generations, however, still live there.
It arouses curiosity in the minds of those living on our lands, first to find out who these Armenian visitors are and why they have come, then to ask why they aren’t living here and how they disappeared.”
Not surprisingly, Khanjian writes, “All that was is practically non-existent today;The natural first reaction to the awareness of this terrific loss must be the pursuit of our just deman’s. Recognition of the Genocide, reparations for damages to the heirs of the victims of the Genocide, expression of forgiveness to the Armenian people and, finally, return of territory.”
In a program held at the Glendale Public Library on July 12, 2007 to formally present Khanjian’s book to the public, Sarkis Majarian, founder-editor-publisher of Nor Hye [New Armenian] weekly, compared it to the travelogues of Tlgadintsi, Karekin Srvandzdiants and Father Ghevont Alishan, saying, “The book Is This Home Yours or Mine? is carefully written and well thought out; it has a unique style, and reflects a highly patriotic spirit. It is an important contribution to our body of travel literature.” (Massis Weekly, July 28, 2007)
This first book by Zaven Khanjian was originally published in serial form in Asbarez Daily (January 27 ‘s April 21, 2007) under the title “Kele Ertank Mur Erkir” (Come On, Let’s Go to Our Country), which later became the title of Chapter 7, devoted to the portion of the journey involving Mush and Bitlis. It has enjoyed such popularity that there are only a few copies left from the first printing, making a second printing quite probable. Unfortunately, like its predecessors ‘s Kh. N. Kavar, Hin Garodneru Jampov [On the Road of Old Longings] (1973), Archpriest Sarkis Antreassian, Darakirn u Hayrenike Tem Timats [The Exile and the Homeland, Face to Face] (1995), and Bedros Zobyan, Tebi Bitlis William Saroyani Hed [Toward Bitlis with William Saroyan] (2003) ‘s it is accessible only to the Armenian reader. A book of such merit and importance should be translated into English so it can be enjoyed by the younger generation.

Copies of Is This Home Yours or Mine? can be obtained from the Armenian bookstores in Greater Los Angeles, bookstore of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in New York, or the author: zaven@kanjyanrealty.com

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