Honor the Martyrs And Save The Living

Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry Volunteers in Yerevan. Photo by Avo Kambourian

BY HEGHINAR MELKOM MELKOMIAN

There are more than 10 million Armenians scattered throughout the world, including the almost 3 million in the Motherland. Even though we are all Armenian, we are also very different. Of course, this is due to the fact that we have been influenced by those communities in which we have been raised. However, there are several things that make us all the same. For example, wherever we go, we always try to find Armenians and even sometimes we try to claim non-Armenians, Armenian. Several years ago there were rumors in Armenia that renowned American signer Gwen Stephani was Armenian. How? Very simple. Just ad an “an” at the end of her surname and you have a perfect Armenian surname: Stephanian. There are many similar examples, which are sometimes beyond absurd and ridiculous. However, one thing that is proven is that we Armenians have a unique gene-pool and this is, of course, inarguable.

During the years of the Armenian genocide, from 1915-1923, while the Ottoman Turks were working systematically according to their “perfect” plan to eliminate all Armenians from the surface of the earth, one and a half million Armenians were brutally massacred. Even though the Turks did not manage to fulfill their mission, one thing is for sure: that many people carrying Armenian genes were killed. This year is the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. On the eve of April 24 thousands of people will take part in the annual torch march initiated by the ARF youth which begins in the city center and ends at the Dzidzernakabert memorial. On April 24 hundreds of thousands of Yerevan residents and visitors will pay their tribute to the Genocide victims and lay flowers at the memorial. On April 24, all Armenians throughout the world will come as one and commemorate one of the most unjust and black pages of history. On this very day standing side by side, while mourning our loss we will also celebrate our nation’s determination to survive and live…

The definition of the term genocide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group”. We don’t have to open a dictionary to find the definition of this word, it is encrypted in blood and it is passed on to our generations through our unique genes. Prior to the events of 1915 we had Armenian communities in India, Iran, America and many other countries; however the numbers of Diasporan Armenians skyrocketed after the Armenian Genocide. In addition after the Motherland gained independence in 1991, numerous Armenian families, unable to withstand the harsh living conditions, fled the country. And so, as a result of all this, today we have millions of Armenians dispersed all over the world.

Ninety-five years after the Great Armenian Genocide we still feel the consequences of the Young Turks’ actions. Even though I am talking about material loss, I do not mean the loss of our ancestral lands, which today lie behind Turkey’s locked borders. I am talking about the loss of 1.5 million Armenians; a number which would have probably multiplied at least six-fold by now. But history cannot be altered, and so we are left with just a handful of what we could have been. What is important now is not only to strive and maintain that number, but to multiply and grow and prove to the world in the words of our famous Armenian poet Parouyr Sevak that ‘we are, we shall be, and will become many…’

However this mission is not as easy as it may seem in today’s world of globalization, wars and diseases, especially those such as leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma and life threatening diseases or immune disorders, the treatment of which requires finding a matching donor. When it comes to finding a match, the search begins within siblings and if there is no match, it is spread to include others. Having a unique genetic make up, it is nearly impossible to find suitable matches for Armenians among the existing international registries and we have to rely on each other – and there are only 10 million of us.

There are many organizations in Armenia, which have a mission to preserve national identity and the Birthright Armenia charitable organization is one of those. Ever since its establishment in 2004, with the help of the organization, 450 Armenians throughout the world have arrived in the motherland to work on a voluntary basis for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of a year. Four months into 2010, the organization has already hosted over 10 volunteers and this year a young girl named Olivia Katrandjian is amongst them.

Olivia’s mother suffers from non-Hodgkin’s peripheral-cell lymphoma. This is a type of blood cancer. Parallel to volunteering for the Civilitas Foundation, during her stay in Armenia, Olivia also aims to raise awareness about fatal blood related illnesses, such as that of her mother and help the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) find more donors for bone marrow or stem cell transplantation to all Armenian and non-Armenian patients worldwide. ABMDR was founded in 1999 as an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and is a member of the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) and Bone Marrow Donor Worldwide (BMDW) sharing its database information with other registries around the world.

On April 24, the day we will once again climb the steep slope to Dzidzernakabert, Olivia and the professional staff of ABMDR will be waiting for us all to join their fight, which I view as another mission to preserve national identity. So, on the day we commemorate the memory of our victims, the day we march to Dzidzernakabert, lay flowers, pray for the souls of our ancestor to rest in peace and bow our heads in front of the eternal flame to show the world that we will not forget, that we will not retreat from this historic truth, injustice which needs to be recognized, a day when we lost so many Armenian lives, let us also join the struggle to save those we still can.

On April 24 this year no matter where you live remember to stand up, join you local march, open your mouth and shout slogans, open your mouth and speak the one and only truth and as part of the day of commemoration also save those still alive by donating a sample to a WMDA member registry. We have seen too many tragedies, we have lost too many lives, why lose the chance to save the living…

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