Javakhk: An Unforgettable Weekend

The AYF group in Javakhk


During the summer of 2010, I decided to participate in the AYF Youth Corp Program, where nine participants and I ran a day camp for the children of Gyumri for four weeks and spent two weeks in Yerevan visiting historical monuments and enjoying what Armenia had to offer. However, my trip was complete only after the last weekend, after visiting Javakhk. Having heard about Javakhk for years and participating in many fundraisers, I was ecstatic to finally witness everything firsthand.

During the course of two days we went Akhalkalak, where we saw the Hye Getron and met its youth members, and drove to Parvana Lake, while stopping at a few small villages on the way.

What I observed in Javakhk surely put things into perspective. Although I had heard countless stories about their dire conditions, seeing the extent of their troubles was something I was not prepared for. Damaged and shattered houses made of wood and cow manure lined up one after another. Roofs were falling apart, bathrooms were composed of wooden boxes, and showers were collectively shared by entire communities. Children walked around, malnourished and too small for their years, with hand me down clothing. Extended families shared small houses with one or two rooms. Food and supplies were limited; their struggle was evident.

On the drive through these villages, we stopped at a house where a kind older lady greeted us. Although her house was falling apart, she had a big smile on her face and welcomed us with open arms. Her entire family lived in one house, including grandchildren.

As I walked around, what I found endearing was that all of the children shared a few toys but were still thankful for everything they had. This is a major difference from America where most kids walk around with a cell phone, an iPod, the latest clothing, and the newest electronic games and gadgets.

Their optimism and love for Javakhk were amazing. Even through their hardships, the love they had for their land was unconditional. They explained that Javakhk belonged to Armenia and that they were happy to be living in their home. Their outlook was inspiring.

After seeing the conditions in Javakhk, my fellow Youth Corp participants and I collectively decided to donate our clothing and whatever else we could. I had heard stories about the struggles in Javakhk, but after seeing everything firsthand, donating over half of what was in my luggage became much easier. They were thankful for every single donation from socks to towels. The gratitude they had for our small donation and the diaspora as a whole was beaming through their smiles. As we made the donation, we ensured them of one fact; they were always on our minds and that our support would never cease.

My short visit to Javakhk opened my eyes to a new perspective. How could people be so happy with so little? How were they so willing to fight and struggle in order to keep Javakhk occupied by Armenians? Why were they more welcoming and optimistic than many American families who own a house, have at least two cars, always have food on the table, own brand name clothing, and buy the latest technological gadgets? These people did not have an ounce of selfishness or materialism. They had no desire to be wealthy and own expensive toys. Their sole objective was to put food on the table, stay warm, keep their families healthy, and occupy their lands.

On the way back from Javakhk my thoughts were racing. I was sad to see their struggles. I was sympathetic to hear their stories. I was inspired by their will to survive. I was overjoyed to hear their determination to live in Javakhk in the hopes of one day reuniting with Armenia. I was surprised at how grateful they were for the small things in life. I felt guilty because of how much I had compared to how little they owned.

But it was then that I came to a realization. The people of Javakhk don’t care about how many things they own. They just want to live comfortably, to see our faces, to hear that they are always on our minds. They need to hear that, despite our distance, their struggles are our struggles, their worries are our worries, and that their determination to see historical Armenia reunited is a dream that we all share. Instead of feeling sorry for them, I developed a new appreciation. Their struggle and outlook on life inspired me and brought a newfound determination to stay active and help out.

My weekend in Javakhk is one that I will never forget. I realized that no matter how much money we raise here, no matter how many articles of clothing we send, our efforts are nothing compared to the direct struggles they face on a daily basis. They are determined to preserve their culture and to reunite with Armenia. They refuse to give in to the hardships that the Georgian government presents and to their poverty. They should be an inspiration to us all as they are a prime example of dedicated Armenians struggling to keep their cultural identity no matter how hard the conditions.

Javakhk now holds a special place in my heart and will definitely be a place I visit during every trip to Armenia. I am excited to return and experience the people’s amazing spirit, zeal to endure, and passion for everything Armenian.


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  1. Armenak said:

    “I was overjoyed to hear their determination to live in Javakhk in the hopes of one day reuniting with Armenia.”
    Do you guys realize what are you steering up? Leave Georgia alone and continue concentrating on Armenia and the corruption as well as poverty forcing people to leave in droves. Your party already has a bad name in Georgia left the marks from the war of 1918. These lands have always been shared between our people. It is not important who it belongs to today. The most important goal should be on your agenda to preserve the existence and the state of our both nations. We share history, culture and religion. Armenia never calls that territory Javakh and never discusses this subject in such a tone as you ARF and AYF do. Respect the sovereignty of neighboring nation. Javakh is not going to be united with Armenia anytime soon, unless Turks or Persians occupy our lands, and then Armenia liberates Georgia as a result of which they can fall under her protection. The city of Ani was liberated several times and Van under the rule of David the Builder who later brought those cities under his rule, protection and governance. We are and have been brothers with Georgians for centuries. Leave the nationalistic agenda to Artsakh and rebuild Armenia from the mess it is today.

    • Hagop D said:

      “We are and have been brothers with Georgians for centuries”

      I seriously doubt you know any Armenian history.

  2. gaytzag palandjian said:

    Dear Karen Sasounian,
    Very moving.But I don´t go for this kind of narratives any more.Not that I do not appreciate your heartfelt report and what you feel.Far from that.I hold your feelings very high as rgds Javakhq,the forgotten or near forgotten old very old province of Armenity-Armenia…But do me a small very small favour.enter in web site that youngmen like you have set up in Calif. only area that I am allowed or admitted or accepted to post and read my articles therein.Especially the last one and all in fact…
    and then think if we cannot make that happen…
    Thanks for reading me … here goes;.+….please click on top left hand corner Users Articles,
    Gaytzag palandjian

  3. Arthur I said:

    To the editor:

    Please edit these emotionally courageous yet politically infant articles. You know well what I mean – miatsoum.

    Publishing this article without such editing has done a great disservice to the Armenians of Javakhk, where I have family. Such emotions give the Georgian ultranationalist the excuse to continue the creeping ethnic cleansing – they are following the Soviet Nakhichevan playbook, step by step.

    So please earn your paycheck by being a responsible steward of all Armenians’ PR campaign.

  4. Hagop D said:

    Georgians have never been “our brothers” or “our friends” for many many centuries now. All you clueless Armenians claiming otherwise, educate yourselves.

    Armenia made a mistake in 2008 by not taking advantage of that opportunity in joining Russia. There was the opportunity to liberate Javakhk, and also cutting off the Turkish Georgian border.

  5. ARA said:

    I lived in Armenian as a grad student and traveled all over the former USSR-Europe to the Black sea to the borders and many mtns and villages in between all over the Caucuses-In Georgia the filth those people have are genuine- the Armenians are the reason they have wealth-they are dirt with out us-without our history and people they would have been real dirt like the azeris and turks-literally no different- the georgians have good food and areas and agriculture and lots of peasants-the educated class is our people and has been though like turks and others we-as in our people-could never advance too far no matter how rich or smart we were while in their lands-though some of their lands like the turks areas are OURS. The RUssians gave them a good muzzle and they will get more if they do not leave us alone and they need to SHUT up and stop pestering our people-they r a turkish piece of dirt to us-

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