PASADENA—Armenians gathered in solidarity at a Revolutionary Song Night dinner on Saturday, August 18th at the Pasadena Armenian Center to fundraise for AYF’s “With Our Soldiers” Campaign. With the Central Executive declaring this year as the “Year of the Azadamardig,” the event was one of many to assist veterans of the Artsakh War with necessary medical treatments. Twenty Azadamardigs have been treated so far, with their ailments ranging from the need for eye prosthetics and hearing aids to surgeries to remove shrapnel still within their bodies decades after the war.
More than 150 people were in attendance, and donations were being gathered throughout the night as Viken Yacoubian performed revolutionary songs. The AYF reached out to the community and received overwhelming support from local ARF, ARS, and AYF chapters. Individual supporters and their families also donated, enabling more aid to reach the war veterans in need of medical care. Over thirty thousand dollars was raised. “This event showed that our community stands with the AYF in supporting our freedom fighters. We thank them for that support and we are confident that together, we can make the lives of at least a few dozen of our Azadamardigs better,” said AYF Central Executive Chairman David Arakelyan.
The “With Our Soldiers” committee of the AYF premiered a video it had prepared documenting the atrocious conditions the veterans live in, and the personal connections made between AYF members who traveled to Armenia this summer, and the Azadamardigs in the Homeland. Caspar Jivalagian, one of this year’s Youth Corps group leaders who visited the Azadamardigs said, “The conditions they live in are unacceptable, and will break your heart. It is embarrassing, very embarrassing that the veterans, who gave their blood for our country, are not being taken care of by the government of Armenia.”
It is the bureaucracy in Armenia which prevents veterans from receiving any sort of aid from the institutions meant to provide such support to the freedom fighters. Veterans need volumes of supporting paperwork, which is difficult to obtain since many of them never filed the proper claims to receive an official status of a ‘freedom fighter’ back in early 90’s. Even for those veterans who have their documents in order, the government assistance is so insignificant compared to their needs and so difficult to obtain that many simply choose not to pursue it. This leaves the wounded and suffering Azadamardigs to fend for themselves and attempt to provide for their families.
An important factor in dedicating this year to the freedom fighters is the need to raise awareness about their problems and to make this issue a focal point for the Armenian society, both in the Diaspora and in the Homeland. “Hopefully, the With Our Soldiers initiative will bring greater attention to the issues faced by our freedom fighters and force the Armenian government to do more in resolving these problems,” stated Arakelyan.
The With Our Soldiers committee worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the event, especially in securing donations. Tro Krikorian, a member of With Our Soldiers taskforce and emcee for the evening concluded, “It was an amazing event all around, especially in terms of fundraising. The video presentations really shed light on the campaign, which helped garner new support around this important issue. The campaign committee was able to raise enough funds to help over 50 veterans with their medical needs.” Jivalagian added, “I promised we’d go back with more help. We really are changing lives.”
For more information about the WOS campaign and further efforts to aid veterans of the Artsakh war, visit www.WithOurSoldiers.com.