BY HASMIK BURUSHYAN
This trip has led all of us to many unknowns. The drive to Javakhk was especially suspenseful. We did not know what kind of town or people we would encounter. We did not know if we were going to comfortably find the combinations of words and sentences that would make us mutually understand each other. We did not know how deeply the Armenian culture was rooted in the people we were about to meet. Many of us are used to a different world.
Our arrival was met with intrigued faces. The people were eager to pierce the silence yet maintained the quiet for observational purposes. Soon enough, we patted the vibes with sincere greetings as if we were all meeting a long-lost brother or sister.
The youth centers of Akhaltskha and Akhalkalak were quite simple. Ordinary in the ways the chairs were arranged and especially the wall decorations. In each space of cultural haven, the walls were adorned with Armenian calendars and drawings of flags and fallen heroes that the youth using the center had created. None of these pieces were radical in the love of their heritage, but the pieces quietly spoke through the rooms. Seeing these faint movements on the wall glued my feet to the space from where I was viewing them I kept comparing it to the walls of my youth center back home. These thoughts circled around my head for a while.
All of us have pinned our hearts to the vocalization of our culture and historical roots. We have promised to continue to sing the songs that our grandparents did. We have made it our spirits’ call to reveal any wrongdoings that attempt to dim the colors of our culture. Some work loudly while others can only work behind the scenes.
The people of Javakhk work quietly but work with the greatest of forces to hold their Armenian-ness tightly. They hold their grip by continuing the work through the power of passion.
This is what I got when I stared at those subtle walls. I did not respond by feeling sorry for the people for not being able to loudly proclaim what was in their hearts. I did not feel a drop of pity. However, I felt the resilience of the people. I felt their resisting energies vibrate through those plain walls.
Another moment that can never fall victim to memory loss was my conversation with one of the locals. For the sake of connection, I questioned him as to why he did not relocate to Armenia. His response was needed. He said, “Why should we move? This is our Armenia.”
The story of Javakhk and its people is very promising. As a Diasporan, I am ready whenever to include myself in this process.