Cheerleaders for 'Hayasdan'
Cheerleaders for 'Hayasdan'
By Betty Apigian-Kessel
July 11, 2012
The Armenian Weekly
They are determined to walk in the footsteps of Haig Nahabed, Zabel Yesayan, Khrimian Hayrig, and the martyred Twelve Virgins.
Their heart beats to the rhythm of Mt. Ararat, Lake Van, and every village and city in Armenia, from the outlying rural farms to Yerevan’s Opera House, the Matenadaran, and Sourp Etchmiadzin.
To these travelers from the diaspora, the summer bounty of Armenian cucumbers, luscious red tomatoes, fragrant melons, and golden apricots are awaiting their arrival. These lovers of the Homeland are eager to plant their feet on the soil of their sacred ancestors with the intention of some way bettering the conditions for their fellow Hyes.
They have heeded the call for a return to their roots to build houses, tutor, teach, and volunteer in any way that will make their time there useful.
They are the sons and daughters of the diaspora, representing second- and third-generation Armenians. They are the miracles born of the exiled genocide survivors. They are the living evidence of victory over the intended annihilation of the Armenian population. They are indigenous to the area, and are returning to the free Republic of Armenia, the land of Noah, St. Gregory, and Mourad of Sepastia.
In her new book former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright writes in great length about discovering her Jewish roots and about the Holocaust. She was raised a Catholic, and is now an Episcopalian, but is proud of her Jewish ancestors.
Several years ago, in opposition to the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, Albright and others connected to the United States government declared that what the Armenians went through in 1915 was not a genocide. That negativity only pushed others, also proud of their ancestry, to higher heights of accomplishments with their volunteering in Hayasdan.
Lucine Kasbarian’s book The Greedy Sparrow, a rewritten Armenian folktale, out of several hundred nominated stories, books, and recordings, has been named an "Honor Book" in the 2012 Storytelling World Resource Awards (Marshall Cavendish Children's Books).
The modest Kasbarian, upon being congratulated, responded, “This honor goes to our creative people for birthing the tale and carrying it through the ages.” She is the daughter of Alice and Garabed Kasbarian of New Jersey, and wife of writer David Boyajian.
P.S. writes: “All Diaspora Armenians are not only safe but welcomed in Armenia. Bravo to Catherine Yesayan that she wants to volunteer during her stay there. The need is greatest in the villages. I am going back this fall. It is the Year of the Book and I can hardly wait to see the special exhibits at the Matenadaran and the Genocide Memorial complex. You lay your flowers, say your prayers, and shed your tears at the eternal flame. There is something magical about being surrounded by your own language, culture, and people day after day. You get off the plane at Zvartnots and you know this place belongs to you. Or maybe you belong to it.”
A.T. writes: “When my wife and I joined the Armenian Volunteer Corps in 2002 we had never been to Armenia before. We were pleasantly surprised how safe the whole country was. We are involved in many development projects in Yeghegnadzor and spend half our time there. Please come visit us Betty. We fell in love with the country and the (real) people there.”
J.D. writes: “I am still in Armenia. I love it here. I joined my colleague who was delivering aid to a school in a small village near the Iranian border. We hiked an hour to a site where David Beg’s headquarters were in the mountains near the city of Kapan. He led an effort to liberate Armenia in the 1700’s. This is also the area where General Nejdeh fought the Turks and later the Communists. If it were not for him, all of Armenia would have ended up as part of Azerbaijan, and we know how that would have ended.”
C.E. is half-Armenian and has made several trips to Armenia to help build houses returning again this year. He writes: “We’re over half way through our home building trip to Armenia. In Vanadzor we filled corners of the home with concrete and rebar. We added tufa blocks to the walls. This year the family we are working with has Grandma Tamara, who’s a couple years older than me. Her son will be the home owner with his wife and other family members who are working with us. Here again we moved gravel to fill the bottom of several rooms in the house. The major highlight of the trip for me was Saturday night’s home blessing ceremony. It was done at the home we worked on last year, with many family members present. It was a great reunion but Grandma was absent because she was up in the mountains with their sheep. I guess she will stay up there with them several days longer. We are also going to visit the Armenian Tree Project and Free Life, an organization that works with handicapped people in Armenia.”