| From New York, USA | Moved in 1992
My parents were born in the homeland, but in 1915 they were deported in the mass deportations and genocide of Armenians. My mother was able to escape with her family to Dersim which was a Kurdish region. From Dersim they went to the Russian side in 1916 and then when the Russian army disintegrated they went to Alexandropol, now known as Gyumri. They then went from Alexandropol to Tbilisi, Vladicaucasus, Grozny, Armavir and Novorossiysk and from there we went to Istanbul then from Bolis to America, so my mother went to America in 1920. My father became an orphan and stayed in Kharpert, in a German orphanage which later became an American orphanage. In 1922 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk demanded that Armenian orphans needed to be taken care of by Turkish families. Americans could take some of the orphans to other countries and because of this my father traveled with other orphans to Beirut, in an orphanage in Antelias, where he stayed until 1927, when his brother who had gone to America 19 years before, found a way to bring him there. My father came to the USA in 1927 where he met my mother; they fell in love and got married.
Up until the age of 5 I could not speak any English, but after going to school there, I began to speak English and after some time, I stopped speaking Armenian. My mum would tell me to speak Armenian but I would argue with her saying that we were living in America, so we should speak English. If she ever spoke to me in Armenian out on the streets, I would mutter under my breath for her to speak English. I didn’t want to feel like a foreigner. But then I began to realize that there were notable Armenians. William Saroyan was the first person who made me feel proud to be an Armenian, I read his books and this had a big impact on me and I came to the realization that the Armenians weren’t a weak race. When I was around 16 I made a few Armenian friends and we used to sit around and talk about our problems, discussing our parents lives and how they had come from elsewhere and that they didn’t speak English etc. Through my friendship with these people I became closer to my Armenian identity and I began going to church.
I want to share our Armenian faith with my people. Ultimately I am a representative of my church, I have duties to my church because my church gave me my purpose and my history and kindness. In 1971, there was supposed to a meeting in Etchmiadzin, a meeting for all clergymen. There weren’t that many people there, around 30 to 40. It was at this meeting that there was an offer to have two people from the Diaspora, especially America, to come to Armenia. I was one of the two clergymen. Let me tell you, at first I didn’t want to come. In 1971, Armenia was still a communist country, the Cold War was still ongoing and we had heard various things about Armenia. But when the airplane landed all those preconceptions disappeared. I came off the plane and I saw Ararat mountain and something happened inside of me. This is my ancestral land. I don’t believe in the significance of bloodlines and genes, for me being Armenia is about memory and remembrance and we have a shared memory of our past. So when I landed and I saw Ararat, I realized that this is my ancestral fatherland. From then on I set my mind on living in Armenia for however long I could and to contribute whatever I could.