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Remembrance Through a New Lens

AGBU Young Professionals reflect on the centenary of the Armenian Genocide 


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Hakob Stepanyan

Hakob Stepanyan 
Age: 29  
City: Arlington, Virginia 

My first memory of hearing about the genocide: “The unfortunate truth is that I hear more about the genocide today than I did as a child. Growing up in Yerevan, I remember my parents taking me to the Dzidzernagapert Memorial and it was an incredibly solemn occasion. The stories about the genocide were told only on very few occasions. I imagine it is difficult for them to revisit all the details of this period in history.” 

How the genocide defines my identity as a member of the Armenian diaspora: “It’s a pivotal point in our history. Our history is a big part of our culture. Our culture is our identity and the bond that strengthens our unity as Armenians no matter where we are. However, the causes of the genocide continue to have an impact on the current generation.” 

The lasting impact of the genocide for me is that: “We are still suffering from the aftermath. I have family members all over the world that I didn’t know existed and have never seen. My grandmother is still searching for anyone that bears a family name resembling her own. Our search for our loved ones is made even more difficult by the forced changing of names.” 

What the survivor generation would want us to remember: “I think the best way to remember the genocide is to continue to press for full awareness, acceptance and reparations. I believe that a lot of progress can be made if we, as Armenians, make our mark through our achievements and contributions, whether it be in academics, arts, business or sciences.” 

The lessons learned from my ancestors that I strive to apply in my life: “Try to have half the resilience and strength that they had.” 

 

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Justine Drabicki

Justine Drabicki 
Age: 30 
City: Newton, Massachusetts 

As we approach the centenary, I feel it’s important for all Armenians to remember: “Where they came from and what their families endured. It will be a time of reflection and pride knowing that we still stand together as a successful people that was not destroyed, not even by a genocide.” 

The struggles of my ancestors have taught me that: “Perseverance and a strong family bond can get you through even the toughest of times.” 

I think survivors of the genocide would want us to remember: “Their family’s story and struggle. It is a part of us and it is because of their family’s sacrifices, agonizing journey and bravery that we have been given the gift of life.” 

As I learned more and more about the genocide: “I wondered why it wasn’t taught in schools. Growing up in Watertown, I didn’t understand why we never learned about it in our history classes. It was never even discussed. Teaching about the Holocaust in schools is so common, but why don’t we teach about the Armenian Genocide? 

One hundred years from now I hope: “The United States will finally recognize the Armenian Genocide. As a descendant of a survivor, I continue to educate others and share the stories with my children, so they know where they came from and the bravery and courage of their ancestors. Education and communication are key to spreading knowledge about the genocide to others. I hope teaching it in history classes will be commonplace and everyone will be aware of this tragic event in history.” 

 

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Setrak Abassian

Setrak Abassian 
Age: 34 
City: Athens 

My first memories hearing about the genocide are from: “My childhood spending time with my grandfather. He would tell stories about how he, his brothers and his mother managed to survive when his father disappeared during the Adana massacres of 1909. My family was forced to leave their hometown and find refuge in Greece. They lost their house, stables, livestock and fields. The only items passed on to me are my late grandfather’s birth certificate in Ottoman and an old prayer book in Armenian filled with hand-drawn pictures.” 

The struggles of my ancestors taught me: “Endurance in any hardship, adaptability in different conditions, perseverance in accomplishing goals and standing up for ideas and beliefs.” 

I think survivors of the genocide would want us to remember: “The sacrifices that they had to make in order to keep their identity, religion and traditions and have us live our lives by upholding all the ideals they hold dear in order to honor their memory.” 

 

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Kristine Sargsyan

Kristine Sargsyan 
Age: 36 
City: Yerevan 

My first memory of hearing about the genocide: “The story about how my grandmother was found in a big woven basket tied to an ox, which was discovered near the Arax River by Russian soldiers. She later appeared in an orphanage in Gyumri where she was adopted. She married a boy who was a genocide survivor and grew up with her in the same orphanage. He was killed in World War II and she worked to provide for her four children.”  

As I learned more about the genocide: “Its denial by the Turkish government struck me. I think it causes psychological trauma on younger generations in Turkey.” 

The survivor generation would want us to: “Never forget what happened. Never forget.” 

One hundred years from now I hope: “Our future generations will not think about it as often as our generation does. I hope Turkey will recognize the Armenian Genocide and this will make all of us more human.” 

 

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Juan Pablo Artinian

Juan Pablo Artinian 
Age: 35 
City: Buenos Aires
 

My first memory hearing about the genocide: “Came from my grandmother on my mother’s side. She lost her father and mother. They lived in a small town near Smyrna called Afyon Karahisar. I remember hearing that she lost not only her parents, but also a brother. She was a survivor of the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922 and was rescued by the Greeks. I remember feeling a sense of anger and injustice.” 

 The struggles of my ancestors have taught me: “The importance of persistence and humility, the idea of what gives meaning to life is a struggle. Even if you don’t always win, you have to try to always better yourself to pursue knowledge and pursue any goal you have in life.” 

When I have children I would want them to know: “Armenian Genocide survivors were not passive, but had the will and the capacity to act in a very tough, very complex situation. Common people were able to become heroes because sometimes resistance does not only mean fighting back, but being able to survive, preserve your language, faith and culture, and despite everything, to maintain a sense of hope and happiness after great trauma.”  

Illustrations by Luis Tinoco

Originally published in the April 2015 ​issue of AGBU Magazine. end character

About the AGBU Magazine

AGBU Magazine is of the most widely circulated English language Armenian magazines in the world, available in print and digital format. Each issue delivers insights and perspective on subjects and themes relating to the Armenian world, accompanied by original photography, exclusive high-profile interviews, fun facts and more.