Lessons on the Price of Freedom
As you all have heard, the trip has been amazing. It’s my first time in Hayastan and it’s pretty hard to find words to describe the emotions you get when you visit places that you have read about and seen in pictures.
Today we went to the churches of Soorp Gayane and Soorp Hripsime. The designs and details and size of each of the buildings are truly unbelievable, especially after you find out that the churches were built around 600 AD. Etchmiadzin was also an amazing sight to see. And I know I might sound generic when I use words like “amazing” and “unbelievable” but it’s impossible to find words in any language that can describe the places we’ve seen. They really are places that you need to see for yourself.
Today was also a very emotional day for us. We went to Yeraploor which is a cemetery that holds the graves of our fedayees and our heroes that lost their lives fighting for Artsakh. You walk around and you read each tombstone. Some names you recognize from songs and stories and some you don’t recognize. Some are only 19 years old. But, you realize that each has given the same sacrifice for our people.
The groundskeeper, who acted as our guide, added to the emotions of sadness but also to the pride and appreciation felt towards our heroes. He fought and was wounded in Artsakh, on his hand was a tattoo which read, “PARK MONTE” in honor of the man who led the people of his region. He let us know that not many people have the honor of carrying that mark. As we walked he explained how each of the fallen is honored to be buried overlooking Ararat. He spoke of the courage needed to sacrifice your life for your country. His words were enunciated with such power and with such fire that you knew if conflict were ever to arise again he would be there to fight, regardless of his condition.
You can’t help but ask yourself if you would do the same. I think any of us can say that this experience at Yeraploor is and will be one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. Our new friend Albert did not hesitate to take a few pictures with us before we left.
Next, we went to Sardarabad where we met a woman who told us to wait around because the museum would open in half an hour. Slowly, our conversation builds and she begins to tell us how she takes care of the truly beautiful garden that surrounds the graves and photos of those from her region who passed during the battles of Artsakh, one of which was her beloved husband. She told us the story of his passing. She introduced us to her son, named after his father, who he had never seen before. You don’t know how to respond or what to say. What words can you find to express to her how meaningful and honorable her husband’s sacrifice was? Just imagine the strength of this woman and her family. Everyday she willingly goes to work, where she takes care of the memorial of her fallen husband. This was another unforgettable experience. The strength and courage of our people amazes me.
On a much much lighter note, I’ll update you on a few interesting events that have recently taken place. The other day Kevork, Kevork, Levon, and I went out to get breakfast for everyone. We stopped at a bakery to get some bread. The woman greated us and waited in front of a wall of different kinds of bread as we discussed what we wanted. We decided on two loaves. Before I continue, let me emphasize that we were at a BAKERY, we were planning on purchasing some BREAD for breakfast, we now knew how much BREAD we wanted, and the nice woman was standing in front of piles of BREAD. Take a second to visualize. OK, so the next thing that came out of Levon’s mouth was “Hatz oonik?” and we all kind of stood there for a second and looked at each other. Then we realized what he said and we all began to laugh. The woman also began to laugh as she responded by pointing at the stacks of bread behind her and saying “Ayo hatz oonink.” We’ve already reminded each other of the story thousands of times and it seems to be just as funny each time.
Another notable occurrence, after our tour of the Bureau building we were walking down an alley where we heard a familiar tune. We walked a little further and realized that an Armenian man in a big truck parked on the side of the road was bumping T-Payne’s “Blame It on the Alcohol.” Put yourself in our shoes. This time, all 8 of us began to laugh. Hopefully you guys find these stories kind of funny. We miss all of you back home and hope all is well.
P.S. Alex, we can’t wait for your arrival.