"Armenia revisited --- a second look at a countryís heritage"
an exhibit of photos by Tom Vartabedian [installed August 2009]
|Biblical Mount Ararat towers over Armenia as the landing place of Noahís Ark||Generations pay their respects at the Armenian Genocide Memorial (Tsitsernagapert) April 24th in the capital city of Yerevan||Armenian toddler acts as an unofficial greeter in the village of Penzashen|
|Young dancers display their exuberance at the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin --- the Mother Church of Armenia||Donkey travel is a way of life in the village of Shinahayr||Sheepherder cradles a lamb on the road to Goris.|
|Child at play inside Zadig Orphanage on the outskirts of Yerevan||Merchant peddles Armenian hats at Vernisage while dressed in native attire||Elderly woman performs a big sweep with a short broom in Oojan|
|Armenia revisited --- a second look at a country's heritage|
|By Tom Vartabedian|
As with any country that dates back to antiquity, one good visit deserves another, especially when it comes to retracing my roots and exploring the land of my ancestors.|
Thatís how I felt in April with my second visit to Armenia --- a pilgrimage that took me to remote villages where people lived off the sweat of the earth and historic sites that were far removed from the ordinary tourist.
In essence, I saw the real Armenia, a country still struggling with liberation 18 years after segregating from the Soviet Union and an economic structure that is far from being substantial. Jobs continue to remain at a premium in the major cities, compounded by the absence of technology.
Twenty miles outside the capital city of Yerevan, people were herding sheep and harvesting an abundant crop to survive. Bad as it was in some villages, children were well maintained and educated, the population remained buoyant, and generations kept the spirit of their ancestry locked inside their hearts.
In 2006, with a tour group from my church, we joined a celebration marking the 15th anniversary of Armenian Independence in Republic Square that pulled no stops when it came to showcasing the nationís military and memorializing those who fought and died for freedom. A crowd estimated at 100,000 took part in that observance. We saw the traditional sites, made the customary stops, and the cohesion with a group certainly proved memorable. We still rekindle the joy.
On this occasion, the trip was made with one other (Joe Dagdigian) who made Armenia his second home when he and his wife Lisa purchased an apartment in the capital city. Dagdigian was partially raised in Haverhill and now makes Harvard (MA) his residence.
The itinerary took us across the land to Nagorno-Karabagh some 225 miles from the mainland, crossing one village after another and exploring churches and monasteries along the route with a help of a hired driver.
With a roadmap, compass and GPS at our disposal, we spent three weeks exploring the sites --- in most cases letting fate become our guide.
Among the highlights and observations:
It was good to return home.