Welcome to Beyond the Blue Domes, my personal blog. In earlier posts, I shared memories about growing up in Iran during the Shah's rule, fleeing the country at age thirty, raising a family in the United States, and facing the newness and challenges of American life. Lately I'm posting my thoughts on stories or news that have touched me. My theme is exploring social realities and the intersections within cultures, and preserving history. Thanks for stopping by.
Saturday, 29 June 2013
Sosé Thomassian & Allen Yekikian their lives were cut short but their spirit will stay alive...
Sosé Thomassian & Allen Yekikian
I read the following story on line and couldn't help myself not to post it on my blog. In a previous post I've told the story of Sosse and Allen's tragic accident. Last year during my stay in Armenia, I visited Proshyan village and was present at the opening of the day camp in that village. Later I learned that the camp was organized for the endeavors of Sosé and Allen. After reading their story read my story.
The AYF Youth Corps program has a long and distinguished story that began in 1994, following the Bishkek protocol that set up a ceasefire in Artsakh. The purpose was to take direct aid to the newly liberated villages and help repair the damage of years of war. The program took young volunteers from abroad to rural regions to do rebuilding work hand-in-hand with locals…brick by brick.
The generation of AYF members that had the vision and foresight to create the Youth Corps program in 1994 understood the need to overcome the Iron Curtain and tangibly reconnect with our homeland.
Years later, the program was completely renovated with a renewed purpose. In 2008, Youth Corps established its first day camp in Gyumri. The purpose was to give kids in Armenia a fun, educational, and exciting summer, and at the same time introduce diasporan youth to more than just a superficial picture of Armenia. The new concept has since grown to 7 cities, bringing dozens of volunteers to Armenia each summer, interacting with thousands of kids.
Among those who led the way in the establishment of Youth Corps 2.0 were Sosé Thomassian & Allen Yekikian. Sosé & Allen wanted to engage young diasporans in Armenia’s future development, but first wanted them to understand Armenia’s realities. They envisioned having young people from the diaspora teach and learn from youngsters in different regions of Armenia and Artsakh in order to build ties, build understanding and truly build a bridge home.
Sosé served as the Chairperson of the Youth Corps committee for several years beginning in 2008, and Allen served as the Youth Corps group leader in 2010. The couple continued to be involved in the planning of the program even after they moved to Armenia earlier this year. They Skyped into meetings each week, provided logistical support on the ground in Yerevan, and were ready to welcome our 2013 group with open arms. They are sadly unable to greet this year’s group at Zvartnots because their lives were tragically cut short following a car accident on May 10th.
Sosé & Allen, you are not here, but your spirit remains with us. So, with your spirit we continue.
With your spirit that views Armenia as a home to be explored, rather than a tourist destination, we continue.
With your spirit that sees opportunity where others see despair, we continue.
With your spirit that believes in connecting young people from the diaspora to young people in Armenia, we continue.
With your spirit that believes in thoughtful solutions, rather than blind criticism, we continue.
With your spirit that that knows that real results come from real effort, we continue.
With your spirit that has love for your people and love for your country, we continue.
You put your hearts in this program because you believe in our nation’s future. Thank you for your guidance and we promise you our generation will continue.
A day camp at Proshyan village
Last year I had the pleasure of being at the opening ceremony of a day-camp at Proshyan village about 12 km outside of Yerevan. We arrived at around 11:30 a.m. at the village. Our driver took us directly to the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) center where boys and girls were playing in front of the two story building.
This was the second year that AYF Youth Corps had put together a week-long day-camp for kids ages 6 to 15 at the village. The camp was in the memory of Karot Mkrtchian, a Proshyan son, who had sacrificed his life in the war 20 years ago.
Kevork Parseghian, the director of the center, welcomed us and told us we were right on time. They were just about to start the opening ceremony by taking the kids to the main square of the village where Karot’s bust was erected.
The leaders and counselors of the camp gathered the kids in rows according to their heights and together we all proceeded on foot towards the square which was right at the corner.
Just before entering the square, I had a chance to chat with Nareh Kupelian, one of the camp counselors. She explained that all 14 counselors, between the ages of 20 to 27, were college graduates from the United States and had come to Armenia as volunteers for AYF youth corps program to help coordinate day camps in villages throughout Armenia and Artsakh.
The group had arrived a month earlier from the US and had already organized two-week long day camps in four different villages. This was the last camp that they were going to coordinate. Before assembling all in Proshyan they worked in groups of seven.
As we entered the square I was pleasantly surprised to see how tastefully it was landscaped, with a lawn in the center and white rose bushes surrounding it. Karot’s bust was visibly placed in the middle
With the kids lining up in front of Karot’s bust, the counselors began to recite patriotic passages to heighten the energy level and encourage the kids to respond. Watching the scene, with the colorful flags waving in the background and kids chanting, stirred up my patriotic emotions.
The kids each received a long-stemmed white carnation, to place at the foot of Karot’s monument. But before flower dedication, they sang the Armenian National anthem, which integrates the theme of sacrificing one’s life to free the homeland.
We all grew up with the reverberation of the words of our national anthem, but the meaning of the words had never been so striking to me than at that moment when I stood there in Proshyan square at the foot of Karot’s bust, and listened to the kids sing in Armenian: “Everywhere death is the same. Everyone dies only ones. But lucky is the one who is sacrificed for his nation.”
Karot is one of an estimated 4000 soldiers missing in action. The last time Karot was seen was June 13, 1992, when he was fighting in mountains of Artsakh at the age of 28. Karot was the commander of his troop and his friends and subordinates remember that he refused to retreat in that intense fight in the mountains… Nobody has heard from him since then.
Every year on June 13, Proshyan village comes together to remember him and to make sure he is not forgotten, hoping that one day he will return. He, alongside other Karots, sacrificed his life to fulfill our dream of a unified Armenia and Artsakh.
I should admit that I was very impressed by the whole affair. I had not expected to see such an orderly procession and such neat buildings and landscaping in a village. Later, I learned that Armenians from the Diaspora have been responsible for rejuvenating the village.
The building that houses AYF has been there since the Soviet time. The two-story center was renovated recently and has a gym/recreation room with showers. The center provides weight lifting, boxing and marshal arts training as well as a folk dance classes.
It was gratifying to see how the Proshyan AYF center, under the tutelage of Parseghian, is working hard to build future leaders with strong patriotic dispositions. Parseghian has moved from Pasadena, California to live in Armenia to fulfill his father’s dream who was an Armenian Genocide survivor.
I’m so glad I had the pleasure of being there and meeting the leaders, who work day and night for the Armenian cause. This was another layer of our homeland that I was not aware.