Note: I wrote this 2 years ago as an introduction text on the activists blog site of www.pushingthelimits.se
While driving back from Shushi, NKR (a disputed region between Armenia and Azerbaidjan), I was thinking about the long journey that took me back home. I am an Armenian woman born in Beirut, Lebanon who fled away just after the war of liberation in 1989 when general Aoun wanted to liberate Lebanon completely from the Syrian long-lasting occupation. I was 15 at that time and having a blast camping in the basement of our local church every night after 6 with all the neighbors, while the city was bombarded. Even though the adults in that room were stuck to their radio listening every bit of information with frowning eyes and whispering every now and then ‘ts, ts, ts’ (a middle eastern way of saying ‘oh my god it’s so bad’), guessing which part of the city was under fire or which building was collapsing it did not affect as much us the youth in that same room who were more into playing board games, listening to music and falling in love…
After our apartment was hit with a shell bomb and we almost lost everything, my mother packed all our remaining belongings and her jewels who took us, me, my two brothers and my father to peaceful and ‘politically correct’ Canada. And while sitting in a very calm, nicely colored with perfect benches public park of Montreal, waiting for my dad to pick me up after school, it hit me really bad. I almost collapsed under the tears and cried so hard. Culture shock, post-traumatic syndrome, effects of war, depression, nostalgia, fears… different people called it different names; I call it ‘the awakening’. My life had change drastically.
Due to the genocide that took place in the early 20th century, my grand parents had escaped from their homeland, currently eastern Turkey to finally take refuge in Lebanon. My parents were both born in Beirut and they considered both Armenia and Lebanon as their homeland (as every other diasporan Armenian).
The road taking me back from Shushi to Yerevan, is long and tiring full of potholes. I try to find a comfortable position in the small mashrutka (public transportation, soviet mini-bus) and to sleep, but the large mountains mesmerize me, the only thing Armenia has plenty of. I watch the women working in the fields of the Massis region through my small window; everything seems so quite and serene.
I remember how I finally moved to Armenia six years ago with my husband and 2 daughters despite my mother’s tears and father’s ‘ts, ts,ts’. I was tired of being a refugee, a guest, a foreigner, I wanted to come back to my roots, try to build a steady, sustainable life on this land called ‘home’. It was also six years ago when with two of my feminist friends Gohar and Shushan, we started a drop-in women’s center in a very tight and dusty old soviet room on the Yerevan State University campus. At first we were 3, then we became 10, then 21. Today we moved to a new location and the center’s activities are getting bigger and bigger, the volunteers are growing in number and age.
We started a new Women’s Resource Center in Shushi, a sister branch. I make the 6 hour trip almost every month and I often think about this amazing journey from the heat of Anatolia, through the fresh breeze of the Mediterranean Lebanese seashore, across the colorful benches of the green parks of Canada to the mysterious mountains of the Caucasus.
Armenia – 10 sept.2008