For his daughter’s birthday, my friend Harut wished for her the following, which he wrote on his Facebook page: “Ophelia dear, my daughter, I am grateful to God that you exist. For you, my miracle, I wish happiness. I am sure that you will not stay there; I know that you are coming back because this is your country. Bad or good, it is yours. If it is bad, then I am to blame; you have to fix, correct, and clean all those problems, with which our country is surrounded. I know what I’m saying is difficult but I also know that you and your generation will be able to do it. They say miracles don’t exist. That’s a lie, don’t believe it. Miracles do exist. You are living proof of it. I love you and miss you…”
This was a simple yet moving wish from a father to a daughter who is far away from him, on the other side of the Atlantic, studying in order to return and apply her knowledge and experience to her homeland. That is Harut’s wish and I’m sure Ophelia’s as well. However there are many parents whose children are studying abroad, who silently wonder whether their children will return. Many don’t.
The day Harut posted this message I had met with a European delegation that was in Armenia ahead of the presidential elections on a fact-finding mission, I took part in a protest, I walked from one end of the city center to the other running errands and later on in the evening went out to dinner with family visiting from abroad. A pretty typical day. But after talking about the lack of democracy and the abundance of corruption and injustice in the country with the Europeans, after looking into the eyes of the disappointed and disillusioned youth at the protest, after seeing the tired and downtrodden expressions on people’s faces on my walk, I wanted to know what the hell had happened to my country. The country I had yearned for, the country I had seen in my dreams, the one I claimed and the one I felt I had lost. A jarring statement by someone who had repatriated to Armenia eight years ago kept playing in my head: “By coming to Armenia, I lost my homeland.” It was a devastating statement. It had paralyzed me. Could there be truth in those words? Had I too lost my homeland by coming to Armenia?
After reading Harut’s post, I realized that I had not lost my homeland. It is here, beneath my feet. It is the warm autumn breeze. It is the tree-lined boulevards and quaint corners of the city. It is the land that slumbers in the shadow of majestic Ararat. It is the breathtaking countryside. It is the laborer, the farmer, the teacher, the student and pensioner. I can see its reflection in the eyes of my children who have grown up with her. It is the land that accepted us and continues to reveal its many treasures and potential opportunities. My homeland is not lost, no, it has been hijacked. And I am determined to get it back.
Those who have hijacked our homeland are the ones who will have to answer to all of those parents whose children have left, never to return. Those who have hijacked our homeland will be held accountable for the hayatapum of this country by future generations of Armenians. And for all of us, the silent, brooding majority, we need to straighten our backs and set into motion the steps that need to be taken to ensure that 2.8 million people lead a dignified life; where more won’t leave and where more of us want to come.
Harut’s wish for his daughter is merely that – the gift of belief for a promise of return.