By: Erik Khzmalyan
For decades, Armenians had one dream… to have an independent country. Throughout centuries it was our goal, by any means, to fight and struggle for our independence and freedom. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Armenia gained its independence. Our country entered a new era in which our own destiny was in our hands. Yet, there were new challenges that Armenia had to face; the devastating years of war, massive poverty, ecological crisis, and huge emigration.
I was born on December 24, 1992. I and thousands of other kids were born in hospitals with no electricity. I remember my father telling me how he and his friends had to surround the hospital with several cars and turn on the high beams in order to light up the dark rooms of the hospital. During the day, we had only one hour of electricity. Our mothers had to manage to cook food, shower us, and help our elder sisters and brothers with homework, just in ONE hour. Most of our fathers were away fighting either in Karabakh or were out all day trying to bring food to our homes. I was very young to remember all those memories, but I have always had this picture of a lit candle in the darkness when my family and neighbors would gather in the end of the day, tell jokes and stories, just to forget about all the problems for a moment. Yet, I am proud to say that I had an amazing childhood. I did not have the latest toys to play with, but I had the attention and warmth of so many people who wanted to fill my childhood with great memories. I have no words to describe how thankful I am to all of the parents that took that courageous step of giving us life, even into the old, miserable conditions in Armenia.
Today, life is much better in Armenia, no doubt about it. We as a nation managed to overcome the extreme hardships of 90’s; those cold and dark days are left behind. It’s not a secret that today there are huge economic problems in Armenia. We have a beautiful, modern capital with a moderate middle class, yet there are thousands of families in regions that still remind me of the lifestyle of 90’s. Most of the people leaving in regions emigrate because of the financial and social difficulties. I do not have any moral right to blame them, as I know most of them leave the country because of the severe poverty. This is one of the great issues that truly bothers me. We cannot let this happen. Today, Armenia is in a very important transition stage and the massive emigration is going to put Armenia in a huge crisis.
It is our COMMON responsibility to concentrate our efforts in ONE direction; a direction that will make Armenia the country which won’t have its citizens leave and raise their children in foreign countries, where most of them eventually lose their identity as an ARMENIAN. Yes, I believe that we have the ability; it just requires dedication, a lot of effort, and patience.
Today, I proudly claim that I was born and raised in Armenia, where I went to school, made lifelong friends, and helped my country whenever I had the chance.
As an international student, after finishing my education, I’m going to go back and contribute my skills and knowledge in Armenia, a place where I belong.
Finally, I want to thank all the people in Armenia who try to make noticeable changes. I want to thank all Diasporan Armenians who did not lose their connection with our fatherland and continue supporting Armenia in various ways.
Armenia is a priceless gift to us from people who struggled for its independence and died for its existence… The lit candle became a symbol of hope for me and I believe that one day we are going to have even a stronger Armenia that is going to guarantee a promising future to coming generations.