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We Are Anything But Indifferent

A Reflection from December 14th, 2020

Resilience — A word that Armenians have embodied for centuries. We refuse to be erased despite facing persistent and repeated acts of hatred and violence. Around the world, Armenians are currently mourning the loss of our ancient lands, homes, and cultural sites. We are coming to terms with the sadness and disappointment we feel as a result of the indifference exhibited by the international community. Our primary reason for physical and psychological survival over the centuries is reflected in these photographs: unconditional social support and interconnectedness between the homeland and the Diaspora.

All but one of these photographs were captured during my summer travels to Byurakan, Yerevan, Tsaghkadzor and Stepanavan. The outlying shot depicts an elderly man in a mask and latex gloves holding the Artsakh flag and protesting for the recognition of Artsakh’s independence in New York City, both protecting himself from the COVID-19 virus and fighting for the protection of his ancestral lands. These images reflect the core values of a resilient population: mother-in-laws stroking each other’s hands in the back of a taxi, people lighting candles for loved ones and fallen soldiers in a church in Lori, families pitting tart cherries to prepare jam for the grandchildren’s visit.

These photos convey how intertwined Armenians are in one another’s lives. They depict how we refuse to turn away with indifference even when the rest of the world has continuously done so despite our cries and sorrow. Community is at the center of our Armenian identity. The pain we have all felt the last few weeks has transcended all physical borders.

While these are some of the most difficult days we have faced, these moments serve as a reminder of our transgenerational power and the unbreakable force of our spirit. A stranger giving you tissues if they notice you crying on a bench. Bread makers sweating in hot bakeries to send batches of bread to soldiers in Artsakh. My mother brushing my winter coat with a lint roller every morning before I leave the house.

Armenians. We are anything but indifferent. We may overwhelm or suffocate, but we look out for one another. Being abroad and feeling warmth spread through your body upon hearing someone speak your Mother Tongue in the fitting room next to you. Seeing hundreds of us in Rockefeller Center marching for the recognition of Artsakh. Home. Safety. Togetherness. Solidarity. As an Armenian, you can feel alone, but you never really will be.

Mariam Vahradyan

Mariam is currently pursuing a Master’s of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania as a Christopher Peterson Memorial fellow. Her research and creative interests share a common thread: storytelling and community building. Mariam’s photography explores themes of shared humanity and what holds us together in light and dark times alike. Check out more of her photography at her instagram @mariamvfilm.

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