If I’ve learned nothing else since embarking on learning more about my Armenian heritage, it is that Armenian women are incredibly strong.
During the marches of the genocide from roughly 2015 to 2018, the trek through the deserts and mountains were made predominantly by women and children. Countless died along the way. Most were raped. Beaten. Starved. Parched. Watching others shot when they slowed the march. But imagine the resilience of a woman, carrying a small child, walking from what is now Syria to Egypt! Look it up on a map. One of the women I interviewed was the grandchild of the woman and the daughter of that child who made that trek.
Could you do that?
Could you leave your dead infant in the desert? Or your elderly father? Knowing that you had to continue to survive?
Can you imagine being thirsty enough to risk you and your child drinking tan water?
It was all about survival. A powerful human instinct.
Can you imagine leaving everything you ever knew, boarding a crowded ship with strangers, with the sole goal of surviving to make it to the shores of a welcoming nation?
And then arriving to find that while the government welcomed you, your new peers thought you were strange and laughed at you.
And yet they went on. Those who were betrothed (marriages were arranged in those days) hoped and prayed someone who knew someone who knew the whereabouts of your future husband would greet you at Ellis Island.
And they set about doing what women in that day did – established a home. Often it was in the home of the in-laws, and sometimes that didn’t go all that well. But they had to focus on moving forward. Raising the child/children who might have survived the deserts and mountains and ships. Connecting with others from their own village (the Armenian immigrants tended to reconnect with other survivors, familiar faces and names from home villages like Marash, Kharpert, Van. Immersing themselves in the activities of their churches – Ladies Aid, Sunday Schools.
And dancing. Finding joy in making the music of their homeland and the familiar steps of the dances. Dances and music were an outlet. That and the church and their home village groups kept them anchored as they acclimated to their new lives in a new land.