BY ANNETTE MOSKOFIAN
Ararat is the place named in the Book of Genesis where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the great flood (Genesis 8:4). Many explorers for centuries came in search of the Ark, and I came in search of rediscovering the realization of my dreams, my ideals and my principles. It was a pilgrimage made to the most prominent symbol of a nation held in captivity. Ararat is synonymous with the Armenian national identity, and although it is under Turkish occupation and a region inhabited mainly by Kurds its symbolism for Armenians, standing 5137 meters high, is of utmost importance.
Our small group of four started this unbelievable journey on a hot day in July from Kars, to the ancient ruins of Ani to Ararat, Van and finally to Moush. Incidentally, my grandmother was a survivor of the Genocide whose whole family of 100 were all massacred in Moush. I was brought up with harrowing stories about her journey of survival and about my courageous grandfather who was a Fedayi (freedom fighter) and how never to trust the Turks or the Bolesheviks or any foreign power for that matter. The ideals of “Free, Independent and United Armenia” were the basis of my national education from childhood. Majority of Armenians from the Diaspora are survivors or are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of genocide survivors. We have all heard first-hand about what happened to our families, but witnessing the devastation in person is quite moving. I truly understood in this journey what annihilation of a race means as the Turks systematically killed more than 1.5 million Armenians and the subsequent Turkish rulers wiped out any trace of a race, destroying historical churches, monuments, towns and villages; my heritage, the land of my ancestors wiped out.
Yet here was our group, used to the comfort of their homes in search of their history and with a quest to conquer this harsh terrain. We had a Hungarian friend also in our group who came to understand that our taken path was nothing to do with a physical challenge. What we learned on our ascent was indescribable; the mountain tested our physical and mental strength, our character, dedication and conviction to climb even higher. It was a journey full of contradictory feelings; funny, sometimes hilarious, sad, painful, peaceful, exhausting, an awe inspiring experience, each of us with our strengths and weaknesses complementing the group’s collective efforts.
I began the journey at a stage in my life when I had started to question my political convictions, the direction we were heading and wondering where we had gone wrong, in search of answers and hoping that the answer laid in the journey of this glorious mountain. I undertook this challenge in the memory of my grandmother and grandfather who were never able to return and be buried in their homeland. I found out that our demands were just and took an oath to redirect my life. It was a tough, rocky journey full of hardship; and so is the journey ahead of us for the realization of our dreams and reaching the summit.