My grandparents left Turkish Anatolia for America in 1895. In doing so they saved us as a family from a lot of really bad history. The Hamadian Massacres of 1895-96, and the Genocide of 1915 during which Armenians were finally eliminated from their historic homeland. A Republic was still-born in the aftermath of the First World War, was overcome by Bolsheviks only two years later, and absorbed into the new Soviet Union as its tiniest Republic. Then came Stalin, the Second World War, and the devastating earthquake of 1988 that killed 30.000 - about 1% of the population. Miraculously, in 1991 Armenia was the first Republic to declare its independence from The Soviet Union. But the joy of freedom collapsed as quickly as did all economic and social order.
I was raised as a white-bread American by parents who revered the values, security, and opportunity of this country. I came late to any awareness of Armenian history and culture. But by 1993 I had created successful business, and was searching for a cause to fight for.
There was no shortage of suffering to alleviate, or causes to support in the world. but as Armenia froze in its second winter without electricity, as people there burnt their furniture and books to generate a little warmth, I started to feel pretty guilty continuing to partake of the 100 years of peace and comfort that resulted from my grandparent's prescient decision to leave. So I decided that out of all the world's causes, I had better start by trying to repay the debt I owed to those who suffered so long during my absence.
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