Last week, I listened to Khatchig Mouradian speak during Genocide Awareness Week at Scottsdale Community College. He told a story of how he visited a village in Turkey that was, at one time, Armenian. He met a man who, it turned out, was the son of the only Armenian in that village to survive the genocide. The father, just a boy at the time, was taken in by a Kurdish family, and raised in the village that is now made up of Kurds. I cannot do Mouradian’s story justice, but I wanted to share because, as he told his story of meeting this man, of the connection they made, and how the man asked for a hug when he learned Mouradian was also Armenian, it made me think of this William Saroyan passage:
“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”
This same passage appears on screen at the end of The Promise, the new feature film about the Armenian Genocide. Mr. G and I watched the movie last weekend, a few days after I had attended the lecture, and that was not the only similarity.
Mouradian discussed in his lecture that, often, we think hope is the last thing to leave. But he suggested it is actually the will to resist. Resistance can take many forms, and doesn’t always mean fighting back with weapons. Without giving too much away, there many examples of resistance that occurred in The Promise, and continued through to the end.
Going into it, I thought the film was a love story, with the Armenian Genocide as a backdrop. But it actually focused more on the genocide than I expected. Watching the scenes, the history – so familiar and so personal – I wept seeing it on the big screen for the first time. I wept knowing how much hate and cruelty there was. But also for those who tried to help. Who did help. For those who were lost, and those who survived – for the memories they had to live with the rest of their lives. And I wept as a former journalist, proud of what the profession stands for.
As an Armenian, whose great-grandparents came to America and lost their entire families who stayed in the Ottoman Empire, I have hope that I will one-day see the genocide acknowledged by Turkey, and by my own country. And I hope that this mainstream production is a turning point in achieving that.
I was so overwhelmed with emotion watching it, that I plan to go back and see it again. And I urge you to see it as well.