Not many people have heard of Armenia.
But that’s where my great-grandmother immigrated from, and it’s a country that has greatly influenced my life. Although I never knew my great-grandmother, I’ve added a grain of salt to this poem to make it a bit more personal.
When I was in eighth grade, this poem won a second place award in the Carl Sandburg National Poetry Contest. I was invited to a reading in North Carolina and was able to observe many other teenagers and children sharing their thoughts on that year’s theme of legacy.
Today, especially, this piece of work shares special meaning. On April 24th, 1915, the Armenian Genocide commenced, ensuing in a terrible period of history for Armenians. When I hear stories of that time or read about it, it reminds me of how closely my great-grandmother missed being caught in the genocide when she immigrated at the age of ten, and that I might not have been born if it hadn’t been for God’s Providence. It also renews a pride in me for my heritage, and how valiantly Armenia suffered under the hand of the Turks. I doubt that the memory of that time will ever be lost in our family line. And now, with a lot of discussion and debate centering on the new movie on the Armenian Genocide, “The Promise,” I wanted to share a bit of what that time means to me through this poem.
But without further ado, I’ll let you take a peek at my heritage.
Proud to be Armenian
My grandmother described the days of her childhood
In her rough Middle Eastern accent.
She was alone then, and sailed here
Greedy rulers, expanding their kingdoms
Competed for her small native land.
She dwelt poorly in the ruins of a city
The Ottoman Turks were their greatest enemy
Slaughtering thousands and starving multitudes in the desert.
But through it all the tortured were brave
Because they were Armenians.
My grandmother taught me their dances, and customs
And kept their Christian faith alive in me.
We conversed together in her native language
And she showed me her treasure- the family tree.
She told me to always remember my heritage
And to tell of my ancestors’ legacy of faith.
And so I keep my head high because I am
Proud to be Armenian.