Friday, November 28, 2008

Last Entry for Now

Dear Friends,

I am home. I arrived back to Seattle nearly two months ago. It is wonderful to be back. To say the least, I did not expect it. When I was in Armenia I was telling friends and family that when I got back it would be more then likely that I would be depressed. Not for a long time, but for a significant portion, a month or so. I imagined myself in bed, shutters drawn and feeling a sense of hopelessness. Living in a country where I don’t want to be living with a society lost and my purpose lost.
Talk about a downer!
But I convinced myself it was necessary to go through this period in order to accept my being in the country and that it would be the exact catalyst to lead me into something else. My future.

Well it turns out when I got back I was not depressed. Fuck, I wasn’t even unhappy. I tried to be depressed. But as I laid in bed, I could not help but feel an underlying calm. I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be and I really felt that everything would be okay.

Can I tell you what I love? I love being home because it is so so so good to be home with my family. In Armenia I learned to appreciate family in a way I could never have imagined before. I really treasure the times with my mom especially. And its crazy, because usually when I would be annoyed or feel resentment or whatever my issue is, now I naturally pull back and just love her. I am enjoying being with my mom right now, even in the “ugly” moments. You know how cool that is to say as a 24 year old?! Amazing. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ll take it for now. Precious. So that makes my time here lovely.

Also, you know what else makes it lovely. Friekin’ people brought back hope to me. By Obama being elected that shows a shift in consciousness that I have only prayed and complained for. That shift, is what made me cry when the newscaster announced he won the election. I love how after election day I felt a sense of community, even through sitting in a car without much interaction. Community was created not through a tragedy like in the past, with 9/11 for example, but with an event that is based on happiness, change and inspiration. We came together, not out of necessity but out of joy.

It was incredible. So I am excited to be here for the FIRST time in my life. Now when I see an American flag I smile. Nausea doesn’t fill me with accompanied hatred of hypocrisy, rather exitedness and gratitude. Never before have I identified as American, I always claimed to be “Americanized.” I hope that as years pass, America can grow into its dream and then I could only aspire to become “American.” One day.

Friends, I don’t know if I will be keeping a blog anymore. My travels were cut short and my time in Armenia is over (for now). Now I hope to find a job that is meaningful and worthwhile and stay tuned for the next call in my life.

If you want to check in, to see where I am at, I would love to share with you.
Email me, connectwithv@gmail.com.
Thank you so much for being on this journey with me, no matter what interval it may have been.

Love to you and may you be as true to your Self as you can.

Alongside of you,
Viktoria Simonyan

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

rough skeleton and faith

Hi Friends,

I think most of you have stopped checking my blog by now, considering I have not written in 3 months. :) Wow, even typing the number 3 makes me blush with shame.

I think now I have exceeded the time being able to bare not letting you know what is going on for me, what I am doing...

After Vigen's death a lot has continued to happen. My time in Armenia came to a close. I had to say my goodbyes to friends and family members that I do not know if I will ever see again. But even with the sadness, joy was so prevelant as I was hugging them goodbye. What a miracle it was to find them in the first place and now, even if by phone or net, I can have them in my life. Unbelievable.

No, my dream of uniting my father with his family did not come true. But I am not entirely convinced that it will never happen. Life is too big for me to assume what will happen.

I left Armenia knowing that I will be back. I will be back out of logistics because that is where I will fly home from. Besides that, I do not know how Armenia, the country fits into my future. I just know that there was nothing else I should have done this year then to touch the land where my father is from. Because I met Armenia face to face, I could no longer deny this part of me. She is awake inside me and I cannot ignore that. That means somehow, someway I will live in an "Armenian" life. It will be interesting to see what this means in different places in the world I may live. I love having this part of myself that layed dormant for years, wake up. Now she is rollin' around, stretchin'- We'll see what position she finds most cumfy.

So where am I now?

Norway.

I came here to see Norway with a Norwegian friend that I met in Armenia. I had no idea that Norway might honestly be, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It is ridiculous.

Can I just say that I was climbing a mountain in the North of Norway on an Island at 1:00 in the morning as I was looking at the midnight sun towering over the ocean. YEah, it happened.
Unbelievable.

I will stay here until the 7th of July. After that I fly to France to go on retreat in Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh's Buddhist retreat Center. After a week I will skidadel up to Taize, a Christian retreat centre. And then I plan on going to Paris.

We will see, we will see. Things aren't planned per say. I bought a rail pass that includes Spain and Italy, but we will see, we will see. Considering I know no one there, and I dont have a travel buddy yet per se.
I am soooo laughing as I type this, by the way.
From here on out, everything is high high high into the air. So high, I cant see it. So. Thats fun.

I dont know what is gonna happen , with who, when. I just have a rough skeleton and faith. That is about it.

So the skeleton continues on after France, I hope to travel Turkey and then meet up with my Norwegian friend and "do" the Middle East. Yeee haw.

So please write and stay tunned for what is gonna happen. Because this girl doesnt know.

I imagine I will write more frequently (not while in the retreat centres though (July 7th-24th) in order to manage my sanity.

Alright loves,
you know I love you.

Peace,
Viktoria

Saturday, April 5, 2008

One Second

I wrote this to a dear friend of mine, but would like for you to read it too...


Dear One,
I find that when I am most in pain, I want to write you. Not journal, but write you.

Life is amazing. It really is.

Vigen, my dad's best friend in the world. One of the main reasons why I came to Armenia to find him for dad. And found him, amazing story. Amazing man, they way he loves.

Is dead.

He got brutally hit by a drunk driver and his daughter that loves him more then anything and his wife, brother and mother are alone without him.

It is Armenian tradition to have the dead in the middle of the living room. he had no legs, face covered with makeup .

His organs ruptured.

I am crying for this man that lost his life at 48. All he wanted was to love others, including me. I saw him most then anyone else here. I think besides my family, he is the only person that has ever loved my father.

He just left the house for a few minutes to buy a pack of ciggeretes.

I just celebrated his birthday with him. I dont know what to do.

I dont know how to look in the eyes of his wife. What can I possibly offer?

I am just the guest. Just the daughter of her husband's bestfriend.

The twelve year old daughter, her eyes wide open just turned 35.

I dont know Chatara, I am meeting death again and I dont know

I am not angry with g-d
i justI wonderwill it ever be explainable. How can it for a mother to burry her own child?

And it makes me think if I have to bury someone in my family. I dont know
I dont know if Icould do it.

Everyone is so much stronger than me it seems. How do they do it? How did you do it?I just want to be in bed. Cry. paint black around me and walk in it.

And that is only me, the duaghter, mother , wife...
He made love to her as he walked by, I saw it. The most tender, loving Armenian man I will ever come to know.
Sooooyeah.

Life is crazy.
But then theres babies.

Theres Nissas.

Theres Chataras

and Matts.

Life is trully amazing.
I love you girl.
Please, every second we are here its
a gift.

A gift given from g-d and at any second we can go back to him.One second. One second.
Every tick of that, my heart pounds for you too.

Peace be with you. Viktoria

Friday, March 28, 2008

Untold Story

Hi Dear Ones,

So, things have settled down. Yes the injustice is ridiculous and many people still do not know what is going on, how for example people are getting arrested and/or beaten up for nothing as they walk down a street or when thet are holding vigil for the people who they lost to murder.

But not being sarcastic, things are ok. The military has dispersed and the streets feel safe to walk in. It is Spring and it is beautiful.

I love my new job and overall really loving life. But today's blog is a necessary story that you all deserved to hear a long time ago. It is the story that brought me here. So please read and if moved, respond.
Thank you.
Viktoria

Five months ago after sharing my story around a table I was asked to write it down. Five months later, I finally could. This is the story that has brought me to Armenia.

My father was an orphan born and raised on the street of Yerevan. Immediately after he was born, his father left him and his mother. Dad’s mother was a unique woman for that time. She was the professor of pedagogy at Yerevan State University and a divorced woman who took care of her child without anyone’s help. She had no family or relatives. She was independent and strong. Despite her strength, she knew she was dying. Out of love for her son, she tried to kill him with a fire poker. She managed to crack open my dad’s skull but surprisingly he healed. Till this day, he has a scar across his face and head. I only found out how he got it from my mother at age twenty three. My grandmother tried to kill my father because she knew that once she died he would be absolutely alone and it would be better for him to be dead rather than being alone in this harsh world.

When dad was ten, she died, leaving him to raise himself. On her deathbed, she told him that he has a father, that he is alive, and that he lives in Vilnius, Lithuania. Despite all odds, my dad was consumed by a passion to survive so one day he can save up enough money to finally meet and be with his father. To support himself, he worked during the day, gaining a specialization as a diamond setter and jeweler and at night, was a student. Everyday my father struggled to survive: fighting on the streets of Yerevan, jumping from one orphanage to another, sleeping on couch to couch; although, there was one person in his life that looked after him as best she could, that was his best friend’s mother. As soon as the possibility arose, my father lived on his own in an apartment; a child that was waiting to see his father.

By age seventeen my dad did not have to wait any longer. He made enough jewelry and set off to Lithuania to meet his father. He found him, but unfortunately his father did not believe this boy that claimed to be his son. Broken, my dad continued on. He became a successful jeweler and at age twenty he met my mother and married her. By the time I was born he thought he would try to convince his father again, the second time needed no convincing. As soon as his father saw the baby, he knew she was his grandchild. With this new understanding he saw my father as if for the first time and realized he was his son.
Unfortunately the connection was made a little too late because shortly after, my father, mother, half-brother and I immigrated to the United States where we lost all contact with my grandfather. My father has not seen or heard of him in the last twenty years. We did not know (knock on wood) if he was even alive.

For the first time since we immigrated, my mother and I went back to Vilnius, Lithuania to see the place of our birth. As soon as I arrived, I opened up the telephone directory to find my last name, “Simonyan.” There he was, in black and white. So I called and he answered. Later that day my mother and I sat across the table from my grandfather, Misha Jan. He only drank grapefruit juice as I ate the ice cream he insisted on ordering for me. I couldn’t really taste it though because of the tears that were constantly streaming down my face. Till this day I cannot understand how I did not even know the man, but yet how deeply in love with him I was. I never had a grandfather and here he was sitting right in front of me. The same obnoxious smile my dad has. I was looking at my father! How could blood be so strong? So much abandonment, but yet all that remained was love.

I told him I was leaving in a month for Yerevan, Armenia to volunteer for a year. He was very happy for me. Then came shocking news… “I have a sister and three daughters. I’ll give you their information” he said. “Wait a second, here I am sitting in front of the man that is responsible for me having a big nose and he’s telling me I have family? I always wanted family! Whoa, this trip to Armenia just turned into something else” I thought.

When I came to my grandfather’s apartment it was as if I stepped into an art gallery. On his walls hung masterpieces of detailed metal work made into portraits and landscapes. “What is going to happen to your art? When will it return to Armenia to your family?” I asked. “Things aren’t so simple” is all he replied. I later found out that his life’s work was all taken from him by the USSR because it was considered to be Soviet property since he was Armenia’s national artist at the time. Till this day, no pieces have been returned.

In the end of September I arrived in Yerevan. Then began the unraveling of relationships to my new, yet old family. The first people I called are those who I am closest to now: my grandfather’s sister and her daughter’s family. The best way to describe them is open arms accepting me simply as their own, because I am. The craziest thing is I look so much like the middle daughter who will have her first child in a month (May)! Our eyebrows even slant the same way when we laugh. I am expected to share every Sunday with them just as I am expected to be with them throughout the entire process when their grandfather died (my grandfather’s sister’s husband). We laugh together, scream together. It’s real.

I also met my aunts. It’s interesting to see my grandfather in female form. To be completely honest I can’t help feeling hurt and confused when I am with them, wondering to myself, “How could you leave my father alone when he needed you most?” But then I remember that they were only children and secondly, they didn’t know he existed.

I also have cousins, real cousins! I never had cousins before. I would be lying if I said that I am extremely close to all my family. This is not true. What is true is that I have been given an opportunity to explore these gifts. These people are like priceless packages with infinite gifts inside which I am savoring as I open. I am taking my time with sensitivity in getting to know these people that share my grandfather’s name. It is surreal to be able to sit in a taxi with a friend, look out the window and then turn and say, “Hey, there goes my cousin passing by.” This happened.

Growing up, my dad did not even allow the word “Armenia” in the house because it brought all the pain and suffering he experienced as a child. It took my father a year to give his blessing for me to come here and only after that was he able to open up and claim he is ready to return. Now that I am here, walking the land of my family and getting to know them and touch them I am ready to complete my dream…

I want to bring my father home to the land where he is from and was left abandoned, so Armenia can mean something else to him… and to bring my grandfather back to the land from which he is from to reunite him with his sister, daughters, grandchildren and most importantly, his son. I feel I have been given the responsibility of bringing them together.

I pray my father to return to the land where he experienced so much harm, so that he may heal in the arms of his father that has never held him before, so he may heal in the presence of his father that has never been present before. May the child in my dad that waited so long not have to wait any longer. And may the absence of family in his life be filled with each current member as they stand witness to this reunion.


This is my dream, my mission and our land that I am standing on now… I feel so close to it happening! I just need help. With the belief that this entire process is something way beyond myself, I am able to ask for help. I am not seeking funds, which I know is exceedingly difficult during this depleting economic time. Instead, I am asking for miles. I am aware that people can acquire air miles through their business and personal use. If inspired, please donate your miles to my family so I can show my father his dad and my dream in our homeland can be complete. I hope to fly my father and grandfather to their reunion this summer at the end of my stay.

P.S. It is important to remember that this story that brought me to Armenia does not have a neat little “The End” on page four, but rather it is a living story that will continue to unravel down my family’s generations. I am just one part of this story, in hopefully the chapter entitled “The Reunion Back Home.” Although, there is an additional chapter I would like to contribute to and that is the one dedicated to my grandfather’s art. Somehow, someway I want to bring his work to Armenia and put on a gallery so in the end in can be in the arms of his loved ones. I do not want what happened the first time to repeat again. If anyone has any idea on how to go about something like this, please do not hesitate to share. Thank you…

Viktoria Simonyan

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Limited Update

Hi Everyone,
( I just sat about 2 minutes trying to figure what direction to take this, so much I could say...)

First of all,
thank you to those who emailed me sending me their thoughts, prayers and concerns. And also to those who didn't email, but who are thinking about Armenia, its people and myself. It's nice to not feel alone.

So here it was I can offer now.
After I wrote my blog, I had some people say that I exaggerated the situation. The fact of the matter is that I, even though I did not know it at the time, happened to be right in the epicenter of the violence. So from my perspective, what seemed like a war was going on and I assumed that other parts of Yerevan were experiencing the same thing.

It turns out that only two streets were experiencing the horrific, escalated events (I am referring to the ones that I described that happened at night) and I happened to live on that same street. Therefore, most people did not hear or see anything of the things I described to you because they were too far away. It was an isolated situation.

Now to correct things that I learned in the last couple days. Armenia is not under curfew like I thought we were, even though Yerevan is officially under a state of emergency for a 20 day period. This means that we are not allowed to gather in groups and forbidden to provide information to the public (like what I am doing right now). For example, this morning utube is blocked for us to put clips on what has happened. Amazing.

Also, what I experienced as rockets, I was told were not actually rockets, even though it looked and sounded like it. They were tracer bullets that is a technique of the military. So I was explained.

So now the situation looks like this:
Absolutely no more demonstrations. The military and police have completely taken over and occupied many public places. This means there are military tanks and the army all over the city. I am purposefully not going to talk about what is being shown on the tv, represented by the media--- represented by the government...

Things are stable here. There are lots of discussions going on about what is the truth, who is to blame. Facts are many stores were absolutely destroyed. Cars were blown up, flipped over, MANY injured, people have died. We still do not know the numbers. To be honest, I doubt we ever will.

I want to give my opinion, but cant right now. I hope that in months down the line, I can really express what I am seeing.

So, please erase the images of war-torn land out of your mind now.It is not that any longer. Although, I sense a huge tension in the air. I am not the only person that thinks the physical danger and destruction is not over. We will see what will happen after this 20 day state of emergency. I think shit is going to go down, I don't know what, but something.

I don't know if this puts you more at ease or the opposite. I hope at ease.
I feel safe right now.

Peace to you all,
Viktoria

P.S. I wrote about how I felt that night I went to sleep with bombs going off and screams ringing in my ears. One day soon, I will share with you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Promise

Dear Ones,
I am just writing to say that VERY soon i will give you an update on what is going on. Let me just say now the most important,

Things are stabalized. and I am OK. I am fine.

Write to you soon,
Viktoria

Sunday, March 2, 2008

4th of July

Yesterday, March 1st 2008 I visited the Armenian Geonicide Memorial for the first time. After looking at pictures of beheaded mem and women with their skin hanging from their bones, all I could think about what was happening that very same day in Yerevan, Armenia's capital.

Last night a state of emergecy was officially declared. I am writing this blog to tell you the truth. Something that is difficult to find right now. People even in different parts of town do not know what is going on. The the information I about to tell you is from what I saw and heard with my own ears and eyes. There won't be much, but it is better then nothing.

I live on a 9th floor of a sky scraper, overlooking the city. Last night, for the first time in my life I experienced what I have been hearing and seeig on TV in war-torn lands. All the images quickly became real.

It looked like the 4th of July. The night sky was lit with blasting rockets. The sound was continous and piercing. I heard sounds of continuous bombs, shootings, as in guns... firearms. People, women... one woman in perticular, I cant get her scream out of my mind. The image of marching soldiers....

The city was in flames.

Through my window I looked out and saw a war-torn land. IT showed itself in the sky, from the smoke that was coming from the scattered buildings aflame. To look outside and all you see is fire, people runing, yelling, screaming, blasts... I have no words...

For a moment, I went outside where my neighbors and I stood on the porch. We quickly hurried back in our apartments when one of the rockets nearly hit our building.

I live in the heart of the city. This is where the violence is occuring.

This is what I know.

I do not know how many people died. I do not know how many people are injured. I do not even want to guess because I don't want to give an innacurate number. But it is fact that people are dead and injured.Children and women are a part of this too.


Ok... sooooo
for 20 days we are under a state of emergency. This means is it forbidden for people to step outside of their house at night, if they will, they will be arrested.

The president has publicly announced that no forms of media are allowed to report anything without his permission. Thus what is being show is not informative of the truth at all. Unless they live in my neighborhood, no one can have an accuarate clue.

He also announced only that police were injured. On TV there is no mention of citizens being killed or injured. But my friend next to me looking up the news on the web is seeing numbers ranging 9 killed to 33 injured citizens. The hospitals are at first alert, being filled.

As I said, the numbers are skewed right now because the government is publicly not allowing information to be let out. I just know from what I heard and seen last night, I imagine many are now gone.

The corruption of the government is not being hidden right now.

Background info from my VERY limited understanding. On Feb. 19 Armenia had its presidential elections. I along with many other international observers spent the day witnessing the process. Some say they saw a lot, some say they saw non at all. Anyway, the point is that the current prime minister, Serge Sarksyan was "elected" and not the former president Levon Ter- Petrosyan. The next day there were around (this is minimum) 300,000 people who gathered in protest, wanting Levon for president. For the next 9 days there has been daily MASS gatherings and peaceful demonstrations. The only physical disturbance this has caused was the closing of streets and massive traffic jams. Although, police and military have surrounded buildings and stayed close watch of the protesters.

A tent city was created for the protesters in the Opera, one of the main city centers where protesters slept, danced, and heard leaders speak.

Yesterday morning around 7 AM, the police and military entered the opera to evacuate the mass. They used their shields, truncheons(the stick thing), electric shock thingies, and tear gas to evacuate everyone. Then around 3 near the French Embassy another mass gathered and were again cofronted by the military. I am not saying much about this event because I dont know much more.

Oh yeah, at the Opera Levon was taken and put under house arrest. His body gaurd was taken from him, he was told if he leaves his house, it will only be under his own risk. But a body gaurd, he is not allowed to have.

Then last night, is when the violence escalated as I mentioned above.
This morning, I stepped out, and my street that i live on.....the stores were all broken into. Burned cars flipped up side down. Destruction.

I'll provide a few pictures, but please know they are not even that great. The cops aren't allowing us to get close to anything.

By the way, I am not planning on leaving the house during the day. Its actually not me being paraoid, I just am in the heart of where the violence is.

Um if you want to know more... please look it up. For some better places google oneworld media, bbc, a1plus.am, and actually the new york times article is good.

I know it doesn't help much to say don't worry but, really. I am with one of the most overprotective families possible and am not leaving my house.

I'll try to go online again to keep in touch. Phones now are not reliable. I tried calling friends and family last night, it was very difficult.

Love to you all,
Viktoria

Furnace