Robert Manukyan

Robert Manukyan

Both my paternal and maternal great grandfathers escaped the Genocide. They lived in the Ottoman Empire back then and were caught in the midst when the violence erupted. Too many people helped them to be able to count and name them all - from random strangers to Russian medical personnel and American aid workers.

One of my great grandfathers started a brand new life in a new country at a very young age. He later found some of his relatives. The other great grandfather escaped with his mother and younger sister. Neither were greeted by anybody at the end of their journey, losing nearly all their family along the way.

My Armenian heritage means everything to me.

I am indebted to my heritage because every breath of air, mouthful of food, sip of water, every smile, kiss and laugh is owed to my ancestors. I am proud of knowing this, so that I can live through my convictions and with a purpose. It allows me to live in a way that lets me repay this debt, rather than existing thoughtlessly, blindly and without respect. 

If I could extend my gratitude to the people who helped save my ancestors, I would give them anything and everything they could possibly want and I could provide. My gratitude is boundless and eternal. I owe my existence to those saviors, those angels. I would start by showing them my tears of gratitude.

At the same time, maybe I wouldn’t give them anything. Only when we alter the norm to include the kind of heroism these saviors demonstrated do we make progress. While we should be thankful to those who helped, we must also change our expectations to demand such action, rather than praise it and believe it to be extraordinary.