From Where We Are

Armenian’s in Southern California gathered to honor the memories of the lives lost

108 years later, the millions of victims of the genocide are still remembered

Photo of protesters waving Armenian flags

Armenian’s across Southern California are gathering today as a day of remembrance for those in the genocide.

It’s a tempered morning in Los Angeles’s little Armenia where a crowd of a few hundred people stand quietly talking amongst themselves. As the sun shines through the clouds, a sea of red, orange and blue fill the air. Lining the street are several balconies filled with signs and flags supporting Armenia and its history. Every year April 24th, is a reminder of the genocide that their ancestors suffered at the beginning of the 20th century at the hand of the Ottoman Empire, today known as the modern day Turkey.

Today marks 108 years.

Families, high school students, teachers, and grandparents gathered today at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue. The feeling of pride was palpable in the air as the youth and the elderly remember the sacrifices of their ancestors.

Anna Dremenchyn says through tears that being Armenian is a big part of her identity.

Dremenchyn: “It’s important for me to be here because as an Armenian, this is part of our story. This is what we grew up hearing. My great grandparents came from, say, to turkey and they survived. Some of them lost their families and some of them didn’t. The ones who did make it to Armenia or to Syria, to Armenia is where I come from. And I’ve heard these stories over and over again growing up. So coming here, seeing everyone else who shares the same story is just a reminder of what people have gone through for us to be here.”

For the first time ever the Los Angeles united school district’s students and faculty took the day off in remembrance.

LAUSD teacher Armine Shishikyan said she was relieved to not have to take a day off of work

Shishikyan: “I feel extremely proud to work with a supportive district, amazing coworkers, colleagues. They’ve always supported us throughout the years, the student, and even more so this year now that the schools are closed.”

April marks genocide awareness month. Since the end of the genocide in 1923, modern scholars estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman empire, today known as the modern day Turkey, and another 800,000 were deported. The Armenian diaspora in the United States is the second-largest in the world. It’s many cultures merge in Los Angeles.

Shishikyan says its encouraging to see so many young people engaged.

Shishikyan: “I think it’s so important to see young people because they are going to be the next generation who carry this out for us. A lot of the events are organized by the young, young generation and the groups. I get very proud to see that our kids care, very passionate about it because they are the future and they are going to be the ones to make sure that all these events continue to take place in our wonderful city.”

The Los Angeles area is home to over 200,000 Armenians, the largest concentration in the US. They express solidarity through cultural centers and youth-centered organizations which increase solidarity and keep the culture alive.

Fourteen year old Nairi Simonian says that spreading awareness about the current issues is just as important as honoring the past.

Simonian: “Um, I think it’s very important to be here and represent my Armenian culture and spread awareness to everybody who doesn’t know what happened. Like, whoever doesn’t know about genocide or, like, what’s happening, what in after or something. We’ll call it whatever. But, um, it just. It’s very important to spread awareness, to make sure everybody knows. So we could also, like, try to seek help, see what we can do. And also so people know how to help out because it’s an ongoing like genocide. It’s never ending and we’re not sure if there’s ever going to be.”

Today’s ongoing gathering’s show the Armenian community’s commitment to keeping the memory of their ancestor’s alive. They have found a hope in the cultural embrace like today’s observance. And their future held by the passionate youth continued action.