Memories of my trip to Armenia


by Michael Markarian

It’s a misty morning in Yerevan as I continue my training for LA2DC with the 8th grade counselor for Chamalian, an Armenian school in Glendale. As I put on my shorts and shoes, and see my son sleeping in bed, I reflect on how I grew up as an American Armenian in a suburb of New Jersey.

I was born in Egypt in 1964. Our family fled to Montreal when I was two, where we lived for a few years, then moved to New Jersey where I spent most of my childhood. Although my family was Armenian and I grew up very ethnic, all my friends were American and frankly it was a bit unwelcome to be ethnic at the time. While the Genocide and the culture was meaningful to my family and you could not escape the annual discussions, it did not resonate for me until one particular night when I saw my mother crying while watching a PBS special on the genocide. Somehow seeing the cruelty, the pain it caused her, and recalling everything I’d learned over the years made sense, and I finally identified myself as an Armenian. When I was 25 and decided to move to Los Angeles I promised my mother I would marry an Armenian, even though I had never even dated an Armenian! Now, married to an amazing Armenian for almost 20 years, with three kids who attend Armenian school and who all know their history, I could not be more proud.


Who would have thought I’d be here in Yerevan, on a 17-day journey with my son, his classmates and the most endearing parents, traveling through this country and seeing firsthand all we learned in history books or heard from friends and family.

Several years ago during an annual 10 mile Armenian genocide commemoration march for Chamiliam, where all my kids are going or have gone to school, I wondered, why not educate the rest of the country rather than only our communities? I thought if we could create an athletic event across the country we might be able educate the public during the centennial and draw media attention so the public could be judge and jury. The initial idea was to run a marathon relay from the Turkish consulate to the steps of the White House. A committee was formed last year and together we created the plan now in place to kick-off the event on April 24th with a marathon relay that would lead into centurion bike rides across the country. We have been fortunate to have the support of politicians, dignitaries and many celebrities.

I take my run in Yerevan and start thinking how far I’ve come today from the boy I used to be, who at times did not understand the meaning of my own culture. Here I am in Armenia with my son enjoying all the history and helping to organize a cross-country event. I remember when it all hit me.

I was at Tsitsernakaberd, the genocide memorial in Yerevan, where my son and all his classmates gathered with flowers. Everything in the past 50 years, what was spoken and taught, and who I am now became crystal clear. The emotion was overwhelming.

Although many villages are economically devastated as a result of Armenia’s independence and so many people leaving this country to find meaningful work, there is a sense of hope and pride that one day the country will be restore to financial strength. Timing is everything, and on the last night of our trip to Armenia, who should arrive but Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Their presence seemed to take the subject of genocide and make it mainstream. Amazing.

After leaving Armenia, my son and I and a group of parents and kids headed on to Paris to cap off the trip. I decided to take the Chunnel to London with my son to see the “Wake Up the Souls” tour by System of a Down. SOAD has been great supporters for our cause and Shavo, a good friend, exudes energy. The show and the message were exhilarating.

Now I’m back from this long, emotional, inspiring trip with new friendships. I’ve had time to reflect and focus with my LA2DC committee members to help launch our event successfully. I am hoping this year it’s time for our government to finally be bold and recognize our past so we can move forward with the future.

  • Hans Hope Keifer

    Great story and a great event! I was glad to be apart of it!

  • Arthur

    You have to be proud to be Armenian. It’s really an inspiring and nice country. Nothing can be more relaxing that walking across the streets of Yerevan and nothing can be more inspiring that visiting memorable places of Armenia. Tourism in Armenia has started to develop after Kim’s, Knaye’s and SOAD’s visit to Armenia. I wish every Armenian follow them and make this wonderful country known to the world.