Growing up in Burbank, California, the Armenian Genocide was never studied or even mentioned in school. As a kid I had heard about the genocide from my mother. She told me that was the reason why my family had left Diyarbakir, Turkey. The genocide was upsetting to me but honestly I did not think much about it. It seemed like so long ago.
Then about 10 years ago I began to research my family tree. That’s when I found out how deeply my family was impacted. I learned that my great grandfather Hagop Parsaghian had been decapitated. My grandfather Hoveness Najarian was forced to convert to Islam or suffer the same fate. The fate of many other family members is unknown.
My grandparents and the three children they had at the time survived by banding with other family members, neighbors and friends.At times they hid for long periods of time in the basement of my grandfather’s Turkish business partner’s home. My grandparents were said to have been well off in Diyarbakir. When they managed to escape Turkey in 1922 they left the family business and all but a few possessions behind.
First they went to France, then they ended up in Cuba where my mother was born and raised. I can only imagine the hardships and challenges my Grandparents endured after losing everything including family and friends and starting over with nothing in a place where they did not speak the language.
When I looked over the legs of LA2DC, Leg 6 dubbed Diyarbakir – Darfur brought on many emotions. When I heard about the genocide in Darfur I wondered what I could do about it. And now this opportunity presents itself.
I will ride this stage, marking the ancestral homeland of my family, especially for Hagop and my grandparents Vartuhi and Hovhannes Najarian!
I feel honored to have the opportunity to participate in this event. I will ride LA2DC for victims of all genocides! I will ride to bring awareness in hopes this raised awareness can prevent future similar tragedies from occurring.