Echoes from Ancient Leaves

1922 black and white photograph of Mount Ararat in Armenia, with a river and two tall trees in the foreground

OPINION By Rachel Melikian

Remembering the Past

Why should we remember the past, the Armenian Genocide, April 24, 1915? Several elected officials, lawyers, and hostesses raised the question this year and delivered a trite response, although good, during a remembrance ceremony marking the 108th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California.

We must keep in mind that memory is necessary for recalling the past. Without recollection, man loses mental faculties, becoming less human and more resembling an animal or a vegetable with no past and no history behind his footsteps. Man does not live in the present but rather moves from the past to the future, leaving only his footprints behind.

The Past in the Mind

There is no future if the past doesn’t exist. Our memories – including pleasant, joyful, positive or cheery, negative, sad, failures, painful pasts, and horrible histories like genocide, famine, and historical atrocities – are preserved in our minds. In the past, tears were shed to make humans human through remorse and repentance, while books served as sources of knowledge, and movies/documentaries were used to inform or educate us. 

If we forget the past, there won’t be any books to read. As a result, we freefall down the cliff and become like beasts, strolling all over the past and walking all over the dead bodies. We become part animals, part machines – without a soul but only animated by the present now just to lie, kill, murder, and destroy civilizations. As a result, history will be swallowed in the black hole.

Historical Linkages

The Good Samaritans were present, in the background, during the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide, which is history. The historical linkages between the US and Armenia are in our past. We must see the connections between human ideals throughout history, from American missionaries and the Near East Relief Foundation enabling orphans to survive to US President Woodrow Wilson looking out for Armenians and creating Wilsonian Armenia.

No matter how horrifying the past is, human ideals and their contributions must be recognized for people to remain human. Humanity would not exist without history. What I recommended for Woodrow Wilson’s legacy of Wilsonian Armenia still has merit, albeit as a concept, which I would discuss perhaps later.

New Year & The Past

We memorialize years, decades, and centuries in honor of noteworthy individuals for their contributions to humanity by remembering the past or paying tribute to their memories. Notable and famous people who have significantly contributed to society and humanity are listed on the UNESCO calendar of eminent personalities, which is possible only by reminiscing about the past and history. 

Similar to how we commemorate current milestones like birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and graduations, we also honor departed loved ones in our present by recalling the past. As we welcome the New Year, we bid the old year farewell. None of this would be possible without recognizing the past or history. 

A Girl’s Bravery in 1915

Aurora Mardiganian’s bravery is brought to light, as seen in the Hollywood film “Auction of Souls” or her book “Ravished Armenia,” which is made known via the narration of the Armenian Genocide. Through Aurora Mardiganian and her story, Near East Relief Foundation, NER, the first humanitarian foundation, raised money to help little orphans survive the Armenian Genocide.

Phoenix Has Arisen After 1915  

Let us commemorate Charles Aznavour, the global entertainer of the twentieth century who was a direct descendant of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Like a phoenix, he rose Mother Armenia from the ashes after the Armenian Genocide to global heights. Recognizing the genocide is the first step in understanding the resilience and survivor spirit.


Komitas Vartabed is the father of world ethnomusicology, the founder and pioneer of the field. Thanks to Komitas, UCLA marked its 100th anniversary of ethnomusicology in 2019, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Komitas Vartabed, whose unique and distinctive baritone voice recording is still available today. Komitas is the symbol of the Armenian Genocide’s suffering.

On April 24, 1915, Komitas, alongside hundreds of other elites, leaders, and intellectuals, was rounded up and arrested to be massacred. Komitas was miraculously released by the interventions of the US Ambassador Henry Morgentheau; nevertheless, that did not stop the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide from silencing his voice until his death.  

Let us remember Komitas rocked and dominated the world stage. UCLA would not have its ethnomusicology department and, better yet, commemorated the centenary of ethnomusicology without Komitas pioneering the world’s ethnomusic.

Three Wise Monkeys

Without remembering the past or the massacre against the Armenians, we resemble the proverbial three wise monkeys (who see, hear and speak no evil). Thus, despite possessing eyes, ears, and lips, we cannot see, hear, or speak. We do not, however, discuss the ongoing genocide taking place between 2020 and 2023 against the Armenian people, which could result in the eradication of the Republic of Artsakh. 

By perpetrating war crimes in 2020, genocide, cultural genocide, innocent bloodshed, unlawful land theft, torturing prisoners of war, blockading Artsakh since 12/12/22, and killing 18–20 young troops in front of the world, leaving the death unburied nor returned to their parents. Even Armenia would be handed over to our mortal enemies, Turkey and Azerbaijan. No one can see, hear or speak but become the three monkeys and only consume bloody Baku oil in the present. 

Memory is only possible through our past, and humanity is only possible by remembering the past and history. By recognizing the Armenian Genocide, humanity raises awareness to stop other genocide. However, Armenia and Artsakh are threatened with new genocide here and right, and we need the world’s attention and take action.

Our Cradle in Your Hand

Bain News Service, P. (ca. 1915) Remnant of Armenian family, ca. 1915. [Between and Ca. 1920] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

Tears & Echoes

To feel our pain is to discover our tears in the arid sand and recognize our Armenian paradise in the withered flowers. Hold the grain of our civilization in the cradle of your hand. You may glimpse our majestic past through the ashes of our burning villages and the smoldering, sizzling, and burning seeds of our ancient trees that have fallen without an echo. You will hear the echo and see our glorious history once you hold a fallen tree from our ancient trees.

Once you’ve collected enough grains of sand from the Der Zor desert of death marches, you can touch the orphans’ fossilized tears. The dead flowers of our Armenian paradise, the biblical Garden of Eden, may still be smelled. You may see our past and history, as well as feel our pain and anguish. Yes, by remembering the past, you can feel Mother Armenia’s grief and be aware of her losses.

The Past’s Lens

Once you can hold our cradle of civilization, you can know our glorious history, and thus you can see our future through the lens of our past. Therefore, learn Armenia’s illustrious past, and look at the future through the prism of Armenian history. Be aware of Mother Armenia’s past and her suffering to hold our civilization’s birthplace.

King of Kings

Remembering the past is not only the past of 1915-1923 when our civilization was reduced to ashes, but the history of the dawn of world civilization, with Armenia as the cradle of civilization. 

Throughout time immemorial, during the reigns of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, and Cleopatra, the Armenian Kingdom remained steadfast and strong.

The Armenian Kingdom of Dikran the Great extended from the Caspian and the Black Seas to the Mediterranean. Nobody speaks of the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. Nobody mentions the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia or Dikran the Great, also known as the King of Kings. The charcoaled leaves of ancient fallen trees testify to the glories of our past when Armenia’s history was inscribed and has been engraved on the ancient leaves.

Desolate Deserts

Our culture flourished on the desolate deserts with nothing but furnace-heated rocks and sands, surviving the suffering and the innocent bloodshed of the Armenian Genocide. The misplaced or errant tears in the desert sands will always belong to us. Mother Nature bestowed our unique capabilities on us because we stayed faithful to God so that Armenians would not remain hidden but shine, and we would always have undiscovered talents that the world needs to discover.


2023 is the end of the centennial countdown of the Armenian Genocide. Our 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide are now sanctified martyrs since the centennial started in 2015 on April 24. When it comes to the past or history of the advent of civilization, Armenia is considered to be its cradle and savior. Without Armenia, the world may lose its beginning as well as its end in the black hole; instead, it only faces collapse. To understand our suffering, it’s not merely about the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Still, one must discover the little orphans’ tears in the arid sand and recognize our Armenian paradise, the Armenian Highland, in the withered flowers.

Rachel Melikian is the former GCC Woman of the Year

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