25 April 2009

Observing Genocide Memorial Day

From The Stone Garden Guide to Armenia and Karabagh:

Armenian Genocide Memorial Day, April 24
This is the most somber of national holidays. Tens of thousands make pilgrimages to the Genocide memorial, Tsitsernakaberd (Fortress of the Swallows), where they lay flowers at the eternal flame. Armenians here and around the world mourn the 1915-1923 slaughter of 1.5 million of their countrymen, and the destruction of their 3,000 year-old homeland. Shops and offices are closed, and many Armenians attend solemn church services.

Jarred and I had the day off work on Friday in observance of Genocide Memorial Day. We originally wanted to take the day to visit a museum, but since museums were closed, we decided to go to Tsitsernakaberd along with everyone else to witness this important cultural event and pay our respects to the memories of the genocide victims. Marina (being Georgian, not Armenian) didn't mind working a half day so we wouldn't have to drag Nathan along with us.

At the bottom of the hill leading up to the memorial, people were gathering and starting to ascend, all carrying fresh flowers they had purchased beforehand. These men bear huge, elaborate flower wreaths (called tsagh-kep-sak), which are commonly displayed in honor of the deceased.

We begin the long march...

Finally, we reached the top of the hill. (The picture is slanted because I had to hold the camera high above my head to get the shot.)

Within the "fortress," where thousands had already placed their flowers around the eternal flame.

A pair of doves watches over the crowd.

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