They lost everything they had worked for. They lost homes, businesses, and the storied neighborhoods in which they had grown up, the neighborhoods where they had built lives within the warmth of family, friends, and colleagues. Most tragically, they lost loved ones.
Descendants of Genocide survivors, they relived many of the horrors experienced by their grandparents and parents, as they were subjected to the renewed savagery of religious and political extremism.
And many became double refugees. After having fled to the safety of Syria years ago, they now had to escape the Syrian civil war, enduring the indignities of migration, poverty, and homelessness. Ironically, some ended up in refugee camps in Turkey. Others managed to move on, in desperate search of a light at the end of the tunnel that was the Syrian cataclysm.
For thousands of Syrian-Armenian refugees, that light at the end of the tunnel — or at least its promise — has come in the form of finding sanctuary in the Republic of Armenia. Moreover, what has been an ongoing and luminous phenomenon since 2010 is that, despite the immeasurable losses they have sustained, Syrian-Armenians arriving in Armenia lost absolutely no time to assume the gargantuan task of rebuilding their lives, one step at a time. All they needed, all they could ask for, was a little helping hand, extended to them with a little measure of moral support.
The story of the Syrian-Armenian tragedy is still being written, its harrowing particulars still being gauged. But there’s no doubt that the miracle of the rebirth of the Syrian-Armenian community in Armenia is something the entire Armenian nation must take pride in — and give it everything it’s got to further energize it and see it thrive.
The Armenian Redwood Project has been there since day one, determined to nurture that miracle at every step of the way. By raising worldwide public awareness of the plight of the refugees; by working toward a pan-Armenian alliance for meaningful and robust support; and by providing refugee families with urgently needed housing and social assistance, we strive not just to help Syrian-Armenians in Armenia get back on their feet, but give them back perhaps the most precious of survival tools: their dignity.
This year, thousands of Syrian-Armenian families in Armenia will gather around the Christmas table — to remember those who were taken away from them, to celebrate the gift of human fortitude, and even as an act of defiance. As for the rest of us, let us rediscover the spirit of giving in Christmas; let us give our Syrian-Armenian sisters and brothers the unflinching reassurance that they’re not alone in their struggle.