The youth to be “praying” for peace in the Near East along with the Pope (Prayer for Syria)

On June 25, Syrian-Armenians Sona Karadanaian, Vana Vartanian and Hagop Cholakian, who were born in Syria and moved to Armenia due to the Syrian war, will participate in the Ecumenical Ceremony of Pope Francis at Republic Square. They will join the Pope and pray for the establishment of peace in the region with handfuls of soil brought from their native cities of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Kessab.

We present Hayern Aysor’s short coverage of the Syrian-Armenian youth.

Sona Karadanaian

Sona Karadanaian, 13, was born in Aleppo, Syria. After the war broke out in Syria, she and her family moved to Armenia in August 2012.

In the wake of the Armenian Genocide, Syria became the country that provided shelter to Sona’s forefathers and became her birthplace.

Sona’s forefather was from the Chork-Marzvan village of Cilicia, and her mother was from Aintab.

Sona’s foremother survived the Armenian Genocide, and the family has transmitted her story from one generation to the next.

“My foremother was a newborn when the Armenian Genocide began. The multi-member family was forced to leave Aintab and escape to Kilis. The newborn’s parents hid their child in an oven, thinking they would return the next day and take her with them. Only two days later were they able to return. When they opened the lid of the oven, they saw that their child was alive, but my foremother’s toes had been burnt because of the smoke that was slowly coming out of the oven. My foremother lived without her toes. Every time she remembered the bitter days of the Armenian Genocide, she would show her toes,” Sona told Hayern Aysor, adding that if her foremother had died, her family wouldn’t have existed.

Sona is currently attending Nelson Stepanyan School N 71 of Yerevan. She has already been integrated into life in Armenia and has made new friends. She was very happy when she found out that she would be able to participate in the Ecumenical Ceremony at Republic Square and see Pope Francis up close. “I was very happy when I was told that I would be able to participate in the ceremony at Republic Square. I think it is a pride for any nation to receive the Pope, and you have to participate in an event devoted to him. When my friends found out about this, they said they would also like to participate.”

Sona doesn’t remember a lot of the Syrian war because she moved to Armenia right after the war broke out. However, her friends are still in Syria, and she is always in touch with them. “I want to see peace in Syria and the old Aleppo. I also want peace in my homeland, Armenia. I don’t want a war in my homeland. I don’t think anyone wants to lose his homeland, though I would really like for us Armenians to be able to regain Western Armenia, our Mount Ararat.”

Hagop Cholakian

Hagop Cholakian was born in Kessab. He is 13 years old. He was born in the Garaturan village where his father’s and mother’s families (the Cholakians and Saghdjians) had lived for centuries.

Hagop is especially interested in the history, dialect and lifestyles of the Armenians of his native Kessab. He received his primary education at the Armenian schools in Aleppo and Kessab. His father was an Armenian language teacher in Aleppo. In 2012, the family finally decided to settle in Kessab. “On March 21, 2014, Turkey launched large-scale military attacks against Kessab. Like all the Armenians of Kessab, we were also compelled to leave our home and take shelter in the yard of the Armenian church of Latakia. We stayed there for two weeks, left for Lebanon and finally settled in Armenia,” Hagop said in an interview with Hayern Aysor, adding that he had been telling his parents that he wanted to go to Armenia.

Armenia had never been a foreign country for Hagop. It is his homeland. He knows quite a lot about the nature of Armenia, the architectural monuments of Yerevan and the Artsakh war. Before coming to Armenia, he could already read in Eastern Armenian and understand it. The teachers and students of the Pushkin School of Yerevan didn’t look at him as a stranger and helped him adapt to the new environment.

Despite all this, Hagop really misses the Garaturan village located at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. In order for the longing to heal, he learns the folk songs and dances of Kessab as a member of the Vark Harants Dance Group in Yerevan.

On June 25, Hagop Cholakian will join other young Diaspora Armenians in the Ecumenical Ceremony and Prayer for Peace at Republic Square.

He wishes that the visit of the Pope will bring blessings to Armenia, Artsakh and Syria. “If possible, I will ask the Pope to pray for peace to be established in Syria,” Hagop said in an interview with Hayern Aysor.

Vana Vartanian

The family of the beautiful Vana is from the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, a place that became a landmark for the Armenians having escaped the Armenian Genocide. Vana’s forefather was one of the Armenians who escaped the genocide. He managed to stay alive after escaping the massacres seven times. The last, seventh time was fatal since this time he was forced to pretend he was dead in order to avoid death.

In Deir ez-Zor, the Vartanians started a new life, got back on their feet and became one large family. Today, the family of Vana, one of the youngest descendants of the large family, is living in Armenia. The family moved to Armenia a couple of years ago when the war broke out in Syria. When the war had just broken out, the family took shelter in Aleppo, which was safer at the time than Deir ez-Zor, but when Aleppo was bombarded, they moved to Armenia to shape the future of their family.

Vana, 15, is currently attending the Kvant School and has many friends and dreams. One of her dreams is coming true today since she will participate in the Ecumenical Ceremony with the Pope. Her greatest dream is to see peace reestablished in Deir ez-Zor, which is a unique symbol for the Armenian people.

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