27 August 2008
ABC TV 1: Return To Armenia, In Search Of Meaning, AUGUST 28, 8.30pm
THIS intriguing story's dark background is the Armenian genocide of 1915. This is the genocide denied by its alleged perpetrator, Turkey. .
Joanna Kambourian's family is one among millions for whom the repercussions continue.
The graphic artist from coastal NSW is the troubled subject of the first episode in the new series of Family Footsteps. She is the daughter of a Dutch mother and an Armenian-American father. But it was her Armenian great-grandfather on whom events turned. As conditions deteriorated around him he had to choose between saving his family by betraying his culture or accepting the high risk of their very cruel deaths.
He chose life. Now Joanna wants to return to Armenia to see if time has changed the harsh judgment.
``The worst thing about going to Armenia would be that the Armenian people do not forgive my family for the past,'' she says.
Her father is encouraging. ``Here's a culture you are part of, kid, go do it,'' he says.
Two weeks in the village of Ohanavan is every bit the cultural bootcamp you may imagine, although she is warmly embraced by host Tehmineh, a teacher; her husband Ara, an orchardist; and his mother, Jemma, also a teacher.
Joanna struggles to contribute by working in the bakery, making lavash bread using centuries-old techniques, eats unpalatable local delicacies and even allows a rooster to be sacrificed for her host family to confer a blessing on her.
In fact, this is only one of their gifts; the other is their hospitality and care for her, signified by assigning her Jemma's room, the warmest in the house, being next to the stove.
Joanna's winter visit inevitably means we see Armenia at its bleakest and it's hard to resist a shake of the head when she joins in a celebration in Tehmineh's classroom, staged because heating has been restored to the school after two years.
The more conventional upsides are learning to dance with the women, touring the market of the nearby capital, Yerevan, and visiting the vicinity of Mt Ararat, where Noah's ark landed, according to the Bible story. Beyond it lies the village from which her family came, today part of Turkey.
It's all part of the search for her Armenian identity and some comfort to take back to her father, so her visits to the genocide museum and a local historian are powerful moments.
``I owe it to my family, my ancestry, to find a way to put a lot of their feelings of grief and shame and loss to rest, but I'm not sure how that is going to go,'' she says.
The family could not have chosen a better emissary.
Source: Weekend Australian, August 23, 2008
Family Footsteps - Armenia
8:30pm Thursday, 28 Aug 2008 Documentary CC PG
Family Footsteps, series two, takes us once again on an intimate journey into the lives of four young Australians as they travel back to the homeland of their parents in search of answers, a sense of belonging and for some, the chance to lay ghosts to rest. The four-part series takes us to Armenia, Uganda, Tonga and Cambodia.
In the first episode we follow the adventures of graphic artist Joanna Kambourian from NSW who has grown up knowing very little about her Armenian culture. Overshadowing her family is a sense of shame, hiding a secret that has kept them from returning to their homeland. It weighs heavily on Joanna as she travels to Armenia in the quest to remove the stain that has haunted her family for several generations.
Joanna has always longed to go to an Armenian school, be taught the language and customs of her ancient culture but her father didn't think it was that important. So with few cultural references Joanna, 31, embarks on her own voyage of cultural exploration.
It is 40 degrees in the small country town of Coraki in NSW and Joanna is packing her winter clothes. Temperatures in Armenia are 10 below zero. As she arrives, snow covers the tiny mountainous country that lies to the east of Turkey, sharing borders with Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Here she will live with her mentor Tehmineh the local schoolteacher who shares her home with her husband Ara and mother-in-law Jemma. They welcome Joanna as part of their family.
The next day Joanna starts her job in the local bakery. The local women have been making Lavash bread using the same techniques for centuries. As their days unfold Tehmineh continues to teach her students in the morning and in the afternoon introduces Joanna to the subtleties of Armenian culture.
With Tehmineh's help Joanna begins to investigate the history of her family's flight from Armenia and the story of betrayal that lies behind it. They visit an historian, an expert in the Armenian genocide, who explains that in 1915 under the cover of WWI the Turks began a systematic genocide of the Christians and Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Joanna confesses that her great, great, grandfather was the surgeon general in the Turkish army at that time, and to save his family and his life he converted to Islam.
As her journey draws to a close Tehmineh offers Joanna the chance to take part in an ancient pagan ritual to give thanks for the transition she and her family have made.
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As a neighbour to the Armenians, I have ever expected them to be embracing peace and love.
While I was reading the summary of a program named Family Footsteps on internet pages of Australian ABC TV, I still didn't know some words concealed there would suffice to make me disappointed.
"...With Tehmineh's help Joanna begins to investigate the history of her family's flight from Armenia...They visit..." [8:30pm Thursday, 28 Aug 2008, abc.au.net/tv...]
Having read such words I was, in deed, disappointed on two accounts. One is that I didn't want to believe Armenian people were sent away by their own Armenian state. On the other hand, a question occurred to me after that expression... Do the Armenians believe my homeland, Türkiye, is or must be Armenia?
Being a neighbour for tens of years, I believe, without any hesitate I can give a hand to peace and to my neighbours. However, if what they want me to give is my country, then I am bound to review my expectations twice rather than believing in a fake neighborliness.
Dear ABC Programmer,
I was disappointed to learn of your intent to air a program on alleged Armenian Genocide on 28 August, 2008. The events of 1915 are a wartime tragedy during which many more Turkish lives were lost in Eastern Anatolia as a result of Armenian greed, terrorism, uprising, and treason, than Armenian lives as a result of Turkish retaliations. Insisting on the Armenian version of events and totally ignoring Turkish views is, first and foremost, a gross distortion of history, and therefore, unethical and unfair.
Allegations of Armenians Genocide are dishonest and racist history. They are racist because they imply that Turkish dead do not matter, but Armenian dead do. And they are dishonest because they deliberately misrepresent as genocide a complicated human tragedy, a civil war within a world war, caused by Armenian greed, armed revolts, terrorism, and treason, within the scope of territorial designs at the expense of the Ottoman Empire by the major powers of Europe at the time.
History is not a matter of “belief”; it is a matter of “scholarship”, as in research, peer review, and debate. Therefore, one should be extremely cautious when assessing and presenting the historical events.
Please be fair and get this one-sided bias program off the air before it is too late.
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