I lived with my mother in a huge Moscow communal apartment. I knew that I was an Armenian. This knowledge came to me through the Armenian language that my mother used with me when she wanted others to not understand what she said.
This has been our secret language of communication. Perhaps that’s why since then, I have been associating the Armenian language with the motherly love, with family, and with warmth. Perhaps, it was this magic of my mother tongue that prompted me to get engaged in literature.
Mom was then taken away, while I was sent to a Moscow orphanage. My surname would be deprived of the ending “yan”: after all, it was like a password that presented Armenians to each other wherever they met.
But I retained the language of my mother because I quietly spoke to her every day, asking her to come back soon and take me from the “vorbanots” [the Armenian word for “orphanage”].
Once, my geography teacher fell sick and was replaced by a black-haired, thin man. Upon entering the classroom, he looked round us, and I even thought that he stared at me for a moment. He then suddenly asked me for my name and surname.
I stood up and braced myself for the worst.
“Sit down,” said the teacher and, walking around the class, and continued, “My name is Simon Arshavirovich Torosyan, To-ro-syan. Like your friend, I am an Armenian, and I will be teaching you until Valentina Petrovna recovers.” This caused a mixed sensation of relief, pride, and something good in me.
In the evening, I was called to the director, in whose cabinet I saw the geography teacher.
“Simon Arshavirovich wants you to be his guest,” said the director, “I basically don’t have objections.”
“This,” said the teacher, victoriously tapping his nose, “has never lied to me. Accurately spots our jigyar [“character”, “folk”].”
This Siberian town had a lot of scientific institutes, and Armenians worked in each of them. The news of an Armenian orphan found in an orphanage flew around the small commune, and many visitors paid a visit to the director. He refused everyone in adoption because I have been from a family of the “enemy of the people.” However, an old Bolshevik woman with a surname similar to mine lived in the town. In her wheelchair, she managed to get to the party bosses who feared to argue back.
Torosyan walked around the apartment, victoriously throwing up his fist and shouting, “Armenian people won’t allow any of its children to live in an orphanage! Whatever happens to us in this world!”
He and other Armenians taught me plenty of things about my nation. Each of them considered their duty to invite me to their homes and treat me with Armenian dishes. They all were excited that I managed to retain our language so well.
I found out that the Armenian state, which they all have been connected to through invisible threads, had existed a long time ago, much earlier than the history itself was written. And all those who outlived that state have been a part of its continuation from generation to generation.
As I saw it, Armenia was something like a floating island that sometimes moored to a country for some Armenians to disembark. And they would maintain their connection through their language, culture, through stories of their life, and through something else that is incomprehensible for anyone.
And they are all now awaiting the return of the Flying Island, and when it happens, the Armenian will come out and say: “it’s time go home, jigyar!”
It’s time to go home for all of us, away from this Vorbanots.