HART-US' Historical Pilgrimage to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh
The historical pilgrimage began as we traveled east of Yerevan to the Armenian countryside. Our group consisted of 36 persons,
representing nine countries (United States, Great Britain, Australia, Wales, Netherlands, Nigeria, France, Germany, and Armenia), with
a diverse representation of ages. The group was diverse but formed an early bond as we all shared a common purpose.
Our first campsite was located in Lachin, and we were joined by 20 residents of Artsakh
who would accompany us for the duration of our trip. They set up our tents, cooked us a lavish meal, and serenaded us with traditional Armenian songs.
The path from Shoushi to Stepanakert winded through beautiful hills and provided one of the most breathtaking views of the pilgrimage, with the entire city of Stepanakert nestled in a valley below our route. We reached Stepanakert and were again greeted by hospitable locals, a theme of our journey.
I had an opportunity to meet with the Nagorno Karabakh Ambassador to the United States and Canada. He expressed the need for not only Armenians of the Diaspora to support the freedom of Artsakh, but anyone that valued freedom and territorial integrity. He invited the Baroness and I to an event in Washington D.C. on September 13th, many political power brokers will be in attendance.
Vardan, the Director of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center presented a tour of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre and offered us the chance to meet with staff and patients. The facility boasted a pool lift to help individuals with mobility issues to safely enter their indoor pool. Vardan communicated that with their small budget they are forced to be creative, and he has done an amazing job with a limited amount of resources. Additional financial resources would allow them to innovate and offer more services and life saving medical equipment to those in need.
We traveled through Vank, an area that boasts new and interesting development. A newly remodeled elementary school welcomed us with song and dance. As we walked through the streets of Vank, we stumbled upon a small resort that
had one of the more interesting sites in Artsakh. Behind the resort, carved in rock, sat a giant tiger face fully equipped with teeth and whiskers!
On our last day we trekked to Gandzasar Monastery; this would be the ending point of our walking pilgrimage. The long journey had come to an end; we stood atop the mountain and marveled at the beautiful countryside.
We had come from all corners of the world to take part in this historic pilgrimage, and during this moment we stood alongside the locals in solidarity; we had been welcomed not as visitors, but as neighbors, as friends, as family. We formed a bond that transcended national identity; we were at this moment, the brothers and sisters of Artsakh.