Ani Mejlumyan. Letter to Aurora Prize Hero

Hello dear Marguerite. I like your passion towards the one and only race - human race.

Recently I found out that I have Jewish ancestors. Now it’s pushing me to explore that other culture and ethnicity that I haven’t known. First thought I had when I found out about my Jewish roots was: “I’ve been ‘Genocided’ twice.”

I lived in different countries that made me international to the point that other’s tragedies became mine. Two years ago I finished my short documentary called “Images of war.” The idea was to trace back the stories of the heroes of iconic images to see how they live now. My first two stories were about Georgian survivors from the war between Russia and Georgia, 2008. I thought I knew what the war is. I knocked on the door of my first hero Zoi Muradova, not even knowing if she is alive. Camera on, my voice is shaking… Her daughter invites me in, saying: “Journalists came.” I walk inside the room filled with sick air and I see a disabled woman lying on the bed, smiling to me. I was 23 then… Camera on the bed, still recording, I master my voice so she can’t hear the pity.  “Hi how are you?” comes out of my young, unexperienced mouth. Who am I to come over here? I can’t even drive my tears back to my throat. It hit me then “You don’t know what war is until you knock the door.”

Zoi- On August 8 I’ll be 58 and  it will be already 5 years that I’m tied up to bed.

By the time I finished the film it was 6 years that she haven’t seen sunlight, didn’t go out to chat with girlfriends as she used to. My dear grandma, that’s how I felt about her, lived in the block of flats on the 5th floor with no accessibility for disabled people to move around. I took action. I did what I do best. I explored the story in the most authentic way I knew and I hoped that  as a protagonist I can bring  light to this and force Georgian government, the local authorities, whoever  there is to take a long term action. Naive and young sometimes you start something and force it with every bone in your body to work. It worked. After 6 years she saw the sun, she received medical care and pension. I can’t say I was proud of myself I just wasn’t foreigner. Those crumpled streets were mine, those people were mine and more importantly I was theirs.

Being born in 1991 in Yerevan, I’ve seen no war but no peace either. What can a kid remember apart from noisy evenings, hard living conditions, no electricity and just one hour of TV time with neighbors?

Armenia is a country where everything became normal to my eye. I lived here about 20 years. There is no such vivid poverty in Armenia for the people who go to cinema, clubs and etc. But everything bad that happens in the world is relative to us. People affected by terrible earthquake in 1988, living in a ghost city ‘Spitak’, where everyone is afraid from block of flats… 29 years but fear remains.

My mother tells me that we (Armenians) became indifferent and selfish. We weren’t like this in 90’s during the war. An entire neighborhood will share one bread. I believe her. It is indifference that causes underprivileged to be slaughtered, to die from hunger, to live a life of a slave in 21st century. We should awake humanity.


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