An early lesson about fairness
When I was asked to write a short story about how I met an Armenian the first time or about an Armenian who impressed me the most, my first reaction was: OMG, I could write a novel on that matter!
My first serious boyfriend was from Yerevan. Both of us came to Berlin to study at the age of 19; he from Armenia, I from Moscow. I knew of course that my parents wouldn’t be pleased, so I kept the relationship secret for over two years. When I finally decided to tell my mother about him, her reaction was even worse than I expected. She was threatening to kill herself (literally, I am not exaggerating). But I was very much in love and was determined to make it work, no matter what.
What did bother me though was the fact that my Armenian boyfriend wasn’t in the same Romeo-and-Julia state of mind. The opinion of his mother, who as it turned out also would have rather died than accepted me as her daughter-in-law, mattered very much to him. To the extent that he would practically stop seeing me every summer when she was visiting. At some point I had to accept that he would never commit and broke up. I never told my father about it.
The break up was good for both of us eventually. When I look back now, I realize that it wouldn’t have worked. We were not meant for each other. It is so obvious to me now that I ask myself: What was the reason I couldn’t let it go for 3 and a half years? Was it just my young age and being in love? Or was it the fact that he was an Armenian? Maybe just because everything seemed to be against this relationship that I was refusing to give up? Out of protest? It seems to me now a little like I wanted to prove something to somebody. But I don’t know what, to whom and why.
The first time I met an Armenian I was 7 years old. It was the summer of 1988. My parents, my younger sister and I were on vacation in Crimea in a nice resort (well, it was considered nice for the high Soviet standards). I remember us walking in the garden of this resort and my father greeting a man, obviously a colleague of his, who also must have been with his family. I don’t remember the wife or other kids, I just remember a girl, a little younger than me, looking quite a lot like myself – a little bit chubby, with big black eyes. While our parents were talking, we obviously also must have started talking to each other. We established that she was from Armenia and my family was from Azerbaijan. And then she asked: “Your country, Azerbaijan, is much bigger than Armenia, right?“ She was looking at me with a sad expression in her big black eyes. The way she asked me that question sounded to me like “You have two dolls and I have one, right?“
As I mentioned I was only 7 years old. I had not the slightest idea whose country was bigger. But her implication, that I might have something that she didn’t, that I might have two dolls and this girl only one, seemed so unjust, it couldn’t be true, it would be unfair. It would be unfair, so it couldn’t be true. So I said “No, I think they are about the same size!“ The girl was looking at me with an obvious distrust, but didn’t say anything. At that moment our parents said goodbye to each other and we parted. I never met this girl again. On the same day I asked my father which country was bigger and he told me that Azerbaijan was much bigger of course. But there are also more people living there, he added immediately. It was like he also believed that otherwise it would be very unfair.
I felt ashamed that I told her something which wasn’t true and it really bothered me. I would have liked to talk to her again and to explain to her that I didn’t want to lie, I just had no idea. And I would have explained to her that there are many more people living in Azerbaijan, so it was not unjust. But I think what bothered me the most was that I had the impression she didn’t like me. She didn’t like me because I was from Azerbaijan. That made me feel sad. I liked her and I wanted her to like me. But she didn’t like me because Azerbaijan was bigger than Armenia and it was unfair.