Reflections on Varoujan’s birthday

It seems quite amazing that one year ago today we were standing in Istanbul reciting a poem by Taniel Varoujan on his birthday with our lovely friends and talented actors Yegya and Lara. It was a poignant and sad, having traveled to the city to screen our film ”Taniel” and stand on Varoujan’s street where over a 100 years ago as an Armenian neighbourhood the majority would have been speaking Armenian. 

Yet now, 105 years after the Genocide and Varoujan’s arrest, the police who stopped us and the inquiring passers by had no idea of the language we were speaking. No idea that a great man and poet lived here, no statues and plaques, to mark his home. A history and people erased from history in modern day Turkey that still denies and lies about what it did to the Armenian people. One year on, we have fond memories of our visit and screening at the Hrant Dink Foundation, a organisation which is dedicated to a bright light, a wonderful man and journalist who was cut down and killed at the age of 52 for just being an Armenian too.

We are now in an unprecedented time in history, with a different danger affecting all of us.  I wish our friends in Istanbul safety and good health and for all those in lockdown please read some of Varoujan’s fine work.

Watch Yegya Akgun reading a snippet ‘To the Muse’ below, the first poem from Varoujan’s first published book and a strong, emotional statement about him wanting to become a poet.

By Garo Berberian