A Love Story for Artsakh
The date was July 21, 2023 when Astrid and Stephen, a young Armenian couple living in New York City, decided to organize their first protests of many in front of the United Nations Headquarters to show solidarity with the besieged people of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).
Today we want to share their love story which hopefully will inspire others to care and to act, likewise.
Astrid and Stephen met in 2018 at St. Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral in Manhattan, NY, where Astrid was organizing Armenian language classes for adults. Stephen was among her first students and they quickly became friends.
Over time, the couple stayed in touch, at a distance, but it was the 44-day Artsakh War that brought them together again.
It was then that Stephen reached out to Astrid and asked for private Armenian tutoring. He wanted to help Armenia, but first needed to learn the language.
Astrid agreed to provide the lessons and when the 44-day War ended, their lessons continued, thus leading to the next chapter in their story.
Since being engaged, the two have been an inseparable force working to improve the situation of people living in Armenia.
Together they founded a nonprofit organization which focuses on supporting life in Armenian border villages, and they are also actively engaged in expanding access to psychotherapy interventions for underserved populations in Armenia.
Astrid and Stephen endeavor together to drive direct foreign investment into the Armenian economy with the goal of creating a safer and more secure Armenia.
Finally, the goal of their work is to make being a patriot profitable, which they do leading by example.
The couple agrees that one cannot do what is necessary without the other’s cooperation and they support each other tirelessly. Stephen always says, “she gives me the strength to do what we do.”
“War makes us appreciate and value human life,” Astrid concluded, and since the start of their relationship, she and Stephen have been dedicated to the preservation of life and human rights especially in their ancient homeland.
The Artsakh blockade eventually presented the energetic couple with an opportunity to start a new project dedicated to the preservation of human life, human rights and values: small, daily, yet consistent protests at the public entrance of the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
“Our people were protesting in front of the UN office in Yerevan with a demand to deliver food to the famished Artsakh population living under Azeri siege since December 2022,” Astrid said. “So we decided to take their voices to the UN headquarters in the United States!”
What started as a small effort with just the two individuals creating hand-made posters at home and heading towards the UN headquarters around 5pm every weekday, quickly turned into a small and consistent movement, attracting many other individuals from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Among the core team members of daily protesters are (1) Anna Mesropyan (a Stepanakert-native living in New York and sister of Narek Mesropyan, a perished hero of 2020 Artsakh War) and (2) Knar Abrahamyan (PhD, Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University, originally from Hadrout and daughter of a perished hero of the First Artsakh War).
The expanding group believes that 5pm is the best time to be at the UN when most employees are leaving work around that time. At this point, they are pretty sure that every UN employee has seen them at least once.
These small protests have planted seeds for a much bigger demonstration which is scheduled to happen on August 20, 2023 at 12pm noon in the same location where Astrid, Stephen, Anna, Knar and others have been protesting.
The August 20th protest which is being coordinated with the current activities in Los Angeles aims to unite the American-Armenian Diaspora with Artsakh and Armenia, showing the world that Armenians in Diaspora are united as we stand in support of our family and friends in Artsakh.
Astrid, Stephen and the whole UN protest team call on all Armenians living on the East Coast to RALLY FOR THE PEOPLE OF ARTSAKH “AUGUST 20TH, 2023 12PM NOON”.