James Balakian, son of the famous American writer Peter Balakian, visited the land of his ancestral roots for the first time during the recent Armenian Church Youth Organization of America’s (ACYOA) service pilgrimage, which was held in July.
Born in London in 1988, James graduated high school in Hamilton, New York, and earned his degree in American history and political science from Bucknell University in May 2010.
Born in Teaneck, New Jersey, Peter Balakian is the author of five books of poetry, as well as the PEN/Martha Albrand Award winner “Black Dog of Fate” and the national bestseller “The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response,” winner of the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize.
In elegant, moving prose, “Black Dog of Fate” charts Balakian’s growth and personal awakening to his family’s history and the horrifying aftermath of the Turkish government’s continued campaign to cover up one of the worst crimes ever committed against humanity. The book is dedicated to Balakian’s two children, Sophia Ann and James Gerard.
“Before my visit, Armenia was just imaginary for me. I am greatly impressed by the nature and architecture of the country. I am happy that I could find new friends,” James recounted.
The trip offered James the opportunity to travel throughout the country and see various cities. “Yerevan is a modern city. Gyumri has more of an older culture and is full of Armenian spirit. It is a welcoming town and people of Gyumri are friendlier. Gyumri seemed closer to me.” He also urges people who are planning to travel to Armenia to visit Gyumri, which suffered severely due to the 1988 earthquake.
This trip was what James described as his “first taste” of Armenia. He will, indeed, visit this wonderful country again.