I felt such a personal connection with the author of Journey Through Genocide, Raffy Boudjikanian. I do not personally have descendants of Armenian heritage, but my mother’s second husband’s family, my stepfather, were of Polish descent. They grew up in what is now Belorussia and the Ukraine, witnessed and lived through pogroms against the Poles, were sent to concentration camps in Siberia by Stalin, and then left to wander the earth, refugees without a home to go back to. My stepfather was born in a refugee camp in England. So, another act of atrocity that isn’t really talked about often, like the Armenian genocide that Raffy Boudjikanian discusses at large in his book. I recognized a lot of what Raffy Boudjikanian says when he refers to answering the question of forgiveness and where one’s home is.
In addition to all of the above, Raffy Boudjikanian actually does something I wanted to do myself back in 2010, although personally my countries were the DRC, Rwanda, Sudan, and Bosnia. I wanted to travel to these countries and document in words and pictures the aftermath of genocide and the ability or non-ability for a country and her people to move on. And also to raise awareness to how in the western world we never care enough until its way too late. I mean we only have to look at Sudan, Syria, and Myanmar currently for example: ongoing death, displacement, and war. I still haven’t gone on that trip. Maybe one day I will finally do it.
Anyway, Journey Through Genocide is a personal account of Raffy Boudjikanian’s exploration of three countries where genocide has occurred: Sudan, Rwanda, and Armenia. He doesn’t actually enter Sudan but instead visits Sudanese refugee camps in Chad (he explains the extremely valid reason for this in the book), and he also visits what used to be Armenia but what is now Turkey, where his ancestors were from, rather than modern day Armenia. Raffy Boudjikanian organizes interviews with refugees, survivors, and with descendants of survivors, and recounts these as well as his own personal views and experiences in his book. His recounts of modern day genocide are usually discussed with a backdrop of the Armenian genocide and it makes for a very interesting narrative. The stories are always so hard to hear, whether they are from last century or from yesterday, but so very necessary, especially in this day and age where we scroll on without bothering to contemplate what is happening around us.
If you are looking for a detailed exposé on genocide then Journey Through Genocide isn’t going to be for you. But if you are interested in reading a personal and compassionate essay on the effects of genocide on a population, and the lingering effects of genocide on future generations then this is for you. Journey Through Genocide reads like a travelogue, and is both informative and personal, and I appreciated the perfect mix of both so much. So many books on the topic of genocide are too dry: a sea of horror so awful that we need to remove all emotions to hope to absorb it, so I think it is important to read as many personal narratives too, whether they be those of survivors, or those of people who have ventured further afield than they ever imagined they would.
Raffy Boudjikanian does a great job of bringing the Armenian genocide into the conversation, as too often no one has ever heard about it, especially not in North America anyway. (I was brought up in France and had Armenian friends so it often surprises me when people have never heard of it). I also have so much respect for the author for doing this trip, and for being so honest about his experiences. It was a very poignant, informative, and compassionate read.
Journey Through Genocide will be published on May 15, 2018 by DunDurn. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance copy!