I had a heart to heart with Alla the other day about what her childhood was like in Armenia in the 1990s. Whereas I was studying in a warm, inviting elementary school, she would come to an unheated classroom for 10 minute lessons. It was just enough time for teachers to answer questions before assigning excessive homework to children. Basically homeschooling, all teachers could do was hope that students were assisted by parents in completing lessons at home. During the war, there weren't many people who didn't experience devastating loss of family members and loved ones. Whereas I would spend afternoons dancing and singing to Ace of Base in my backyard, she was not allowed to turn on the television or laugh out of respect for those grieving. I could walk into any room I wanted at any time and flip on a light to read, but Alla was encouraged to sit quietly and study by candlelight (only one per day because they never knew when they would run out of candles). Power was supplied to the village for one hour per day. My biggest fear was if I would get caught making homemade play dough in the kitchen, she grew up afraid that the Turks were going to come and take over the small village.
The most amazing thing about our lives, however, is that we turned out the same. I was showered with blessings, she had next to nothing. I was reprimanded for misbehaving, she was reprimanded for laughing and playing. We came from such different backgrounds, but we both want the same things for this village, this country and the world. I'm so thankful for Alla, her motivation, her unwavering hope and her desire to improve the life of others.
Introducing Emelyn Ruth Bornstein
2 years ago