British | Armenian
I am a British-Armenian woman. My Mother is Armenian, born and raised in Iraq. My Father is British, born and raised in Derbyshire. They met in Derbyshire. I always knew I was mixed-race; whilst not an overt presence in our lives (I have one brother) both our parents backgrounds were recognised, acknowledged and drawn upon in our family. Growing up in Derbyshire the only other Armenians around were my Mums immediate family. There weren’t any other mixed-race kids around. As a little kid we didn’t really notice any othering as such; we were just the British-Armenian kids. As we got older then you became more aware of a little difference. I always maintained a strong awareness and pride in my dual heritage.
My parents combined their cultures with great ease, as a couple there was simply no issue to either of them regarding the others background. Neither of my parents come from overly religious backgrounds or upbringings so there were never any faith-based challenges. The challenges they faced came from other family members expressing an intolerance and bigotry towards my Mother because she wasn’t English. My Dad didn’t tolerate this though and I’m always proud of him for never allowing it to impact on us; we were (and are) a strong family unit and Dad’s Derbyshire roots manifested in his open-hearted, take-as-you-find attitude.
Growing up it was more a case of curiosity, Armenia and Armenians are not a hugely well-known or well represented group. So friends would be mildly curious as to where my Mother came from; a background made more complex by the fact she was born and raised in Iraq and her family had to flee the country and settle in the UK. I would say there was a latent racism towards my Mother, and by default my brother and I, from my Fathers family. I was always conscious of not being quite accepted by my paternal Grandmother and my Mother certainly suffered a great deal of bigotry from them.
I was brought up by two very different and brilliantly open parents who were determined to make sure we were curious, tolerant and understanding of anyone. My life and those who are part of it are have grown from this basis. Food is a huge deal to Armenians, and cooking. Armenians live to feed people. Certain food stuffs hold great spiritual significance to Armenians; the apricot and pomegranate in particular.
I have become so much more aware of the lack of knowledge and understanding of Armenia; in particular the Armenian Genocide, which is a huge and devastating element for anyone with Armenian heritage. Sometimes it is difficult to try and bring the enormity of this to bear in a society that isn’t taught any history beyond a western world view.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would return exactly as I am. I am proud of both parts of me, my parents overcoming huge obstacles, individually and together, to meet and fall in love. We are a proud mixed-race family.