FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — It’s a story planted in Fresno, with roots that grow far deeper to the historic ancestral lands of thousands in the Valley, what’s now Eastern Turkey, but once Western Armenia.
Journalist and Fresno native Ani Hovannisian has been drawn to those lands like a magnet. Her grandparents were survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. She remembers their painful stories from her childhood. “And so the stories of my grandparents and my grandmother’s silent tears and my grandfather’s horrid screams in his nightmares– those all became part of my reality,” says Hovannisian.
That reality became a mission to trace her family’s origin, and she found the historic Armenian cities and villages that once flourished, are now rubble in a country that denies their existence. “They don’t just deny the genocide, they continue it by continuing the destruction by making it illegal to talk about the genocide. You talk about the genocide in Turkey and you can go to prison,” Hovannisian says.
Hovannisian has produced a documentary called “The Hidden Map.” She traveled historic Armenia with Scottish explorer Steven Sim who has been documenting these vanishing Armenian ruins for 30 years. “He is almost pained by the fact that these relics are all over historic Armenia as much as the Turkish government tries to get rid of every trace of everything Armenian,” says Hovannisian.
There is sadness in this story, as well as the discovery of treasures and the truth that historic Armenia and Armenians still exist– in this hidden map. . And for Hovannisian, the story is far from over. “Our faith and our resilience and our determination to survive despite that unspeakable horror and injustice. It sings through today. Armenians are strong. We had to be. We had to be strong to survive,” she says.
“The Hidden Map” will air six times between Friday, April 23, and Sunday, April 25 on NBCLX. It’s free on Fresno’s broadcast channel 51.4. It can be viewed on Roku, Peacock, and other streaming platforms.