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Local nurse helping train people in Armenia while maintaining its culture

Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 07:56:10-04

(WXYZ) — We're continuing to celebrate women making a difference in local communities and beyond as part of Women's History Month.

Nairi Karapetian has spent the last two decades trying to improve the quality of life for people in Armenia. The country has a long history of genocide and unrest.

Karapetian is a nurse at Beaumont Royal Oak and a proud grandchild of four Armenia genocide survivors. Despite being born here, she's been traveling back for years to bring aid and provide medical care to her people.

Since 2020, they've been at war with Azerbaijan, a conflict similar to the one going on in Ukraine.

St. Sarkis in Dearborn is where Karapetian got married. It's also where two of her kids were baptized. There's a lot of meaning within these walls, but what she loves most about being there is how connected she feels to her roots.

"Although I wasn't born there, Armenia was part of my identity, it was part of my soul and we all felt a commitment to honor the survival of our ancestors, of our grandparents," she said.

An estimated 1.5 million people died in the Ottoman-era Armenia genocide. Turkey, the ultimate heirs of the Ottoman Empire, denied the massacre.

Last year, President Joe Biden declared April 24 National Armenian Remembrance Day. Karapetian and others living in the U.S. waited a long time for that acknowledgment.

"There are more people living in the diaspora Armenians than there are people in Armenia, but all of us are magnetized back," Karapetian said.

She said that pull got stronger in 2020 when violence erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Republic of Artsakh.

Both ex-Soviet neighbors claim the territory belongs to them. Mind you, this was all happening during the height of the pandemic.

"Ukraine is getting a lot of attention, which is what it should be, but Armenia should have gotten attention too and so should a lot of other countries when they were being brutally attacked in a very similar way. There are lots of parallels," she said.

As a long-time nurse, Karapetian knew she could help injured civilians. She collected over 280 boxes of medical supplies and headed for Armenia's front lines

"We've got this ongoing genocide right now and our history is just so sad and it just seems to never end. It is just an ongoing trauma," Karapetian said.

A nation that was once a large empire is now the size of Maryland. Karapetian fears Armenia will one day be no more, which is why she weaves tradition, language and culture into everything she does.

"I told my daughter, whether it's in my lifetime or yours, if Armenia is gone, it needs to exist in our hearts and we need to keep it going," she said.

Karapetian is going to Armenia next month to start a pilot program for nurses. She wants to empower them to take more initiative by the bedside and bring them up to date on CPR and other life-support training.