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During the 2024 Aurora Prize award ceremony, Veronika Zonabend, the wife of Aurora Humanitarian Initiative co-founder Ruben Vardanyan, read Vardanyan's message from a prison in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Zonabend's speech is presented below:

“Dear guests and participants of the 8th Aurora Prize Ceremony, from Armenia, Yerevan,

I am standing here in the garden of IDeA Foundation, which was established almost 25 years ago by Ruben and me, together with our partners and friends. Aurora was born within those roots, founded by Noubar, Vartan, and Ruben. Before I read the message from Ruben, I want to express my personal deep and sincere gratitude to all of you, to the Aurora community, to Aurora leadership, for support and compassion. Being over 200 days imprisoned in Baku, Ruben and other Armenian prisoners were supported by you, and you were standing in solidarity with them, with your bold actions demanding their immediate and unconditional release. More recently, during Ruben’s hunger strike for 20 days, you raised your voices, together with the voice of the family, and this is invaluable. Thank you again.

Here is Ruben’s message: Baku prison, 2024.

“In 2015, in the run up to the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, Vartan, Noubar and I, reflecting on how to mark the fateful day, decided that we should not only honor the memory of those who perished during that catastrophe; we also wanted to express our gratitude to those who helped them and saved their lives.

We wanted to change the Armenian narrative from that of victimhood and the past, to a new perspective: facing the future with hope.

We launched this initiative to express gratitude on behalf of our nation, honoring modern heroes, helping them carry on with their hard work and promoting good deeds. We were dreaming about Yerevan to become a humanitarian capital of the world, joining together as one nation with the Armenian Diaspora scattered around the globe as the result of the Genocide.

With Aurora, we draw international attention to real heroes of today, those who risk their own wellbeing and lives, and who find faith and a path forward in helping others.

Thanks to Aurora, I met people who taught me the most important lesson: remaining true to human values and your own principles, irrespective of the situation, and following your path. My decision to move to Artsakh—Nagorno Karabakh—was motivated by the Aurora heroes: I made a choice to be with the people who needed help and wanted to help in any way I could. Being here, totally isolated from the world for nearly eight months, I have a lot of time to reflect.

I have no regrets about taking that path. I am deeply grateful to you for inspiring me to do the right thing. Now, I understand much better what motivates Marguerite Barankitse, Tom Catena, and other Aurora laureates, and why they have this strong belief in the power of one individual to make a difference. There is simply no choice but to try.

Unfortunately, our world has not become kinder through your good work, but this means that what you do is more important than ever. Your commitment to helping others, in this joint mission of ours, gives me strength here. I am now more convinced than ever before, that values and principles are more important than even life itself.

I wish you every success in your mission, and I am sending my warm congratulations to this year’s laureates. I am confident that together, we can do a lot to make the world a better and a kinder place for everyone. As Marguerite likes to say, love always prevails. So, let love and values prevail. Let all of us be prepared to give more than we ever hope to receive in return, and that each of us can make a big difference.””

This text available in   Հայերեն and Русский
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