The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008NationalSen. Bob Casey asks Amb. Yovanovich about freemarketreform and U.S.-Armenia cooperationSenator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D.-Penn.), a member of the SenateForeign Relations Committee, submittedfive questions for the recordto Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch,whose nomination as U.S.envoy to Armenia is under considerationby the committee. The senator’squestions and the nominee’sresponses appear below.Question: U.S. assistance toArmenia has demonstrated effectivenessin promoting free marketreform and is vital to democracybuilding in Armenia. What actionswill you take to continue to facilitatea robust assistance program?Answer: If confirmed, I willstrongly support the continuedevaluation and fine-tuning of theUSG assistance programs and willcoordinate closely with the Officeof the Director of Foreign Assistance,the Office of Managementand Budget, and Congress to ensurethat future budget requestsmeet USG policy goals as well as thedevelopment needs of Armenia.Many of the USG assistance programsin Armenia have achievedmeasurable success, particularly inpromoting economic growth. Forexample, in part because of USGassistance, the poverty rate in Armeniafell from 56 percent in 1999to 30 percent in 2005 (based on IMFreporting); rural poverty fell from48 percent to 28 percent. However,the events surrounding the flawedPresidential elections in Februaryand its aftermath prove that thereis still much work needed to fosterdemocratic reform. In the wakeof these developments, the USG isevaluating how to better target ourassistance programs to achieve ourpolicy objectives by focusing moreon increasing the capacity of civilsociety to seek accountable andtransparent governance.Armenia was recently chosen asone of ten pilot countries for whichthe U.S. Government will developa “Country Assistance Strategy”(CAS). The CAS will identify goalsand priorities for U.S. assistanceover a five-year period, and willcover not only the Department ofState and USAID, but all other U.S.Government agencies providingassistance to Armenia. The processof developing the CAS shouldassist us in determining how theUnited States can best contributeto Armenia’s economic, social anddemocratic development.Question: Please explain the rationalebehind the Administrationdecision to reduce aid to Armeniaby over 50% in its FY 2009 request,while maintaining or increasing aidto every other former Soviet republic?Answer: The reduced request forFY 2009 does not detract from thecritical importance of Armenia toU.S. interests nor does it signal achange in U.S. policy. Rather, therequest level meets the country’sdevelopment needs and is appropriatewithin the context of assistancepriorities within the regionand around the globe. Armeniahas made real progress on reversingrural poverty; nevertheless,the government’s commitment todemocratic reform is not as strongas others in the region, and Armeniastill struggles with rampantcorruption and weak democraticinstitutions.Within the FY 2009 assistancerequest for Eurasia, funding is prioritizedto help the most reformorientedcountries in the region– Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova– by promoting economic and energyindependence, helping to diversifyexport markets, and improvingdemocratic governance in the faceof increasing Russian economicand political pressure.Question: What will be your keypriorities as Ambassador to Armenia?Answer: If I am confirmed, mytop priority would be to supportthe efforts of the United States inworking towards regional stabilityby facilitating Armenian-Turkishrelations, including the opening oftheir border, and a peaceful settlementto the Nagorno-Karabakhconflict with Azerbaijan. The statusquo in both situations is unacceptableand not in U.S. or regionalinterests. Promoting good governancein Armenia is also a keyU.S. goal. The conduct of the recentpresidential elections and theirviolent aftermath in which ten individualsdied were deeply disturbing.The path towards democracyis rarely fast or smooth. The USG’saim is to help the Armenian governmentand the Armenian peoplerestore democratic momentumSenator Bob Casey.and to renew their own stated missionof moving forward to becomea country where government institutionsare transparent and accountableand where rule of law isaccepted by all. The relationship ofthe U.S. Government with Armeniais broad and deep, both on a bilaterallevel and between our peoples.Over the past seventeen years, theUnited States has provided closeto $2 billion in assistance and materiallyimproved the lives of millionsof Armenians. If confirmed, Iwill do everything in my power toensure that U.S. interests are promotedand protected, that the bilateralrelationship flourishes, andthat Armenia’s isolation ends andregional stability is enhanced.Question: What do you thinkwill be your greatest challenges?Answer: If confirmed, my greatestchallenges will be in working toreduce Armenia’s geographic isolationand helping Armenia recoverfrom recent setbacks to its democraticdevelopment. SupportingArmenia’s regional integration is apriority for the United States.Achieving normal relations betweenArmenia and Turkey is aprincipal concern. As a key part ofthat effort, the United States supportsthe opening of the Turkish-Armenian land border. The statusquo is not helpful to either country.Some progress has been achievedin recent years: there are regularcharter flights between Yerevanand Istanbul and other flights toAntalya; bus connections via Georgiaare numerous; and trade withTurkey through Georgia is common.Both countries would greatlybenefit from increased, direct tradewith the other, connecting theirelectrical grids, and implementingother measures natural to neighbors.The United States also supportsmore cross-border dialogueand cooperation between the peopleof Armenia and Turkey throughresearch initiatives, conferences,and exchange programs.Reconciliation between Armeniaand Turkey, however, will requiredealing with sensitive, painful issues.Turkey needs to come to termswith a dark chapter in its history:the mass killings and forced exile ofup to 1.5 million Armenians at theend of the Ottoman Empire. Thatwill not be easy, just as it has notbeen easy for the United States tocome to terms with dark periods ofour own past. For its part, Armeniamust be ready to acknowledge theexisting border and disavow anyclaim on the territory of modernTurkey, and respond constructivelyto any efforts Turkey may make.Another major step towardregional integration would be apeaceful, just, and lasting settlementof the Nagorno-Karabakhconflict. During the past two years,the parties have moved closer thanever to a framework agreementbased on a set of Basic Principlesdeveloped through intensive negotiationsunder the auspices of theMinsk Group Co-Chairs.Another challenge will be to workwith Armenia to strengthen itsdemocratic institutions and processes,including respect for humanrights and fundamental freedoms,and to regain the democratic momentumlost after the flawed presidentialelection in February and itsviolent aftermath.Question: How do you plan tohelp promote US-Armenia tradeand business cooperation?Answer: If confirmed, I intendto work to provide U.S. businesseswith information about opportunitiesinvolving Armenia. The UnitedStates now ranks near the bottomof the list of Armenia’s trading partners,with trade turnover in 2007 ofapproximately $194 million – just4.4 percent of the total. Promotionof trade and business cooperationbetween the United States and Armeniawill require greater awarenessof Armenia and the CaucasusTurkish president visits the closed Armenian borderas a whole by U.S. business. Somesectors, such as information technology,already have significant U.S.investment. But others, financialservices and insurance for example,hold largely untapped potential. Ialso believe there is considerableopportunity for the establishmentof U.S.-based franchises in Armenia.If confirmed, I would work toidentify new opportunities for U.S.exports to Armenia. This week’svisit to Armenia by Assistant Secretaryof Commerce David Bohigianis an important step forward.Another critical factor for improvedtrade and business relationsbetween the United Statesand Armenia is the need for theArmenian Government to createa more favorable investment environmentthrough reforms of itstax administration and customsprocedures, and improvements toits legal system. The U.S. Governmentis already actively working onthese issues with the Armenian authoritiesthrough a variety of assistanceprograms. Our Embassy alsoworks closely with the AmericanChamber of Commerce in Armenia,which has played a significant rolein creating private sector supportfor needed reforms.Although our Embassy does nothave a Foreign Commercial Servicepresence, it plays a strong advocacyrole on behalf of U.S. firms thatencounter legal problems while doingbusiness in Armenia. The U.S.Government presses the ArmenianGovernment to investigate andresolve disputes in a prompt andequitable manner, noting that theperception of an unfair businessclimate will not encourage theforeign investment that Armeniaseeks to attract.Finally, I believe that the keyto unlocking Armenia’s economicpotential – and opening up moreopportunities for U.S.-Armenianbusiness cooperation – lies in theresolution of regional conflicts. Ifconfirmed, I will support the continuedefforts of the U.S. Governmentto open the land border withTurkey and to achieve a peacefulsolution to the Nagorno-Karabakhconflict. Armenia’s economicintegration into the wider regionremains an important U.S. policyobjective.fn Continued from page built in 1034. “Ani is a very importantplace for us because Turks firstentered Anatolia through Ani,” hesaid in Turkish, as translated by aninterpreter.Mr. Gül them moved closer toTurkish soldiers stationed in thearea and asked them whether Armenianscontinue to use explosivesin mines across the border. Turkishofficials blame Armenians for thedeterioration of the churches andother historical sites in Ani. “Sometimesyes,” the soldiers responded.The Tigran Honents ArmenianChurch and the cathedral were thenext stops for the Turkish president.He ended his tour of Ani witha visit to the mosque.Isolating ArmeniaThe visit to Ani was held on thesidelines of a two-day trip to theprovince of Kars. On July 24, hewas joined by President MikhailSaakashvili of Georgia and PresidentIlham Aliyev of Azerbaijanfor a ceremony to mark the beginningof the construction of theTurkish portion of a railroad connectingKars to Baku via Tbilisi.The groundbreaking ceremony forthe Georgian part was held in November2007, with the same threepresidents in attendance.The railroad project is seen as astep to isolate Armenia economicallyand politically. An existing Kars-Tbilisi railroad stopped operatingwhen Turkey closed the border withArmenia in 1993, when Karabakhforces entered Kelbajar in their confrontationwith Azerbaijan.No decision yetEarlier in the day, at the office ofthe mayor of Kars, I asked Mr. Gülwhether he would go to Yerevanfor the September 6 soccer match.He said he had thanked PresidentSargsian for his invitation. But, headded, “we have not taken any decisionyet.”Mentioning the centuries-old ruinedbridge across the Akhurian River– which he had yet to see – I askedMr. Gül, “Don’t you think it can bereconstructed as a new bridge betweenArmenia and Turkey?”Mr. Gül said, “Our policy is soclear. We want [a] good neighborhood.We want good cooperationwith all the countries in theregion. There are some problems;[those] problems should be removed.We want to see this regionstable, peaceful. All the countries[may have an opportunity] to joinregional projects if they recognize[the] territorial integrity [of neighboringstates].”Territorial claimsThe implication was that Armeniadoes not recognize the territorialintegrity of Turkey. A similar pointwas made on June 18 by U.S. AssistantSecretary of State DanielFried in congressional testimony.“Armenia must be ready to acknowledgethe existing border and disavowany claim on the territory ofmodern Turkey, and respond constructivelyto any efforts Turkeymay make,” Mr. Fried had said.Not one of Armenia’s three presidents,nor any Armenian governmenthas ever made such claims, however.In an interview with the ArmenianReporter’s Emil Sanamyan on October27, 2007, Serge Sargsian, whowas the prime minister at the time,had said he was “surprised by conclusionsof certain second-tier Turkishofficials” that Armenia harboredterritorial claims against Turkey. Mr.Sargsian said he told a Turkish official,“I am getting an impression that Turkeywants us to have claims againstit. In reality, we have no claims and[Turkey] is saying, ‘No, they havethem.’ This is hard to understand.”At a press conference in Yerevanon Monday, the Armenian presidentsaid that Armenia and Turkey“must improve our relations.” Ina July 9 commentary in the WallStreet Journal, Mr. Sargsian hadargued, “There may be possible politicalobstacles on both sides alongthe way. However, we must havethe courage and the foresight toact now. Armenia and Turkey neednot and should not be permanentrivals. A more prosperous, mutuallybeneficial future for Armeniaand Turkey, and the opening up ofa historic East-West corridor forEurope, the Caspian region and therest of the world, are goals that wecan and must achieve.” ftttHalaçoğlu is outThe ultranationalist activist YusufHalaçoğlu on July 23 was removedfrom his position as the president ofthe Turkish Historical Society (TTK),which he has held since 1993. Mr.Halaçoğlu, aligned with the forcesthat are challenging President AbdullahGül’s Justice and DevelopmentParty in court, has been a leadingproponent of the denial of the ArmenianGenocide. His annual contractwas not renewed by decision of thegovernment. The Armenian Weeklyreports that he will be replaced byAli Birinci, who is considered a seriousresearcher, unlikely to “employHalacoglu’s sensationalist tactics.”Mr. Birinci has no publications onthe Armenian Genocide. f
4 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008CommunityOn the map againHosting the agbuWorld Games givesUruguay’s Armeniancommunity muchneededexposureby Alene TchekmedyianThe delegations line up for a ceremony at the AGBU World Games in Uruguay.AGBU World Games held in Uruguaya celebration ofdiaspora diversityand team spiritby Alene TchekmedyianMONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Aflurry of languages flooded thecrowded gym of the agbu Alex ManoogianCenter in Montevideo onJuly 7, creating an ironic sense ofmulticulturalism: while maintainingregional and cultural differences,agbu members from variouscountries were united throughtheir common Armenian identity.Each of the teams displayed a distinctcultural flare as they marchedand chanted into the gym, proudlywaving their city banners in the air.Six countries – Argentina, Belgium,Brazil, Canada, United States,and Uruguay – participated in the18th agbu World Games, which includedbasketball, volleyball, soccer,swimming, chess, and backgammon.Uncertain of what to expect ofthe weeklong event, each regiondemonstrated a sense of pride andsupport for its respective teams, allwhile adapting to the cultural differencesof fellow Armenians.Representing the United Stateswere 88 athletes who competed intwo men’s and one women’s basketballteams from Pasadena, onewomen’s volleyball team from Pasadena,one women’s and one men’svolleyball team from Los Angeles,and one men’s soccer team fromLos Angeles.The 31 athletes representing theLos Angeles chapter chanted “Ole,ole… L.A., L.A.” during every gamein which their team was involved,adding to the aura of team spiritthroughout the week.The Armenian-American athleteswere headed by Jano Baghdanian,chairman of the agbu SouthernCalifornia District Committee andfather of three volleyball players,Armonde, Arthur, and Alina, allof whose teams were undefeatedat the Uruguay games. The Los Angeleswomen’s and men’s volleyballteams each received first place intheir respective categories. As thetwo teams had been practicingyearlong, more frequently duringthe past two months, in preparationfor the games, Baghdanianwas somewhat disappointed by thelack of serious competition for thevolleyball players.Consequently a special gamewas organized for the Los Angelesmen’s volleyball team, pittingit against the Uruguayan nationalclub team. The Los Angeles teamlost the game by a small margin.Some players from Californiahad attended the Pan-ArmenianGames in Armenia and the NorthAmerican Games in Toronto in2007, but the Uruguay games gavethem the first opportunity to competein their teams.The men’s soccer team from LosAngeles did not perform as well asits volleyball counterpart, due to alack of preparation and injuries onthe field. The team was already ata slight disadvantage as it had tocompete in indoor soccer whereasit is accustomed to playing on anoutdoor field.On top of the field disadvantage,two players were injured. They includedstarter Gilbert Pogosyan,who had a back spasm duringa game. “I felt like I let my teamdown,” he said. As a result of the injuries,Martik Mirikian, who hasbeen the team’s coach for the pastthree years, joined his players onthe field. “I told them, ‘I’ll be therefor you,’” he said. “I helped themout in defense. It reminded me ofwhen I was young.”During the final Los Angelesmen’s soccer game, against BuenosAires, Daniel Movsesian pulleda groin muscle and was unable tocompete in the final moments ofthe tournament. Los Angeles lost6-1. It finished third in the categoryand did not make it to the secondround.Since the team is young (playersrange in age from the late teensto the early 20s), Mirikian plansto better prepare the athletes forfuture tournaments. “They dida good job but unfortunately wecouldn’t get the results,” he explained.“We are going to have abetter team next year. We had a lotof injuries and didn’t have enoughplayers.”Beyond the games, some playerswere frustrated with the languagebarrier, which made it difficult tocommunicate with other teams,as many athletes from Californiadid not speak Spanish and mostathletes from South America didnot speak Armenian or English.Nevertheless, the Los Angeleschapter was given the FriendshipAward at the closing gala on July13. “Our team is based on disciplineand [exemplary] behavior,which is important for us on andoff the field,” Mirikian said. “Wewon the [Friendship Award] duringthe Pan-Armenian Games in2007 also.”The four teams from Pasadenaexperienced different hardships.The women’s basketball team, underthe impression that it wouldplay at least five games, got to playonly three, and only one of them –against Buenos Aires – was used todetermine its place in the competition.Since it won, it received thefirst-place title in the category, butteam members were disappointedby the lack of playing time. HourigKalajian, who has been on theteam since last year, said she seesroom for improvement in termsof teamwork, ball movement, anddefense.Restricted time on the courtallowed the women’s basketballteam to spend more time exploringUruguayan culture and bondingwith each other. “It was a goodteam-bonding experience,” saidLori Tashjian, who has beenpracticing with the team for twoyears. “I got to see different personalitieson and off the court andwe figured out a way to work together,even though there was alot of frustration. By the time thelast game came around, we figuredout a way to communicate witheach other.”Hratch Mankerian, the Pasadenamen’s and women’s basketballcoach of ten years, saw issues withthe organization of the games andthe conditions of the gym. “Thefloor was in bad shape and the safetyof the plays [was compromised],”he said.Performance-wise, Mankerianexpected his men’s basketballteams to be better prepared. “OurA team should have performedbetter in the finals,” he said.“There was miscommunication betweenthe referees and the players…I was proud of the way the Bteam played. They performed wellfor such a young team. The futurelooks good for agbu basketball.”The A team finished in secondplace, while the B time took thethird-place title.The Pasadena women’s volleyballteam lacked the necessary experienceand preparation and thereforedid not perform well, finishing infifth place. Mankerian believes theteam needs to be rebuilt. “It is ayoung team,” he explained. “It is arebuilding team. Hopefully duringthe next tournament we will performbetter.”Despite limited resources, theMontevideo agbu managed to hosta wonderful event. Along with theathletic tournament, the playerswere introduced to Uruguayan culture.They attended a MontevideoPhilharmonic Orchestra concert,an Uruguayan tango show, and anArmenian cultural program. Athletescelebrated with their newfriends and their trophies at theclosing gala.Sevag Kazanci, member of theLos Angeles volleyball team, recognizedthe purpose of the gamesbeyond competition and winning.“It’s about a diasporan culture thatbrings everyone together,” he said.“I was taken aback by how manypeople have put in so much effortand time into this event, from themoms who voluntarily cooked foodevery day to people who took offwork to volunteer. This isn’t thenba; there is a purpose beyond thegames.”MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay– Cultural assimilation remains a seriousthreat to the Armenian communityof Uruguay. Three or fourgenerations have passed since themajority of Uruguay’s Armeniansimmigrated to the country, and fewin the community speak the Armenianlanguage. Nonetheless, theagbu Uruguay Chapter managedto bring the community togetheras it hosted the 2008 agbu WorldGames in Montevideo this month,drawing over 800 Armenians fromArgentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Volleyball was part of the games.the United States, and Uruguay itself.Fernando Rodrigo Apardian,an agbu volunteer and past chairmanof the Youth Committee, recognizesthe difficulty of preservingArmenian culture in a country likeUruguay. Noticing the disbelief ofArmenian-American agbu membersat the fact that South AmericanArmenians do not speak theArmenian language – barely anyspeeches at the opening and closingceremonies of the games weredelivered in Armenian – Apardiandiscussed some of the root causesof assimilation. “We don’t have Armeniansout of the competition at the lastminute, prepare activities for theathletes and guests, and providetransportation to and from theagbu Center.The lack of financial resources wasanother obstacle. “We don’t havebenefactors here in South America,”Moundjian said. “Sometimes wefeel that we are all alone, cut offfrom rest of world. It is importantfor the larger agbu community toknow that, through the organization,you are part of something thatis wider than what is in your community.”coming in to revitalize the Given the limited resources,Armenian language and culture,”he said. “It is difficult to maintainculture and heritage because wehave been assimilated into the Uruguayanpeople… The most importantthing is not to have a countryper se but rather a robust nation ofArmenians… which means that wehave to maintain our culture besidethe political frontiers.”Apardian added that the agbuUruguay chapter sought to hostthis year’s World Games not onlyas a chance to bring diasporan Armenianstogether but to help putUruguay on the map as a seriouscontender for organizing other majorArmenian events in the future.Established in 1938, the agbuUruguay chapter has served as apillar of cultural development.In 1974 the Nubarian School wasinaugurated in Montevideo, followedby the Alex ManoogianHigh School the next year. TheAlex Manoogian Center continuedtime, and volunteers, FabianaBerberian, an agbu volunteer inMontevideo, was satisfied with thesuccess of the event and hopes thatvisitors soaked in as much cultureas possible. “Although Montevideois a small city, we have a big heartand we want you Armenians fromNorth America to get used to thispart of the world, participate inthese kinds of games, and feel athome,” she said.Apardian is working on establishinga Young Professionals groupin Uruguay, seeking to engagethe youth in community activism.South American agbu chaptershave already established linkswith each other and hope to createa Young Professionals entityas strong as that of the existingyouth group and scouts. Throughfrequent meetings, representativesare currently ironing out detailsfor the establishment of the YoungProfessionals.to grow with the addition of the Moundjian and other BoardBoghos Nubar Gymnasium in 1992.Uruguay has a smaller populationof Armenians compared to Argentinaand Brazil, yet it was the firstnation to recognize the ArmenianGenocide.Valeria Moundjian, an agbuBoard member, said she believed theWorld Games would push boundaries,reaching out to an Armeniancommunity beyond Uruguay’s comfortzone. “There was a necessity torevitalize the Armenian communityand our institution, mostly becausemembers are also working onexpanding the student body atthe agbu school in Montevideo,which currently has 240 students.In the 1980s, approximately 400students attended the school, butthe number gradually dipped becauseof economic issues and thecommunity’s diminishing belief inthe relevance of Armenian culture.“Speaking Armenian is devalued,”Moundjian said. “It depends on theimportance that families attach tothe Armenian language.”we hardly receive Armenians Overall, hosting the Worldfrom outside Montevideo or fromthe rest of world,” she said. “Duringthe agbu South American OlympicGames, it’s like family. We speakthe same language and we havefluid relations. Now we wanted toexpress our desire to get to meetother chapters and for them tomeet our work here.”With only eight months to preparefor the World Games, theMontevideo agbu chapter faced aGames has boosted the Armenian-Uruguayan community’s status asan important diasporan center inSouth America. It was not the actualsporting activities that accomplishedthis, but rather the gatheringof Armenians from around theworld under one roof. “The mostimportant thing is not the competitionbut the strange feeling that,after ten minutes or one day ofconversation, we feel that we havenumber of logistical challenges. It known each other our whole lives,”had to deal with teams dropping Apardian said.
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 5CommunityArmenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry poised to launchStem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevanby Lory TatoulianLOS ANGELES – After hostingsundry fundraisers, walkathons, atelethon, and blood drives, the ArmenianBone Marrow Donor Registry(abmdr) is gearing up to openits landmark Stem Cell HarvestingCenter in Yerevan.The center will be the first andonly one of its kind in the Caucasus.It will bring the life-saving procedureof stem-cell transplantationto the entire region, playing a vitalrole in the treatment of diseasessuch as many cancers, diabetes,and heart ailments. Like the abmdritself, the center will be internationallyaccredited and will set aprecedent for global collaborationin medicine and scientific research.For the past eight years, it hasbeen the mission of Dr. FriedaJordan, cofounder and presidentof the abmdr, along with a teamof advisory board members, toensure that every ethnic Armenianstruck with a life-threateningblood-related illness has a chancefor long-term survival through theidentification of a genetically suitablebone-marrow match. Dr. Jordan,who has spearheaded a varietyof fundraising efforts for the organization,says that Armenians whoare afflicted with blood-related diseaseswill not have to travel outsideArmenia to receive treatment. Theywill have access to cutting-edgemedical technology in their owncountry.The Stem Cell Harvesting Centeris slated to open in September. Theabmdr has raised close to $260,000to fund the project. Pledges are stillbeing collected, and an estimated$350,000 is still needed to finishpurchasing all of the necessaryequipment. In spite of pendingcosts, much of the machinery requiredto furnish the lab has beenprocured. The most vital piece ofequipment, the harvesting machine,has been purchased through pastdonations. Currently the abmdr isin the process of setting up the immunologyand cyro-preservationlabs, both essential for checkingthe quality of harvested stem cellsas well as freezing and preservingstem cells for future use.Dr. Jordan recently traveled toYerevan to personally oversee constructionat the harvesting-centersite. She was happy to see that thebuilders finished the renovationon time and was granted the keysto the reconstructed third floor ofthe Health Ministry building. Onhand for the handover were abmdrChairman Mark Geragos,Mourad Topalian, Dr. Nani Oskanian,Dr. Sevak Avagyan, andDr. Mihran Nazaretyan.“The new center is extremely welldone, with bright colors that wouldbe a source of hope for a lot of patients,”Dr. Jordan said. “There is aspecial wall called ‘The Wall of Angels’at the center, where we will[showcase] all the pledges collectedduring the telethon, in honor or inmemory of a loved one. I am happyto say that six out of ten rooms atthe center have found sponsors.”The doctor noted that there arefour more rooms that are availablefor adoption.During her visit to Armenia, Dr.Jordan held several meetings withtop leaders, including Prime MinisterTigran Sarkisian, Health MinisterHarutyun Kushkian, Catholicosof all Armenians KarekinII, and former First Lady Dr. BellaKocharian, who agreed to continueto serve on the abmdr Board ashonorary chairperson. During theAbove and below left: Staff, volunteers, and supporters at the opening of the new abmdr clinic.meeting with the Catholicos, theabmdr team briefed the spiritualleader on the organization’s progressand future plans. Karekin IIgave his blessing to the group andadvised that the abmdr also reachout to far-flung Armenian communitiesacross the cis.“We presented our project to theprime minister and he was veryimpressed with our achievementsand mentioned that we will have allthe backing and support of the governmentand the Health Ministry,”Dr. Jordan said. “They [the HealthMinistry] would consider our proposalfor [the harvesting center tobecome] a regional project.”Beyond ArmeniaFor the first time in abmdr history,a registry delegation traveled to St.Petersburg to begin establishinglinks with the Armenian Diasporaof the cis. The visit was organizedby the Armenian Embassy of St.Petersburg. “We met with communityleaders, gave a talk on our project,and conducted recruitments,”Dr. Jordan said. “Our next plan isto visit Moscow. Negotiations areunderway to organize a visit verysoon.”The abmdr lab in Armenia hasbeen very busy handling requestsfrom new patients from all overthe world as well as planning a nationwideprogram of educationaloutreach, in conjunction with theHealth Ministry. Currently theabmdr boasts 14,000 registereddonors across the globe. To date1,276 search requests have beenmade for different patients, andRight: Dr. SevakAvagyan, MouradTopalian, Dr.Nani Oskanian,Mark Geragos,and Dr. FriedaJordan at thenew abmdrcenter in Yerevan.871 active patients are waiting fora match. The registry’s grassrootsefforts have resulted in the identificationof 921 potential donormatches.“Every day the lab in Armenia isprocessing new search requests receivedfrom all over the world,” Dr.Jordan said. “I’m glad to say thatone of our donors has been selectedas a final matched donor fora young patient in Argentina. Weare very excited. God willing, thestem-cell transplant will take placein August.”The logistics of recruitment isfar-reaching and meticulously organized.When a match-searchrequest is received by the abmdr,the lab immediately refers to itsgrowing database to determine ifthere is a compatible donor for thepatient on the registry. Upon sendingthe information back to thetransplant center, the lab may beasked to perform further tests forestablishing compatibility. In parallel,the team also performs testson newly-recruited donor-bloodsamples through dna fingerprinting.New data is added to the registryevery day.In terms of outreach, the abmdrhas planned to visit tenregional health centers throughoutArmenia: Kotayk, Ararat,Aragadzotn, Vayots Dzor, Lory,Gegharkunik, Davush, Shirak,Armavir, and Syunik. Since June,representatives have already visitedfour regions. During thistour, abmdr personnel have conducteda special recruitment inSevan and Kavar to find a matchfor Asatour Gasparyan, a leukemiapatient in Los Angeles.Dr. Jordan hopes that a matchwill materialize from the 379 donorsamples collected, includingsome from Gasparyan’s relatives.“He needs this match very urgently,”she said.What lies ahead is an ambitiousundertaking to bring wellness andhealth to the most underservedand remote areas of Armenia. abmdrrepresentatives in Armeniawork year-round to introduce thework of the registry – the StemCell Harvesting Center in particular– to doctors and other medicalstaff through oral and videopresentations. Most importantly,these ambassadors of health trekacross the homeland to recruit donors.“In addition to assisting theHealth Ministry in implementingthe final stage of the project – thestem-cell transplant center – wewill always continue to recruit asmany donors as we can and visitmore Armenian communitiesthroughout the world,” Dr. Jordansaid.
6 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008CommunityTHIS ARMENIAN LIFEThe bakerby TamarKevonianRoubo and Miruzhan have beenfriends since before emigratingfrom Armenia over 16 years ago.After years of living in Los Angeles,now both their families have settledin Portland, Oregon. They run a successfulbakery whose claim to fameis the nazouk (an Armenian cookie).I came across one of their productsat a local supermarket during a tripto Seattle with Hilma. Curious, Icalled their office to see if they madeany other Armenian baked goods.“Please hold,” said the woman onthe other end. “I don’t know,” shesaid when she finally came back onthe line.“Where else in the area do you sellyour product?” I asked.“I don’t know,” she responded.“Is the owner Armenian?” I asked.“Yes,” she said, finally giving anaffirmative answer.“What’s his name?”“Mike.”“Is he in the office?”“No.” After a moments pause sheasked if I wanted his telephonenumber.“Of course,” I said and wrote downthe number.A few days later, heading southfrom Seattle towards Portland, Icalled Mike, introduced myself,and told him the story of how wefound him. He immediately invitedus over to his house.When we finally arrived, Mikeand Roubo were waiting for us in thedriveway. The house sits back from asecluded road surrounded by openpastures, where two horses werespending a lazy Saturday afternoonpicking at the lush grass. Before wehad a chance to disembark, bothmen were at the side of the car, introducingthemselves and welcomingus. They are both uncharacteristicallytall and lean for Armenians.Roubo is quiet while Mike peppershis sentences with the words “cool”and “duh” as commentary during aconversation.“Call me Miruzhan. Mike is for theAmericans,” he said with a smile.They led us into the house, wherewe met their respective wives,Anoush and Marina as well asMiruzhan’s daughter-in-law, Milen,and his grandchildren, Ani and David(pronounced da-veed).They were all bustling about inthe kitchen and laying a feast onthe dining-room table.“We only came to meet you andhave a cup of coffee,” I protested.“Of course we’re going to have coffeebut first we have to eat and drinktoasts,” Miruzhan said. Althoughprepared on such short notice, thetable was overflowing with deliciousedibles. They had cut short a familyouting at nearby Mount Hood toprepare for our arrival.Just like the adage “the shoemaker’skids have now shoes,”Miruzhan had none of his bakery’sproducts in the house. Ten yearsago he opened the bakery and recruitedhis good friend Roubo.“Roubo is a very good baker,” Miruzhanboasted of his friend’s ability.“In the early days we did everythingfrom baking to packaging todelivering to cleaning,” Miruzhantold of the whole family’s contribution,“but thanks to God we have 30employees now and there’s enoughpeople to do it all.”The bakery produces over 80different products, ranging fromArmenian and Greek to Italian,French, and Russian goods. But itwas the humble nazouk that puttheir little bakery on the map. Itis their number-one selling productand they have protected it witha trademark. Beside the nazouk,they have other Armenian delicacieslike the gatta, the Tabriz-stylepastry, and several other items.Then there are the experiments likethe blueberry nazouk, a particularhit in this part of the Northwest.Miruzhan started the bakery with$1,200 in a 1,000-square-foot facilityand now has revenues of over$2 million and finds that their current,10,000-square-foot, bakery istoo small. They sell their productsmostly through a network of 500supermarkets and small, privatelyowned grocery stores in sevenstates in the West and Northwestand are poised to expand to six additionalstates in the fall.They are proud of their accomplishments.They had spent tenyears in Southern California, wherethey struggled to carve out a life:Roubo as a baker and Miruzhan asa taxi driver. “Drive to survive” ishow he describes his previous life.Finally it was the children that convincedthem to make the move outof the city.“They were at an age where theycould stray,” said Anoush. “Myson went to Glendale High Schooland there would be police at theentrance and helicopters overhead,”she said, referring to the spate ofgang-related violence that plaguedthe school at the time.Now Roubo’s oldest son is aboutto become a lawyer and Miruzhan’sdaughter, a former Miss AmericaJr., is a cosmetics-departmentmanager at Nordstrom’s while hisson, Mher, runs his own business.“He started with $5,000 and nowdoes over $1 million,” boastedMiruzhan, clearly proud of his son.“Hard work pays off. Even thoughthe economy is extremely slow, notonly are we hanging in there butwe’re working ‘fully loaded’ becauseof the beautiful nazouk.”The two families are a tight unitagainst the loneliness that canplague those who are trying to makea new home in a new city. They lefttheir families twice, the first timein Armenia and the second in LosAngeles, in their search for a placewhere they felt they belonged andcould reclaim their self-respect.They are connected to Portland’ssmall but dynamic Armenian community,which is now in the processof establishing a church.“Let’s drink a toast to our Armenians,”Miruzhan said. “Regardlessof where they are, an Armenianalways remains an Armenian, andlet’s work to keep our historicaltraditions for our children and ourgrandchildren. After the grandchildren,things will change a little bit.But as long as we’re here, our grandchildrenwill remain Armenian.”As if on cue, his infant grandsongurgled in his mother’s lap and weall laughed.“We are the luckiest in-laws becausewe’ve never seen a betterdaughter-in-law than the one wehave,” Miruzhan said as Anoushnodded in agreement.“Make sure you include that inthe article,” Milen said to me.After several more toasts, Hilmaand I began to rise from the tableto begin our long journey home.But Miruzhan urged us not tohurry since we had not yet had ourcoffee.“I feel really good that we havenew friends and that we met becauseof an Armenian reason,” hesaid.“Because of nazouk,” correctedRoubo.Avia’s 4th grade class ready to present their over-sized check to the Smile Train organization. They were hoping to raise $250,enough to cover one Smile Train surgery, and raised a whopping $2,504.52, enough for 10 surgeries. (Avia’s above the word“Smile).Charity has no age requirementNine-year-old AviaMatossian is alreadymaking a differencein the worldby Alexandra BezdikianIn the multifarious cosmos ofcomic -book mythology, superheroesserve an important culturalfunction: they allow readers to livevicariously through a subtle veneerof impenetrability, fighting eviland injustice in ways human beingsmay find themselves ordinarily incapable.This is true, of course, onlyfor some human beings, who are infact superheroes.Meet nine-year-old Avia Matossian.She is in fourth grade at theNueva School in San Mateo, California,and she is a superhero. Duringthe day, she does very typicalnine-year-old things. She goes toschool and is a loyal friend, a lovingdaughter, and a big sister. Butby night, this young lady is transformedinto something most childrenher age do not yet understand:little Avia Matossian becomes a socialactivist.“Every year on my birthday, I liketo help and give a donation to anorganization that helps children,”she said. “I’ve been doing this eversince I can remember.”Avia has been donating money tocharity for exactly nine years. TheMatossian family instilled a strongsense of social action and advocacyin both their daughters, donating asum of money in their name eachyear since they were born. Today,Avia is old enough to think aboutwhere she wants to donate herbirthday funds and why, and is oldenough to understand the implicationsof her donation. This year,she chose Smile Train.Partnering with Smile NetworkInternational, Smile Train is anorganization dedicated not onlyto providing “free cleft surgery formillions of poor children in developingcountries, but also to providefree cleft-related training for doctorsand medical professionals untilthere are no more children whoneed help.”For a kid like Avia, someonewho wants to make a differencein the lives of people her own age,someone she can relate to, SmileTrain seemed ideal. “I heard aboutSmile Train and I looked it up onthe Web,” explained Avia aboutpicking her desired organization.“And I looked at the part where theparents wrote stories about theirkids with cleft lips before they hadthe surgeries done, and I was reallymoved by their stories and thoughtAvia Matossian and her friends (with the smiley-face stickers on their foreheads)taking a well-deserved break after the bake-sale.Students were given green happy face stickers for participating in the “SmileTrain” bake sale.it was very interesting. Some kidswere abandoned because of howthey looked. Some parents thoughttheir child was cursed.”After making her own birthdaydonation, Avia came to a life-changingrealization – one that wouldtruly inspire those around her andchange the lives of many children.Avia realized that what she gavewasn’t nearly enough to cover thecost of one surgery. She knew shehad to do more. So she got to work.Her goal was $250, the cost of onesurgery. She sought the help of herfriends and classmates.Avia first gave an informationalpresentation to her 4th-grade class,telling her classmates about SmileTrain and its mission. She asked ifanyone wanted to join her causeand help raise money, and the entireclass enthusiastically signed upfor the task.Thus began the arduous task of organizingthe bake sale that would farexceed anyone’s wildest expectations.With a tremendous outpouring ofsupport from teachers, parents, andstudents from different grades, Aviaand her classmates raised an astonishing$2,504.52 to offer Smile Train.The story gets better.After entering the 4th-grade classinto the cwd Kids clothing “CareContest,” the Nueva School wonthe grand prize and Avia’s class wasgiven an additional $5,000 towardstheir Smile Train donation.What started out as one girl’sdream to help one person becamean entire community’s missionto help as many children as theycould.“Many kids have superficial goals,”said Smile Train’s manager of donorrelations, Michele Sinesky.“Here’s a kid who took her birthdayand wanted to do more and giveback. This year 100,000 childrenwill have this surgery. Thirty ofthose children are directly affectedbecause of Avia and her class. 100percent of her donation will go tothe kids because of these specialcircumstances.”Avia’s parents couldn’t be moreproud of their daughter’s accomplishments.And rightly so. “Thiswhole process has been amazing,”said Renee Matossian. “Whenyou get the ball rolling, it can leadto change beyond what you anticipated.As a child, they know thatthey have an impact in some ways,but adults control the world in somany other ways. So this has beenamazing because they’ve had a tremendousimpact in a very real wayhere. They saw what they can do.”Nine-year-old Avia Matossianis in fact a superhero. She is Catwomanand Wonder Woman andAquagirl and Elektra. She is anyonewho fights for truth and justice,and gives voice to those who don’thave one. Avia Matossian is nineyears old and she’s making a differencein the world.“This was a really interestingexperience, and I think I’dlike to do it again,” she said.
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 7CommunityAbp. Mardirossian blesses foundation for new youth centerHOLLYWOOD, Calif. – On July13, Abp. Moushegh Mardirossian,Prelate, blessed the foundation ofa youth center which will be builtnext to St. Garabed Church in Hollywood.Prior to the event, the Prelatepresided over the Divine Liturgyand delivered a sermon at thechurch. As July 12 was the feast ofSt. Gregory the Illuminator’s Progeny,the Prelate’s sermon centeredon the occasion. Arch. Mardirossianconcluded his sermon by referringto the future youth center andcalling on the Armenian youth tolive their lives righteously, by theexample of St. Gregory’s offspring.The blessing of the foundationbegan with the flag ceremony andthe national anthems of the UnitedStates and Armenia. Among thosein attendance were representativesof the ARF Bureau, Central Committee,and Karekin Njdeh (LosAngeles) Chapter; HomenetmenCentral and Regional Executivemembers; Rose and Alex PilibosSchool Principal Viken Yacoubian;ArchbishopMousheghMardirossianof the WesternPrelacy blessingthe foundationfor a newyouth center inHollywood.the school’s Executive Council;parish committee members; andarchitect Sam Yousefian.Nor Serount to hold Armenian Independence Day festivalWelcoming remarks were deliveredby Karekin Njdeh Chapterrepresentative Garo Ispenjian. Remarkswere also offered by ancactivist and attorney Seto Boyajian,who informed the attendeesthat construction of the new youthcenter will be made possible by thebequests of the late Dikran andZarouhie Der Ghazarian as well asHaig Garabedian.In his address, the Prelate spokeabout his vision of the youth center.Just as the Armenian church isthe bastion of our spirits and theArmenian school that of our minds,the new youth center will be thebastion of subsequent generationsand a place our youth can developand enhance their minds and souls,Arch. Mardirossian said.A reception followed at the GarabedianHall.GLENDALE, Calif. – The NorSerount Cultural Association’sFestival -Organizing Committeeannounced that it will hold itsTenth Annual Independence DayFestival in September, to mark theanniversary of the independenceof the Republic of Armenia. Thefestival will take place on Sunday,September 21, at the Verdugo Parkin Glendale.The Festival-Organizing Committeesaid that the event will includelive entertainment and many activities.The entertainment will beprovided by a lineup of performersand dance groups. Armenian businesses,artists, and craftsmen willdisplay their works and services.Traditional Armenian food will beserved and various carnival gameswill be available for children.Admission is free.For more information or to reservea merchant booth, call NorSerount at (818) 391-7938. Dancers atthe 2007 NorSerount CulturalAssocation’sArmenianIndependenceDay Festival atVerdugo Park inGlendale.FOREST HILLS COOP/CONDOSTHE HAMILTON-Sundrenched True 2Br withgreat layout, EIK, 5 largeclosets, windowed bath, hifloor, P/T Doorman, 1.5blocksto subway, great locationAsking $329KGenevieve Kervandjian718-544-4000www.queensrealty.comNATHAN HALE- Beautiful2Br in the Heart of ForestHills, quiet corner apt. niceviews & light, bath with tub& shower stall, Large EIK,Bldg offers 24hr Dm, gym,pet friendly Asking $355KFor Private Showing & More Information Call 718-544-4000Serving all of Queens since 1982.VAN COURT FOREST HILLSPRIME LOCATION1 Family Detached Luxury renovations,Mint condition, custom designedgranite kitchen & marble baths,40x100, finished basement, 1 cargarage, PS 101 Asking $1,450M
8 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008CommunityRep. Adam Schiff,Armenian community towelcome Rep. Tim WalzAdvocate forhuman rights,national securityto visit SouthlandArmeniansBURBANK, Calif. – Rep.Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) has announcedthat Rep. Tim Walz(D.-Minn.) on August 11will visitSouthern California, where theywill jointly recognize the Armenian-Americancommunity.“Since coming to Congress, Rep.Tim Walz has been a tireless advocateof the Armenian communityand was a leader among his classin the effort to recognize the ArmenianGenocide,” Mr. Schiff said.“The Armenian community couldnot ask for a better advocate,” headded.Mr. Walz, a high school geographyteacher for more than 20years, was featured by SamuelFreedman in the New York Timeson April 23, 2008, for his efforts toteach high school students aboutgenocide in early 1993, just priorto the Rwandan genocide. Uponhis arrival in Congress, Mr. Walzquickly became a leading advocateon behalf of the Armenian communityand fought within his freshmanclass for recognition of theArmenian Genocide.Mr. Walz also has stood with Mr.Schiff in support of the Armeniancommunityas a member of the CongressionalCaucus on Armenian Issues;a cosponsor of H. Res. 106, theArmenian Genocide resolution;author of a Dear Colleague letterwith Rep. Bilirakis urging freshmento support H. Res. 106;and a cosponsor of H. Res. 102, abill condemning the assassinationof Hrant Dink.He signed a January 2008Dear Colleague letter condemningAzerbaijani war rhetoric;he signed a March 2008 DearColleague letter on appropriationsfor Armenia;on April 24, 2008, he offered remarkson the House floor commemoratingthe Armenian Genocide;he attended the Armenian Genocidecommemoration in Washingtonin 2007 and 2008;and he actively lobbied for U.S. assistanceto Iraqi-Armenian refugees.Upon his arrival in Congress,Mr. Walz quickly secured a leadershiprole as the FreshmanClass Co-President for the 110thCongress. As a retired commandsergeant major in the NationalGuard, Mr. Walz is the highestrankingenlisted soldier ever toserve in the United States Congress.Let us know what’s on your mind.Write to us email@example.comThree kids missing; mothers accusetheir exes of abductionMissing: AlexanderSilah, 12; Zaven Silah,8; and Greg Silah, 9CULVER CITY, Calif. – When36-year-old Zanni Meguerianlast saw her sons Alex, 12, andZaven, 8, before the Fourth ofJuly holiday weekend, she huggedand kissed them and told themthey were going to have a blastwith their father, her ex-husband,George Silah, 46.Mr. Silah, an Armenian fromSyria who graduated from medicalschool in Yerevan, was going totake the boys to a mountain resortin Bear Bear, a favorite SouthernCalifornia vacation destination.Mr. Silah had shared legal custodyof the boys after the couple’sdivorce in August 2004. The boys’mother had sole physical custodyand would allow their father totake the boys on vacations.“George said they were going togo on a cruise and asked for theirpassports,” said Ms. Meguerian tothe Armenian Reporter. “He gaveme a confirmed itinerary on July 2,and that’s when I last saw them.”Ms. Meguerian said she wassaying goodbye on her husband’sdriveway in Westchester and wasapprehensive about leaving hersons. “I did not give them theirpassports because I felt extremelyuneasy. I had confirmed that thekids don’t need passports to go onthe cruise. So I only gave them theirbirth certificates.”That uneasiness, the maternalgut feeling Ms. Meguerian feltwhen she told her boys they weregoing to have fun with their dadhas now turned into a mother’sworst nightmare.Ms. Meguerian, an industrial engineerfor UPS, now spends everywaking hour trying to find whereher sons are and how she can getthem home.Holiday weekendWhen Ms. Meguerian did not hearfrom her sons by Thursday, July3, she called their cell phones. Shesaid the cells phones went straightto voicemail.“I called Big Bear Police to check atthe resort, where they have a timeshare,” said Ms. Meguerian. TheSan Bernardino County Sheriff’sDepartment, which has jurisdictionover Big Bear, called her back at twoin the morning and said the familyhad not checked into the resort.“We were panicking by Thursdaynight,” said Ms. Meguerian.On July 5, Ms. Meguerian calledthe operator of the Disney cruiseship that her children were supposedto board in Florida. She was told herchildren never boarded the ship.“My belief is that they never wentto Big Bear,” said Ms. Meguerian.“I went from being completely distraughtand literally almost bedridden.I was weak and crying until Ijust couldn’t stand on my feet.”Alex and Zaven were supposedto be back home on July 10, buttheir photos are now all over themedia in the United States, and ajudge has ruled that the Los AngelesDistrict Attorney must findthe kids and return them to theircourt-ordered legal guardian, theirmother.“I don’t trust him,” said Ms.Meguerian. “George has basicallyconsidered himself above the law,and when push comes to shove, hehas said that he can take the kidsand no one can stop him.”Ms. Meguerian said that, at presstime, she was meeting with the LosAngeles County District Attorney’soffice to follow through on courtproceedings on Wednesday, July23.“We were in court yesterday,” shesaid, “and the judge issued courtorders and gave me sole legal andsole physical and no visitations.The court also issued an order tothe DA to get involved and locateand return the children.”Two brothers, two exwives,and three sonsThe Los Angeles Police Departmentis looking for not only George Silahand his two sons, but also forGeorge’s brother Jean John Silah,47, and Jean’s 9-year-old sonGreg.Greg’s mother, ChristineJeanbart, 38, said both Johnand George had threatened thatthey would take the three boys toSyria. “I would say they are eithertrying to flee to Syria or they areacross the border waiting to getpassports for the kids,” said Ms.Jeanbart, who last saw her son onJune 23.Greg is a student at Holy Martyrs’Armenian Elementary School inNorth Hills, and Alex and Zaven attendWestchester Lutheran Schoolin West Los Angeles. The boys wereborn in Philadelphia and are describedby their mother as friendlyand smart.“Alex is really into karate, intolistening to music on his iPodand downloading music,” saidMs. Meguerian. “He’s got hisown YouTube page, and his favoriteband is Green Day. He’s apopular 12-year-old and has a lotof friends and text messages allday long.”Ms. Meguerian says both hersons attend Sunday school and areactive in their community and veryoutgoing and very friendly.“Zaven is a little bit more reserved,”said the distraught mother.“He just came back from basketballcamp at school before they disappeared.His biggest thing is drummingand he’s taking lessons andloves to drum. He’s also into MapleStory,” an online role-playing game,she said. “He has his character andplays that game every single day.He’s very good at the computerand got an award for being the bestkid in the second-grade class,” sheadded.The Syrian connectionMs. Meguerian said her ex-husbandhad been asking for her sons’passports for quite a while, and shelearned that his parents left theUnited States and returned to Syriaon June 30. George and Jean Silahhave a third brother, also a graduatefrom medical school in Yerevan,who practices medicine and lives inAleppo.The Silah family’s house in Westchester,where the two fatherslived with their parents, has beenabandoned. The homeowner toldlocal media that the brothers hadnot paid rent for months. Los AngelesPolice Lt. Richard Mosslerbelieves the disappearances ofGeorge and Jean Silah, their parentsAlex and Lucy Silah, andthe three boys appear to have beenplanned.Asked about child support afterthe divorce, Ms. Meguerian saidher husband had been inconsistentand owed her several monthsof payments. She said she fearsher ex-husband and his brotherhave access to fake IDs and aregoing to follow through on theirthreats to take the kids to Syriathrough Canada or Mexico.“I can’t even describe to you theemotions,” Meguerian said. “I’mjust praying every day.” connect:LAPD Pacific DivisionDetective Blanca Lopez310-482-6380Lt. Richard Mossler310-482-63131 (800) LAWFULL1-800-529-3855http://silahboys.blogspot.com/ST. ILLUMINATOR’S ARMENIAN SCHOOLOPEN FOR REGISTRATIONWoodside, New York. St. Illuminator’s Armenian school has began its registration process for the new2008-2009 academic year.Now entering its 32 nd year, St. Illuminator’s has provided quality education in all the English language elementaryschool requisites while maintaining strong ties with the Armenian language, history and culture. Graduates ofthe school have gone on to become successful students and professionals in all fields.A staff of dedicated teachers is looking forward to welcoming back its students and new registrants to the schoolon Monday, September the 8 th , 2008.For information, please visit our website www.stilluminatorschool.org or call school office at (718) 478-4073.
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 9CommunityCommunity in briefasa Artists Ballis onNEW YORK – The New York ArmenianStudents’ Association Artists’Ball is slated for the weekend ofSeptember 27–28. The event, whichshowcases works by artists of Armeniandescent, will be held as atwo-day art exhibit at Gallerie Icosahedron(27 North Moore Street)in Manhattan’s TriBeca district.Information on how to sponsorthis year’s Artists’ Ball is availableat www.asainc.org/artistsball. Paternayan showin Long IslandNORTHPORT, N.Y. – Wilkes Galleryin Northport is having a showingof the paintings of ArlenePaternayan July 23 to August 6.Ms. Paternayan’s painting stylesrange from abstract expressionsismto minimal art and from surrealismto impressionism. She will beexhibiting a collection of abstractsin acrylic mediium and still-lifes inoil. She has previously exhibited atthe Montserrat and Agora Gallery’sin Soho.Wilkes Gallery is located at 91Main Street in Northport. connect:Joe Cipriano, 631-261-4007From left, Karen Nargizian,chairperson of the Neiman MarcusFashion Show and Luncheon, with cochairArmine Pechdimaldji.Friends of theArmenian Hometo hold a fashionshowEMERSON, N.J. – The Friends ofthe Armenian Home plan are planninga fashion show and luncheonat Neiman Marcus at the GardenState Plaza in Paramus, N.J. onSeptember 17. The annual eventwill be chaired this year by KarenNargizian, and co-chaired byArmine Pechdimaldji. A raffle isplanned, and that will be chaired byIca Kouyoumdjian. Proceeds willbenefit the Armenian Nursing andRehabilitation Center, its residents,and a future new building project.On raffle will be items donated byVicki Hovanessian of Chicago (asigned Carzou Litho, 15 x 21, MaryTacorian of Englewood Jewelers,Englewood, N.J. (an 18-karat whitegold ring with a 4-carat blue topazand 1.05 carat diamond), TufenkianCarpets of New York (a 4 x 6Tufenkian Armenian hand knottedCaucasian rug), and Anita Temizof Electronics Expo, Paramus (aSharp 26” HDTV).Seating is limited.Grandparents were honored during the Festival program for their wisdom, love,and generosity to their families and church. Photo: Karinne Hovnanian.connect:Karen Nargizian, 201-560-9787MaryAnne Bonjuklian, 201-934-8930Ararat Centerfestival honorsgrandparentsGREENVILLE, N.Y. – The AraratCenter Festival was held in Greenvilleon June 22. Hundreds of festival-goersflocked to the groundsof the Ararat Center to enjoy deliciousbarbecue chicken and lulehkebob dinners complete with pilaf,salad, Toufayan pita bread, and watermelon.They listened to the talentedPhilly Kef band. A variety ofvendors showcased and sold theirfinds and creations to those in attendance,including Ani T. Designs,ArmenianVendor.com, Beads ‘nThings by Zovig Ashjian, and the St.Leon Armenian Church Bookstore.The highlight of the day was aprogram that honored grandparentsfor their dedication and commitmentin raising their familieswithin the Christian spirit of theArmenian Church. ArchbishopKhajak Barsamian read a prayerof blessing for the grandparentspresent and praised them for theirwisdom, love, and generosity totheir families and community. AnArarat Center coffee mug was givento each grandparent as a token ofgratitude.A special tribute was reserved forShahen Guiragossian, who wasinstrumental in steering the Diocesancommittee to visit sites in theCatksill region while searching fora permanent home for the St. VartanCamp program. If it weren’t forhis urging and guidance, the AraratCenter would not be at its presentlocation in upstate New York, overlookingthe scenic Caktsill mountainpeaks.“Once we accomplished thisdream through the purchase of theArarat Center, I can now look intothe eyes of our children and listento their voices and know our futureis in good hands,” Mr. Guiragossiansaid.The center still needs to pay offits mortgage. The board announcedthat it needed to raise close to$175,000 by January.“We have six months to raise theremaining funds and we are confidentthat this will be realized as somany understand the true value ofsuch a facility for our youth, avaks,and all in-between,” said StephenHovnanian, chair of the AraratCenter Board of Directors. connect:www.araratcenter.orgagbu YoungProfessionalsretreat to CampNubarANDES, N.Y. – Fifty young professionalsfrom the greater New Yorkarea, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington,and Los Angeles, venturedto upstate New York the weekendof June 20–22 to attend the thirdannual Young Professionals (YP)Retreat at Camp Nubar in the scenicCatskill Mountains. The retreatwas an opportunity for participantsto relax and network among peers.The retreat combined traditionalcamping activities with those moreusually associated with young professionals.Thus, there was a pizzaparty, a mini–color war (a traditionalCamp Nubar game that combinesperforming arts and sports),and a bonfire sing-along. Therewas also a wine tasting organizedby Vadim Krisyan, who offered acrash course in wine-food pairingsand explored everything from gourmetcheeses and olives to hummusand lahmajoon.“Whether you were a Campalum or not, everyone had a fabuloustime and laughter continuedthroughout the night,” said AlexisHalejian, retreat co-chair.The campers took advantage ofthe great outdoors. They had accessto a yoga class on the edge ofthe spring-fed Lake Arax, as well asrowing, canoeing, swimming, tennis,and basketball. There was alsoa backgammon mini-tournament.“Camp Nubar has been a homeaway from home to me since myfirst summer as a camper in 1986.Now, as a member of ypgny, itbrings me great joy to organizethese weekend trips so that otherscan share the experiences uniqueto Camp Nubar,” stated HaroutGebian, alumnus of Camp Nubarand a member of ypgny.Event cochair and Camp Nubaralumnus James Ishkanianagreed. “The retreat weekend exemplifiedthe true character and spiritof Camp Nubar – a great place forArmenians to come together, relax,and enjoy the outdoors.” connect:www.campnubar.orgwww.agbu.org.Rep. Adam Schiff with ANCA LeoSarkisian intern Arbi Vartan ofGlendale.Rep. Schiffmeets Armenian-AmericaninternsWASHINGTON –Rep. AdamSchiff (D.-Calif.) met with internsfrom the Armenian National Committeeof America (ANCA) and theArmenian Assembly of Americalast week. During the meeting hereflected on a recent trip to Armenia.Glendale resident and anca SummerAssociate Arbi Vartan wasamong those present. He thankedMr. Schiff for his steadfast supportFrom left, Steve Hagopian, Andrew Hagopian, Rep. John Shimkus, MelanieHaroian, and Stephen Hagopian.of Armenian issues and applaudedhis dedication to fundamental humanvalues.Activists meetwith Rep.ShimkusCOLLINSVILLE, Ill. – SteveHagopian, the chair of the ArmenianNational Committee of SouthernIllinois (ANC-S IL), and a delegationof activists met with Rep.John Shimkus (R.-Ill.) in late Juneto discuss his decision to withdrawhis support of H. Res. 106, the ArmenianGenocide resolution, andto acquaint him with communityactivists in the area.The delegation, which includedAndrew Hagopian, StephenHagopian, and Melanie Haroian,expressed their disappointmentabout Mr. Shimkus’ change ofheart on the resolution.After he withdrew his supportfor the resolution, Mr. Shimkuswas appointed to serve as a UnitedStates delegate to the nato ParliamentaryAssembly.“We appreciate CongressmanShimkus’ office reaching out tous for a meeting,” Steve Hagopiancommented. But, he argued, theUnited States must speak out aboutthe Armenian Genocide. adaa to hold 3rdCelebrity GalaGLENDALE, Calif. – The ArmenianDramatic Arts Alliance (adaa)Annual Celebrity Gala will be heldon August 23, at 7:30 at Stars PalaceTheater in Glendale.The gala will feature performedexcerpts of the finalist plays fromthe 2008 William Saroyan Prizefor Playwriting. The $10,000 grandprize winner of the Saroyan competitionwill also be announced.The three finalists are: KristenLazarian’s Flesh and Tenderness,Matthew Yaldezian’s The Livingand the Dead, and Lily Thomasian’sNadia.Michael Peretzian will be therecipient of the second annual ArmenianStar Award. Mr. Peretzianhas worked as a literary agent inthe entertainment industry for30 years, representing Academy-Award-winning writers, and has recentlyreceived widespread acclaimas the director of the play, Red DogHowls.The event will also feature a lavishcatered dinner, a silent auctionof high-end entertainment memorabilia,and live performances. connect:www.itsmyseat.com/ADAAZoe Kevork at firstname.lastname@example.org or818.415.9848.Educationconferencelaunched inAnteliasANTELIAS, Lebanon – The secondPan-Diaspora Conference onEducation was launched on July17 in the Saint AsdvadzadzineMonastery in Bikfaya. The conferencebrings together some 100Armenian community officialsfrom around the world involvedin the field of education. Theyincluded principals of Armenianschools and teachers of Armenianlanguage, literature, andreligion.“We live in different circumstances,”Catholicos Aram Isaid in opening remarks. “Theexchange of viewpoints andyour proposals are essentialfor the coordination of our collectiveefforts,” he added.
10 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008CommunityAll the world is Markarian’s stageby Tom VartabedianCONGERS, N.Y. – If all theworld’s a stage (as Shakespeare’smelancholy Jaques says in As YouLike It) then Dr. Herand Markarianis its protagonist – its leadingplayer, as far as the Armenian communitygoes.Over the past 50 years, his hasremained the consummate theatricalartist, with 25 plays written (anincredible feat for any playwright),including 20 premieres; more than40 productions directed; and over50 roles performed.Markarian is to Armenian theaterwhat Ararat is to Hayastan: amountain of culture and the performingarts.He spends six months a year inthe homeland, forging his scripts,then it’s back to New York, wherethey are introduced to an appreciativeArmenian-American audience,thanks to the New JerseyHamazkayin and its band of thespians.There’s something to be saidabout a group of ordinary youngstersrefined enough to portray acast of young Armenian orphans ina show called The Georgetown Boys,which is being staged these days tostanding ovations.“I don’t know how to explain it,”Dr. Markarian says. “The gratitudeyou receive from taking young andunseasoned actors from Hamazkayinand turning them into performersis one of the most rewarding experiencesof my life. These kids arelike my own children. When theyrecite and act in Armenian, it givesme a happiness that no money canbuy.”Markarian says he feels like anironsmith who was given a chainand asked to strengthen theloops.“It’s not always easy to work withchildren,” he admits. “In the endwhen it’s showtime, you forget allthe agonizing moments. I bringthe stories home and actually tryto identify them with those of theorphans.”In Merrimack Valley, whereGeorgetown Boys made an auspiciousNew England debut thispast April 24, Markarian washonored by the local ArmenianGenocide Commemorative Committee.But in Markarian’s eyes, he wasnot the one most worthy of tributethat afternoon. Instead, the modestplaywright pounced off the stage toembrace the aging widow of an actualformer “Georgetown boy” whohad come to see the production. Toher went the real honor accorded tothis piece of theater.Birth of The BoysThe idea for the play came aboutalmost by accident. Markarianhad been invited to give a talk inToronto during the 1980s, wherehe met Jack Aprahamian, whoNon-Armenian playwrights:Shakespeare and IbsenArmenian playwrights: LevonShant and Gabriel SoondookianDirector: Vahe Shahverdian ofArmenia’s Sundukian TheaterMusic: Classical, pop, flamenco,and ArmenianTheatrical dramas: The Crucibleand Les MiserablesTV show: Masterpiece Theatredramatization of Robert Graves’I Claudiushad just published a collectionof items related to the “GeorgetownBoys.”The volume related how, in 1922,an ecumenical organization bythe name of the Armenian ReliefAssociation of Canada had beenformed. The Association worked tosecure the entry of 109 Armenianorphan boys from Middle Easternorphanages and settle them ontoa farm. The orphans, known as the“Georgetown Boys,” were trainedin all aspects of farming and weresent to other farms in Ontario,thus sustaining themselves.Markarian secured a copy ofAprahamian’s book and was movedby it. After launching the Hamazkayinyouth group in New Jersey,he started thinking of a play, and itevolved from that after many yearsof research, rewriting and steadyresolve.Surrounded by his cast of 25, includingeducator Michael Mirakian,he passed off the credit to his “children.”Whether any of them makesit to a higher level remains to beseen. The poise, self-esteem andconfidence becomes self-sustaining.To Markarian, it’s a mission forhis country.Herand Markarian’s favorite thingsHerand Markarian is awarded the “Best Diasporan Playwright” award in Yerevan, 1991.Sport: SoccerScreen star: Meryl StreepStage star: Nelly KheranianHobbies: Art, photographyRelaxation: “Surrounding myselfwith nature and listening tothe ocean.”Most embarrassing moment:“When an Armenian mars ournational character, that embarrassesme.”Most rewarding moment:“When I touch someone withsomething I’ve written or said;The Voyager (1990), with Markarian as King Ashod.A bigger picture is his commitmentto preserve and perpetuatethe arts for their own sake– beyond any thought of fameor notoriety. Though he hasappeared many times on stage,Markarian’s real passion restsbehind the scenes. He would notrecognize his own ego if the twowere to meet on a street in Yerevan.“The plays are part of me,” hesays. “I live with every moment.I go through the emotional stateof all the characters. When I’mcreating a smile from an unsuspectingaudience member.”Vacation spot: “The ocean formeditation, as contained in mybook of poems, From the Depth ofthe Torn Self.”Statesmen: King Ardashes (189b.c.e.) and King Hetoum (1226 c.e.)Proudest accomplishments:“My very next play, and every onebefore and after that.”Quote: “What did I get from life?That which I gave to others” – byVahan Tekeyanon stage or in the wings – actingor directing – I become emotionallyand physically involvedto the extent that I don’t wantanyone to talk about anythingelse. This is my world, beginningto end.”•Playwright, poet, literary anddrama critic, actor, professor, Armeniancommunity activist overfive decades•Born in Basrah, Iraq, 1938;grew up in suburb of Margil•Graduate, College of Sciences,Baghdad University; immigratedto United States in 1962,obtained masters and doctoratedegrees in Chemistry fromStevens Institute of Technology(N.J.)•Along with doctoral studies,took up acting, directing andplaywriting in New York City•Author of 25 plays, latest beingThe Georgetown Boys; director ofmore than 40 plays; has appearedin more than 50 roles, includingMarkarian’splay The Cycle,performed inYerevan, 1992.Hayrig, the Apostle of Light (1988), withMarkarian as Khrimian Hayrig.Markarian feels he’s done justiceto the characters whose lives he’scome to represent.“They deserve all the respectyou and I demand,” he adds.“Even when they portray a comiccharacter, I tell them they haveThumbnail sketch of Dr. HerandMarkarianYohann Lepsius in Toukhanian’sfeature film Assignment: Berlin•Wrote, directed, and preparednumerous multimedia presentations,and has lectured extensivelythroughout Armeniancommunities in the diaspora;actively involved in Armeniannational and cultural life•Launched first HamazkayinTheater Group invited to Armeniain 1992•Notable awards: “St. MesrobMashdots Medal,” from His HolinessKarekin I Sarkissian; “GoldMedal of Cultural Achievements,”from Minister of Culture of Armenia;“Best Diasporan Playwright,”by The Writers Union ofArmenia
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 11CommunityThe poet Siamanto’s only play, adapted by Dr. Markarian (New York, 2004).Playwright Herand Markarian (third from left) with the cast of Mirrors, off-Broadway (1995).no right to laugh. It applies to villainsas well.”The genetics of theaterMarkarian grew up in Iraq, wherethe performing arts was not a professionpeople sought. He majoredin Chemistry, in which he ultimatelyreceived a doctorate. He alsoholds a masters degree in TechnologyManagement.But for pleasure he reads theworks of the great Greek masterdramatists – and the example musthave sparked something in hisfamily.His daughter Yeraz is a talentedactress and singer, having been exposedto the craft from birth. Sheand two other Armenian womenestablished the a cappela groupcalled Zulal (“Pristine”), whichhas performed all over the UnitedStates, to rave reviews.“My wife in her youth used to recite,”he says. “Now she reads essaysat our cultural events. I don’t knowthe genetics, but it’s beautiful.”At Armenian gatherings,Markarian is something of a JohnnyCarson – every bit as good asa top stand-up comic. During ameeting break, he regales attendeeswith some comic relief, which isalways a welcome respite from themundane world of business. HisArmenian tales are a howl.He recalls as a youngster goingto the movies in Iraq and mimickingthe stars. His first genuinerole 52 years ago was that ofa poet in Baronian’s The GentlemenBeggars. It was an arf ShantStudent Association production,directed by Apraham DerGhoogasian, a local actor with astrong baritone voice. Soon tofollow was his first directing jobafter moving to Baghdad.“The influence of American movieswas so great, I remember gatheringsome of my friends and givingthem a script I had written,” herecalls. “Movie theater operatorshad made a business of cutting filmstrips and selling them to us frameby frame. These were the picturesof great actors. I established myfirst movie theater in the town ofMargil.”After arriving in America in 1962,Markarian set down to businesswriting plays, his first being Cycle,which found its way to the DiasporaTheater Festival in Yerevan,where he captured the “best playwright”honors.A notable career had beenlaunched, with numerous accoladesto come.The flip side of Markarian ishis charitable work in Armenia,based on the concept of rebuildinga nation and infusingits population with newfoundenergy. His focus is educationand health, particularly in theVartanank (1980), with Dr. Markarian as Vassag.Polarization (1977), with Herand Markarian in the lead role of Kegham.border villages, with the DilijanChildren’s Sanatorium and theArmenian Medical Fund.His writing is almost an addiction.This year alone, Markarianhas translated five plays by KarineKhodikian. He finds the homelandconducive to his work, surroundedby the people of his world.“There are many Armenian playswaiting to come to light,” he confirms.“I won’t deny them theright to be born. We are a nationthat deserves a higher recognitionwith the performing arts. Ifmy efforts contribute to that, anultimate mission will have beenachieved.”Markarian talks about his majorwork Mirrors, which reflected hismother’s life. It turned into a twofold,intergenerational undertaking:a role of honor for Markarianhimself, and an effort to oblige hisdaughter Yeraz, who was doing hersenior thesis in Theater at ColumbiaUniversity.Yeraz wanted to direct an originalplay, and approached her dad witha not-so-simple request. “Write aplay for me,” she asked.The daughter had heard hergrandmother’s story of immigrationand was riveted by it. Thegrandmother and a brother gotseparated in 1922, never to see eachother again.“It was a perfect fit,” Markariansaid. “I got to exercise my imaginationand help my daughter.”Markarian sees theater as a wayof connecting Armenians to theircultural heritage by virtue of theirsupport. But that’s not enough.“We need the non-Armenianaudience to be successful, and tobring our issues to the forum,” hemaintains. “There are great piecesof [Armenian] literature that arekept in obscurity because of thelanguage barrier. With Armenianplays, you need an audience thatunderstands the language, and actorswho speak Armenian.”To help make the connection betweenthe Armenian story and thelarger world population, Markariandreams of seeing The Forty Days ofMusa Dagh done in Hollywood fashion,in the manner of Schlinder’s List.He’s hoping for a director like StevenSpielberg to step forward, and somebenefactors to fund the cost.But even in the absence of that,“I look to Armenia with hope,” hesays. Theater in the homeland isin the process of evolving, and toMarkarian the future looks bright.“Every country attempts to reachthat dynamic state. Armenia is nodifferent,” he says. “With theaterand the performing arts, it’s takinga step in the right direction, and I’mproud to be a small part of that.”
12 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008CommunityLove. Fantasy. FreedomMedia City Ballet topresent an eveningof Khachaturian atthe Alex Theatreby Adrineh GregorianOn August 16 the Media City Balletwill present “An Evening ofKhachaturian: The Composer andHis Ballets,” at the Alex Theatre inGlendale, California.To celebrate composer AramKhachaturian’s Armenian heritage,the Media City Ballet, based in Burbank,California, will feature selectionsfrom Gayane, Spartacus, andMasquerade.To Armenians, Khachaturian(1903-1978) will forever remain anational treasure. His music is celebratedaround the world and hislegacy transcends time. Each of hisiconic melodies vividly capturesthe human experience and nationalstrife.Khachaturian’s works were ofteninfluenced by Armenian folk music.Along with the composers SergeiProkofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich,Khachaturian became known as aso-called “titan” of Soviet music.All three enjoyed worldwide reputationsas some of the leading composersof the 20th century. Asidefrom his ballets, Khachaturian wasa prolific composer of a wide rangeof music, including orchestralworks, vocal scores, concertos, andchamber music.Of the pieces to be performedat the upcoming concert, Gayaneand Spartacus are actual ballets.Gayane is a pure Armenian storyintegrating Armenian folk elementsthrough dance and music.Spartacus is set in Greece. Masquerade,commissioned for the25th anniversary of the RussianRevolution, is a symphonic suitein the tradition of lavish classicalRussian music.“He really knows how to tell astory with his music,” said NatashaMiddleton, artistic director ofthe Media City Ballet and co-choreographerof the Khachaturianprogram. “He’s a magician at makingstories understood throughmusic.”Media City Ballet is one of onlytwo major ballet companies in LosAngeles. Due to the success of atribute to Khachaturian in 2002,the company decided to dedicatean entire evening to his work thisyear.“We wanted to bring back a wholeevent of Khachaturian becausehis music is so gorgeous,” saidMiddleton. This time around, thecompany was to bring to life Masquerade,music that Khachaturiancomposed for Mikhail Lermontov’splay of the same title.“The music that he wrote [forMasquerade] became far more superiorthan the actual play,” Middletonnoted.The company has been thrilledto take on this endeavor. From thecostumes to the new dance moves,each element serves a new challenge,since a majority of the companyis non-Armenian.“My ballet company is so usedto doing Ballet Russe,” Middletonsaid. “They have been doing a lot ofethnic choreography.” The companyhas been working hard to masterthe Armenian-influenced armand leg work that Khachaturian’sballets require. “Everyone’s lovingit,” she added.“We have such a variety of Armeniansbetween Burbank andArsen Serobian as Spartacus.Glendale. It’s such a beautiful culture.I’ve grown to love the dancingand the music,” said Middleton,who performed the principalrole of Gayane with the ArmenianPhilharmonic Orchestra when itperformed in Pasadena in the1980s.Ruben Tonoyan is the associatedirector and ballet master for MediaCity Ballet. Along with Middleton,he is co-choreographing theevening’s performance.Tonoyan was a soloist with theArmenian National Opera Balletfor 23 years. He began his trainingat the age of 8 with the ArmenianNational Academy of Ballet.He continued his training atthe Kirov Ballet School and theVaganova Academy in St. Petersburg,Russia.“For me it was very interesting,”he said. “When I just arrived here[in the United States], kids, students,and parents who hadn’t seenArmenia listened to Khachaturianand were moved by the music.”Tonoyan emphasized the importanceof reviving the work of Khachaturianon stage. Not only willthe performance bring the music tolife, but it might also turn Khachaturianfans into ballet enthusiastas well.“Some of these dancers havenever seen these moves and didn’tknow they existed, but they do itwith love and the outcome will begreat,” Tonoyan added. “Yes, mostof the dancers may be non-Armenian,but on stage they will becomeArmenian.”Edgar Nikolyan, 22, will bedancing the principal role ofAram in Gayane. Born in Yerevan,Nikolyan is a graduate of the ArmenianNational Dance School. In2004, he participated in the Prixde Lausanne and thus moved toMunich, Germany, where he completedhis dance education at theHeinz-Bosl Stiftung Academy.Nikolyan, who recently joinedMedia City Ballet, said it “feelsgreat to perform an Armenian balletin America.”“It’s ours, it’s ‘Saber Dance,’” headded. “Others listen to it and theydon’t realize it’s Armenian. We’reshowing them that it’s Armenianand it’s ours.”To Nikolyan, Khachaturian epitomizesArmenian music. “You dancewith more temperament. The charactersembody Armenian traits,” hesaid. “There is more than Swan Lakeand Nutcracker. Come see the Gayaneballet. People hear it and neverknow what it is. Let them see forthemselves.”“I am very grateful that the Armenianand non-Armenian publicwill be able to come and see Gayaneand Spartacus and experience thegenius of Khachaturian, one of thegreatest talents of modern times,”said Arsen Serobian, who will playthe principal role in Spartacus.Additional roles will be performedby Gabrielle Palmatier (ofHermosa Beach, who will dancethe role of Aegina in Spartacus);Amara Baptist (of Sunland, whowill dance the title role in Gayane);Edgar Nikolyan (of Granada Hills,who will dance the role of Armenin Gayane); Felicia Guzman (ofReseda, who will dance the roleof Nune in Gayane); Ellen Rosa (ofLos Angeles, who will dance therole of Nina in Masquerade); andStephen Nelson (of Hollywood,who will dance the role of PrinceZvezditch in Masquerade). Finally,guest artist Jenkyns Pelaez (ofOakland) will appear as Crassus inSpartacus.connect:mediacityballet.orgconnect:myspace.com/telosdesignsFar left, topto bottom:Ruben Tonoyan,NatashaMiddleton, andJenkyns Pelaez.Photo: ScoffoneStudios. Left:Edgar Nikolyanas Armen inMedia CityBallet’s Gayane.Photo: DanChapman.Lauren Farrell (l.) and Felicia Guzman in Media City Ballet’s Masquarade.
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 13CommunityA day, month, and year in the life of artby Anthony PiranianGLENDALE , Calif. – 600 art andmusic lovers showed up to an artshow in Downtown’s Arts’ DistrictLast year. The event had no name– correction: it’s never had a consistentname. Instead, it is referredto by the date it falls on. Last yearthe event was called 7.7.7 – it tookplace on July 7, 2007. This year, theeighth year will take place on August8, 2008 and will appropriatelybe referred to as 8.8.8.“It’s about change… we needchange in today’s society,” saysYeghia Tchakmakian, 32, betweendrags of his cigarette. Sitting at atable in a hole-in-the wall coffeeshop in Silverlake, Yeghia describesthe impetus to launch and maintainthe art show year after year despitetaking a substantial hit to thewallet. “I want to celebrate artistsI know – the artists I grew up with,met over the years, and basicallyworked with…as Ghandi said youmust be the change you wish to seein the world.”Born in Glendale, Calif., Yeghiahas always centered his life on art.Even at an early age, in spite ofhaving his parents buy him toys,Yeghia and his sister Lisa wouldgrab sheets of foil from the kitchenand twist and bend them into theshapes of little action figures andcreatures to play with. All throughouthis early education his focuswas of the artistic – taking illustration,painting, and drawing classes.After leaving Pasadena’s Art CenterCollege of Design, Yeghia beganworking as a freelance graphic designer.“It was tough at first – tryingto capture clients and make aname for myself… I did a lot of contractjobs for bigger firms.”One of the firms, Meat andPotatoes, was so impressed withYeghia’s design work they hiredhim on as a salaried designer.Over the years, Yeghia’s portfoliogrew to include design work formajor clients like Fox Entertainment,bmi Music, Buena VistaHome Entertainment and othermajor companies. Always theworkaholic, Yeghia never stoppedfreelancing even when working onmajor projects.He is now working for WarnerBrother Studios’ in-house graphicsand marketing division where hehas settled in quite nicely.But the show goes on…Living and Loving andfighting“We’ve been doing it every yearsince January 1st, 2001 and eachyear it gets bigger and bigger.”smiles Yeghia who is now chewingon a dry bagel while he pushesthe crumbs around on thesmall plate. “We always end upin different venues, too… USC’smaster of fine art gallery, to ahole in the wall hall in Van Nuys,and one year Louie Hayak let usdo it at Sidebar, , another yearwe got hooked up at Iranahye’sold banquet hall on Brand, a yearlater an abandoned mansion inthe Glendale hills… this year it’sgoing to be in a warehouse in AtwaterVillage… it’s all over theplace.”The “we” he’s referring to is today’sArtists, musicians, performers,filmmakers, poets and friends.“We come together, for theseevents.”– although Yeghia doesn’tofficially run the event through anysponsorship or donations, his TelosFoundation of the Arts will be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit by end of this year.Nevertheless, he does end up goinginto the red by a few thousand dollarsevery year.So why do it? His answer: “Iwant to raise the cultural awarenessof art and Armenian artistsin the community and I want togive the artists, musicians, andfilmmakers I know and respect achance to showcase their material…y’know… provide an outlet– sell some paintings.”Who’s Who?Artists in the past to name a fewinclude environmental designerArmen Zeitounian, curator andTop left: YeghiaTchakmakian.Top right: Beanson the staircaseand nightmarekitchen by AlexZakari.Above right:Circular logodesignedby YeghiaTchakmakian.Left: “StuffedAnimal Room”for the stuffedanimals.fine artist Lisa Tchakmakian, Photographerand designer Mher VahaknAjamian, Matthew Nastuk– director of The Simpsons, PaulMarchand whose work has beenseen on hbo, punk fusion bandCamarillo Blues Triangle, FishCircus, actress/comedian AnaisThomassian, stage performer LoryTatoulian, urban artists Alex Zakariand Alex Nisanian, animatorArmen Mirzanian, award winningfilmmakers Mathew Yaldezian,James Martin, Meher Kourouyan,and Arno Yeretzian, notable poetsMonet Airian, Jason Kelly, andmusical bands Vokee, Fashzaji,and Cubrik which features dudukplayer Chris Yeganian.“It’s a pretty sizable show,” saysShahen Hagobian, music directorfor the events. “We have apretty good music line-up for thisyear: Ninja Academy has agreedto play… Dirty Diamond will bemaking an appearance as well as afew other bands and DJ’s… we’realso talking to Esh Clan to see ifthey can make a slot.”If it can be painted, projected,sculpted, sung, spoken, or played,you’ll probably find it happeningat 8.8.8. With over three dozenartists displaying and performingtheir art this year, the festival isno small event. Patrons will findthemselves wandering from artexhibits to screening rooms playinglocal filmmakers projects to thestage where musicians, poets, andperformers showcase their talentsfor the hipster crowd.“One of the fun attractions everyyear are the fire performers” mentionsJames Martin, one of theevents coordinators. “Maybe it’sa primal thing, but whatever it is,once the patrons see the girls dancingaround the fire and playing withit, they stop what they’re doing andgravitate towards the act.” Jamesis referring to the scantily clad performersof Sirena Serpentina whomanipulate fire around their bodies– apparently huge crowd pleasers.Calm Before the StormThe sun is setting over the HollywoodHills and a strange color ofpink lines the bellies of the clouds.Yeghia sits back in his chair, as usual– his leg folded over his knee, histoes nervously tapping away at hissandals. “There’s still a lot of workto be done,” he says biting his lowerlip. At the time of this writing, theshow is still about 2 weeks away,but preparations have been underwayfor the past 2 months.“I don’t do it by myself,” saysYeghia, “Every artist right now isscrambling to get their work ready,we still have to set up the warehouse,manage the refreshments -it gets daunting.” As nervous as heseems, there is still a great deal ofexcitement and anxiousness in hiseyes. When asked what will happento the show after December 12 th ,2012 rolls around, Yeghia laughsand replies, “I don’t know, we’restill trying to figure that one out…who knows, maybe we’ll finallygive the show a name just to makeit easier.” Well, Yeghia, it soundslike nothing is constant, except forchange.connect:myspace.com/telosdesigns
14 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008CommunityArmenia Fund launches Bike Ride 2008Monterey-to-LosAngeles ride tobenefit schoolconstruction inArtsakhLOS ANGELES – Armenia FundU.S. Western Region and ArmeniaFund – Toronto, Canada, two majoraffiliates of Hayastan All-ArmenianFund in the Western Hemisphere,have announced the launch of ArmeniaFund Bike Ride 2008. Thefundraising event, sponsored by thetwo affiliates, is a bicycle ride fromMonterey to Los Angeles, spanningmore than 350 miles along the Californiacoast. The ride will take placeover the course of six days, from October28 through November 2, 2008.The organizers are encouragingindividuals interested in joining theBike Ride and businesses willing tosponsor the event to contact the ArmeniaFund offices in Los Angelesor Toronto. Event information aswell as online registration will alsobe available on the Armenia Fundwebsite at armeniafund.org.Bicycle riders have the option ofparticipating in the full 350 mileride or the final 70 miles, duringthe last day of the event.According to the Armenia Fund,proceeds from the Bike Ride willbenefit the construction of a schoolin Spitakashen village in the Martuniregion of Nagorno-Karabakh.In May this year, the ArmeniaFund’s Canadian (Toronto) affiliateunveiled a new, similar, schoolin Verin Horatagh of Martakert,Nagorno-Karabakh. The schoolwas named after Baroness CarolineCox. “The Armenia Fund’slong-term development goal is tohelp secure the future of the nextgeneration of Armenia – today’schildren,” stated Maria Mehranian,chair of Armenia Fund U.S.Western Region. “It is our responsibilityto empower these beautifulkids – the faces of Armenia. Let usgive them the comfort of a warm,modern school to nurture themacademically and morally.”“The Bike Ride will be a specialevent that will help connect oursupporters to the cause of Armeniannation-building, at the sametime [giving them the opportunityto] enjoy the California outdoors,”Mehranian added.Mig Migirdicyan, chair of theToronto affiliate, said, “We are veryexcited with this fundraising drive,which is also demonstrating anexcellent example of coordinationbetween the Toronto and WesternU.S. chapters of the fund. Togetherwe can!”According to the Armenia Fund,Calabrina Boyajian of Toronto, aprofessional in the fitness field forthe past 15 years, will volunteer hertime as the Bike Ride’s event director.Along with other guides, Boyajianwill lead the team of cyclistsfrom Monterey to Los Angeles.“On a personal level, the mostmemorable events were when IThe SpitakashenSchool will bemodeled after theDrmbon Schoolpictured above.The school wassponsored by theArmenia Fund’saffiliate in France.Photo: Michael G.Levin.rode for three weeks through Walesand ran the Honolulu Marathon insupport of the Diabetes Association,”Boyajian said. “This year wewant to do something big that willcapture people’s imagination anddraw Armenians together to givemore kids a brighter future. Theride will be a challenge, but I believethat, with a little determinationand motivation, anyone cando it, so I strongly encourage othersto join me.”“The Bike Ride is a bold Los Angeles/Torontojoint initiative, intendedto provide the participants onemore path to contribute to the LosAngeles Telethon, and add anotherdimension to its success,” said AraBoyajian, a member of the ArmeniaFund’s International Board ofTrustees (Hayastan All-ArmenianFund).Calabrina Boyajian is currentlyworking along with the ArmeniaFund’s U.S. Western Region officesin recruiting bicycle riders as wellas individuals and businesses thatwill participate in the event in asupporting role. “I want to thankCalabrina and the Toronto affiliatefor partnering with us on thisspecial event,” stated Sarkis Kotanjian,executive director of ArmeniaFund U.S. Western Region.“The greater Armenia Fund familyof affiliates is working together forthe purpose of helping the homeland.”connect:(818) 243-6222armeniafund.orgVisit us atreporter.amNORTHERN NJCaretaker/Home Aidneeded to care for a sweetmiddle aged women for heractivities of daily living.Part/Full timeor even live-in.Call Rich at201-261-5852LAW OFFICE OF SOUREN A. ISRAELYAN39 Broadway, Suite 950, New York, New York 10006(646) 459-7556 or (718) 751-5254Representing people who have suffered catastrophic injuriesConstruction accidentsSlip/trip and fallsDefective productsTrain/airplane accidentsNursing home negligenceAlso speaks Armenian and RussianCar/bus/truck accidentsElevator/escalator accidentsFire and explosionNegligent supervision/securityAnimal attacksN. Lael Telfeyan, Ph.D., LCSWCounseling and Psychotherapywith Individuals, Families and CouplesAdults and Adolescents140 West 97th St.New York, NY 10025By appointment 917-975-310924 Windsor RoadGreat Neck, NY 11021e-mail: email@example.comPosition Sought52-year-old gentleArmenian woman seeksemployment caring forelderly.Live-in or Live out.Please call Elsa,(347) 782-4811
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 15CommunityDeacons undergo training at St. NersessCalendar of EventsNEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Altarservers from as far away as California,Texas and Florida, most ofthem teenage boys, spent a week atSt. Nersess Seminary learning theskills and acquiring the knowledgeto prepare them to better serve asaltar servers, deacons, and perhapsone day priests of the ArmenianChurch.The Deacons’ Training Programwas being held for the 47th consecutiveyear.The week’s intensive programfocused on morning workshops,where the students were drilled inthe practical skills of the deacon:correctly chanting the words andmelodies of the deacons’ litaniesof the Divine Liturgy; using thepoorvar to offer incense; learningthe censing patterns for the DivineLiturgy and other services; vestingthe priest; and more. Experiencedaltar servers who were already familiarwith the chants and ritualsof the Badarak learned the deacons’parts and the hymns of the ArmenianChurch’s rich funeral services.“It was a great week: I learnedthe funeral service, improved myArmenian, and learned more aboutmy faith in God,” said 15-year oldYeghia Keleshian of Plano, Tex.,who returned for his second year.Thirteen-year old Arras Korogluyanof Highland Park, Ill.,agreed. “This was a unique learningexperience. The teachers teach withlove, passing down to us what theyknow. Everyone receives individualattention.”Khoren Meikhanedjian, directorof music ministry for theEastern Diocese of the ArmenianChurch, worked with the advancedstudents. Other instructors includedRev. Fr. Daniel Karadjian,and Deacon Sarkis Altunian (St.Sarkis, Dallas). Deacon Sarkis waspresent for his twelfth consecutiveDeacons’ Training Program. HagopKlachian (St. Sarkis, Dallas) andDeacon Haik Tigranyan (Glendale,Calif.) served as counselors.The evening hours were dedicatedto learning the deeper meaningof the deacons’ service. Dr. ThomasSamuelian, Emeritus Professorof Armenian Language andDirector of Arak-29, a charitableeducational institution headquarteredin Armenia, introduced theparticipants to the ever-growingvariety of interactive resourcesavailable via the Internet for thosewho would like to learn the Armenianlanguage (both Modernand Classical), the fundamentalsof the Armenian Church’s historyand doctrines, and the meaning ofthe Divine Liturgy and other servicesof the church.V. Rev. Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian,pastor of the Armenian Church ofthe Holy Martyrs (Bayside, N.Y.), aSt. Nersess alumnus and expert inBiblical Studies, led a discussion onthe role, qualifications, and responsibilitiesof the deacon according tothe Bible.Abp. Khajag Barsamian spentan evening at the seminary withthe young altar servers, sharing insightsand anecdotes from his ownlife of church service.Professor Sergio LaPorta,Visiting Professor of ArmenianStudies at the seminary and newlyappointed Associate Professorat Fresno State University, gave alecture and slide presentation onthe history of Armenians in theHoly Land.Bible Study with Abp. Khajag Barsamian and Fr. Daniel Findikyan.A special series of Bible studieswas prepared by V. Rev. Fr. DanielFindikyan, dean and directorof the Deacons’ Training Program,and Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian,director of youth and vocations.The students discussed the Bible’sanswers to stress, anxiety and pressure,fear, guilt, doubt, temptation,and desires of the flesh.An hour each day was devotedto reading Armenian. Studentswho did not know the Armenianalphabet used interactive DiscoverArmenian software to learn the lettersand begin reading simple texts.Those who already knew the alphabetworked closely with instructorsto improve their fluency and pronunciation.Fluent Armenian readerstook part in a special introductionto Church Armenian, whichintroduced them to elements ofClassical Armenian grammar andvocabulary. The course was designedby the St. Nersess facultyspecifically for the Deacons’ TrainingProgram.On Sunday, June 29, the Feastof the Transfiguration of the Lord(Vartavar), the staff and participantstraveled two hours by bus toElberon, N.J., where they participatedin the Morning Service andfestal Divine Liturgy at St. StepanosArmenian Church. They were warmlyreceived by the Pastor, V. Rev. Fr.Mamigon Kiledjian, as well as theparish council and faithful, who preparedlunch for the group.“This entire experience has beena very powerful one for me,” saidVartan Shatarevyan of Van Nuys,Calif. “The instruction and the allthe participants inspired me to investmore time into the liturgicallife of the church and to live it outas best I can.”Deacon Haik Tigranyan ofGlendale, Calif., who served as astaff member, observed, “I am gladthat I was able to help these youngmen with the knowledge I haveabout the Divine Liturgy. It is greatto see so many young kids interestedin becoming deacons.” DeaconHaik will begin his studies forthe priesthood at St. Nersess thisfall, preparing for ministry in theWestern Diocese.connect:www.stnersess.eduNew YorkAUGUST 17 _ Armenian-AmericanNight. Sunday, 7:00 P.M.Free Concert at Harry ChapinLakeside Theater, EisenhowerPark, East Meadow, L.I. featuringInternational Singer KARNOand Akhtamar Dance Ensemble.SEPTEMBER 13 - ANCA EasternRegion Annual Banquet inNew York. Mark your calendarfor the Second Annual Banquetsponsored by the Armenian NationalCommittee of America,Eastern Region. Cocktails andsilent auction followed by dinnerand special awards program.The Grand Hyatt, 109 East 42ndStreet at Grand Central Terminal,New York. Tickets $250.Mention “ANC Banquet” forspecial hotel room rate (limitedavailability). More details to follow.SEPTEMBER 14 - Annual ArmenianFestival at The ArmenianChurch of the Holy Martyrs,209-15 Horace Harding Expwy,Bayside, NY. Noon until dark,rain or shine. Free admission.Live music by the Artsakh Bandand performances by the HyeBar and Aradzani dance groups.Assorted kebabs and temptingdelicacies. Rides and games forchildren, street vendors andfree blood pressure screening.For more info, call church office(718) 225-0235.SEPTEMBER 27-28 - NY ArmenianStudents’ Associationpresents 59th Annual Artists’Ball. Famed art exhibit. GallerieIcosahedron, TriBeca, Manhattan.More detals to come.SEPTEMBER 28 - 79TH ANNI-VERSARY CELEBRATION AND22ND ANNUAL PILGRIMAGETO THE SHRINE OF CHARKHA-PAN SOORP ASDVADZADZIN.Solemn Divine Liturgy celebratedby His Eminence ArchbishopYeghishe Gizirian, with theparticipation of Zvartnotz andGomidas Choirs, 10:30 a.m. SpecialProgram Honoring Rev. Fr.Arten Ashjian on the 60th Anniversaryof his Ordination. Banquetand special performance bynoted pianist Karine Poghosyanfollowing church services in theKachajian Auditorum. 1:00 P.M.Holy Cross Church of Armenia,580 W. 187th St., NYC. Donation:$35.00.SEPTEMBER 28 - Pianist SA-HAN ARZRUNI and friends willpresent “INS & OUTS: Armeniancomposers of Asia Minor,”on Sunday at 3:00 PM, September28, at Merkin Hall, 129 W.67 St, NYC. The event celebratesthe 175 anniversary of the foundationof Surp Prgich ArmenianNational Hospital in Istanbul.Tickets are available throughMerkin box office (212 501 3330,credit cards are accepted), Arto(718 937 7660) and Araxie (201227 9615).OCTOBER 24 - CHILDREN OFARMENIA FUND’s 5th AnnualSave a Generation Awards Dinnerat Cipriani 42nd St., NYC.www.coafkids.org.Westchester, NYAUGUST 17 - ANNUAL SUM-MER PICNIC AT ST. GREGORYTHE ENLIGHTENER ARME-NIAN CHURCH, 1131 NorthStreet, White Plains, NY. Noonto 6:00 p.m. Rain or shine. Freeadmission. Live music and dancingto the renowned MichaelGostanian Band. Lamb, chicken,and luleh kebob, various pastriesand home-made desserts, 50/50raffle, shae and supervised children’sactivities. Easy travel viaHutchinson River Parkwya toExit 25. Church is 1/2 block onNorth Street (opposite MapleMoor Golf Course). For information,call church office, (914)428-2595 - Monday-Wednesday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.New JerseyAUGUST 17 - STS. VARTANAN-TZ ANNUAL CHURCH PICNIC& BLESSING OF THE GRAPESCEREMONY — Sunday, 1-5pmat Dunkerhook Park, off ParamusRoad, Paramus, NJ. Allare welcome to enjoy deliciousFoods and Desserts, music, playgroundfor the kids!SEPT. 12 - COMEDIAN KEVORKIAN from London performshis raucous one-manpiano comedy show at the 2ndAnnual ANCA ER Pre Banquetfall social. Doors open at 8 p.m.Post-bar party to follow. At theGrand Hyatt in New York City.For tickets and information andto purchase tickets please visitwww.anca.org/erbanquet or call(201) 233-9809.SEPTEMBER 17 - Emerson, NJ- FAH (Friends of the ArmenianHome) Neiman Marcus FashionShow/Luncheon. Garden StatePlaza, Paramus, NJ. Fashionpresentation at 11:00 am followedby a luncheon. For reservations,please contact Mrs.Karen Nargizian at 201/560-9787 or Mrs. MaryAnne Bonjuklianat 201/934-8930. The ticketsare $85. per person. Seating islimited so please reserve early,RSVP by Sept. 3, 2008.SEPTEMBER 25 - River Vale,NJ. Sts. Vartanantz Church6th Annual Golf Outing. RiverVale Country Club. Lunch,Dinner, Golf and More. Shotgunstart at 12:45pm. For reservationsor more info pleasecall : Mark Alashaian 201-483-3200, Rich Krikorian 201-664-6885, Sarkis Shirinian 201-307-0825 or the Church Office 201-943-2950.OCTOBER 3 & 4 - Save theDate! Hamazkayin of New Jerseypresents: For the 40th Anniversaryof NJ Chapter and 80thAnniversary of HamazkayinSubscription Couponthe armenianreporterannual ratesU.S.A.: First Class Mail, $125; Periodicals Mail, $75Canada: $125 (u.s.); Overseas: $250 (u.s.)namestreetcity/state/zip- Cultural Seminar - ArmenianMovie Screening, Literary Competition,Identity and the ArmenianYouthOCTOBER 25 - Gala celebrationof the 50th Anniversary of thePrelacy of the Armenian ApostolicChurch of America underthe jurisdiction of the GreatHouse of Cilicia and the 110thanniversary of the establishmentof the Armenian Churchin America. Marriott at Glenpointe,Teaneck, New Jersey.Details to follow.Check Enclosed OR Charge My:Mastercard Visa Amex DiscoverExp.mail coupon to: armenian reporterp.o. box 129, paramus, nj 07652orfax coupon to (201) 226-1660(credit card orders only)
16 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008ArmeniaLocal and visiting volunteers with the FullerCenter for Housing build homes in Khor VirapFuller Center’sinternational andlocal volunteerspose for a groupphoto at the endof a long, hardday. Photos:Grigor Hakobyanfor the ArmenianReporter.They help makedreams come trueThe Khachatryans ofKhor Virap hope tospend Christmas intheir new homeby Maria TitizianKHOR VIRAP, Armenia – The FullerCenter for Housing Armenia hostedits second group of internationalvolunteers this past week. The volunteersworked on building a homefor the Khachatryan family of KhorVirap. The family of eight has nothad permanent shelter for years.They have been living in a half-builthome belonging to a neighbor whois living in Russia. The internationalteam of volunteers worked tirelesslyfor seven days, laying downa new concrete floor and installinginsulation for the roof. The internationalvolunteers led by Levon(Leo) Manuelian from New York,were joined at the construction siteby the family, their relatives, fellowvillagers, and young local volunteers.The Khachatryans hope tomove into their new home to spendChristmas in the warmth and shelterof their very own house.Every family has the right todecent shelter. Every child deservesa home. In Armenia, affordablehousing has becomescarce commodity. While therehas been dramatic growth in thereal estate market, the majority ofresidential construction is affordableonly for wealthy customers.Home ownership has increasinglybecome inaccessible, even to themiddle class.Studies show that approximately5 percent of Armenian familiesSlavik Khachatryan, 39, is a tailorfrom the village of Khor Virapin the Ararat region. He is marriedto Gayane, 34, and together theyhave six children. Kristine, whois 16 years old, has just graduatedfrom high school, but will not beable to attend university for financialreasons. Then there’s 12-yearoldZepyur; 10-year-old Hovsep,the only boy of the brood; Ester,who is 8 years old; Hrut, 6 yearsold, and finally 4-year-old Rebeka.The Khachatryans supplementSlavik’s income by growing watermelons,tomatoes, and cornon their farm. They were livingwith Slavik’s brothers and theirfamilies in one bedroom of a fourroomhome. As the Khachatryanfamily grew, it became impossiblefor them to stay in one room andthus they moved to an unfinishedhouse of a neighbor who lives inRussia. They have lived there forseven years, during which timethey had hoped to finish their ownhouse. The building of this housebecame impossible for a familywith six children.When the Khachatryans were informedthat they had been chosenby the Fuller Center for HousingArmenia to complete their house,they were overwhelmed. The prospectof finally being in their veryown home for Christmas had beenan impossible dream.– 40,000 of them – are withoutpermanent shelter. Approximately40 percent of those families live intemporary shelters, such as metalshipping containers known asThe Khachatryan Family“For me the important thing isthat we will have our very ownhouse,” Gayane said. Althoughshe is only 34, Gayane looks mucholder than her years, the effects ofpoverty mapped out prematurelyon her face. But look closely, andthere is youth and vigor yet in hersparkling eyes.When we asked Slavik to tryto convey his feelings, not onlyabout the Fuller Center’s financing,but about the volunteerswho had been working on hishouse for days, he said, “It’s ajoyous thing, a kind thing, andI am thankful to everyone, toGod, to the Fuller organization,to the donors and organizers, toeveryone. We are grateful for everysingle pail of concrete that ismoved.” When I asked him whenthey expect to be finished withthe building, he said, “If we cancontinue at this pace, the housewill be ready in one month. Butwe think we should have it completedby November.”Gayane is quick to tell us thatmany of the villagers, friends andfamily, have been continuouslyhelping them with the constructionof their house.The house will have three bedrooms,a kitchen, living room, andone large bathroom to accommodateall eight members of the Khachatryanfamily.fdomiks. With the devastating effectof the earthquake in 1988, whichleft thousands homeless, and thedisplaced Armenians from Azerbaijan,the country was faced witha housing crisis. Affordable housingfor low-income families becamean urgent and pressing problem forContinued on page 17 mSlavik and Gayane Khachatryan with their six children, Rebeka, Hrut, Ester,Hovsep, Zepyur, and Kristine. Photo: Armenian Reporter.
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 17ArmeniaBuilding homes in Armenia with the Fuller Center for Housingn Continued from page 16the state. Former hotels, schools,and kindergartens were convertedinto temporary housing. While thesolutions were considered temporary,years later many families continueto live in unsafe conditions.Finding solutions tocomplex problemsAccording to the Fuller Center forHousing Armenia, after the collapseof the Soviet Union and theensuing economic crisis, manyhomes were left unfinished. Theseunfinished structures can be seenstrewn throughout the country,desolate and decaying. Some familieslive in the dark, damp basementsof these structures, unableto find the resources to completethem. Fuller Center Armenia hasrecognized this as an opportunityto leverage resources already investedin housing solutions. Therefore,instead of helping one family,the program can help two orthree families, since completing ahalf-built home is more economicalthan building a house from theground up.Even for many families thathave had shelter, years of insufficientmaintenance and repair haveleft their homes deteriorated andnot fit to live in. Fuller also assistsfamilies to renovate existinghomes. In rural areas, where FullerCenter Armenia works predominantly,only 14.2 percent of housesare equipped with basic amenities(kitchen, toilet with drainingsystem, bathroom). Fuller CenterArmenia helps families install sanitationsystems that promote maintenanceof hygiene and a betterquality of life. The center also assistsfamilies replace broken asbestosroofs with corrugated tin roofson timber framework and also assistsin the installation of heatingsystems. When and if there areregions where prices are still moderateand affordable, Fuller assistsfamilies living in overcrowded conditionsor in domiks to purchase ahouse or an apartment. fconnect:www.fullercenterarmenia.orgto volunteer:firstname.lastname@example.orgHovsep and the bucket lineTen-year-old Hovsepik, as he isaffectionately called, is as rambunctiousas any other ten yearold you might come across at aplayground or in a shopping mall.The only difference is that Hovsepikis helping to build, togetherwith international and local volunteers,his family’s house fromthe ground up in the village wherehe was born. The other differenceis that Hovsepik doesn’t have arock band, an iPod, a computer, ora cell phone. The way he is runningaround trying to help makesyou that he probably doesn’t evenwant any of those things. At leastnot at the moment. At the moment,he is standing next to meon the bucket line, passing bucketsof cement and then collectingthe empty pails to pass down theother line. The organizers at theFuller Center are careful not to allowhim to work too long underthe blistering sun of the Araratvalley. As quickly as they pull himout of the line and send him insideto get some rest or to help hismother prepare the day’s lunch,he comes back out and defiantlystands in the bucket line onemore time. A constant smile onLocal volunteersHovsep during a water break.his face, a twinkle in his eye, witha small frame, tanned by the sun,you just want to scoop him up inyour arms and squeeze him.I ask Hovsepik if he’s happy thatthe Fuller Center is helping hisfamily build their home. “Yes,” hesays. He answers yes to every questionI give him. He tells me abouthis family, his sisters, their ages,their names in order of their birth.But he wants to run back and jointhe bucket line. The only thing youcan do is to let him go. fAlong with the international volunteerswho had come to Armenia,the alumni of the Future LeadersExchange Program, otherwiseknown as FLEX, were there for theday to help the family and interactwith the group.The Future Leaders Exchange(FLEX) is a scholarship programadministered by the U.S. Departmentof State through fundingfrom the Freedom Support Act.The program provides opportunitiesfor high school students fromthe former Soviet Union, includingRussia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia,Armenia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan,Kazakhstan, Tajikistan,Turkmenistan, and Krygyzstan, tospend a year in the United States,living with a family and attendingan American high school. The programwas created in 1992.There were ten young men andwomen who had taken part in theFLEX program, most of whomwere standing in the bucket line,while the more adventurous oneshad climbed up onto the roof ofthe Khachatryans’ home, helpingthe more experienced Fuller volunteers.A young woman, NaneMkrtchian, 19, who is a fourthyearstudent at Slavonakan Universityin Yerevan had gone tothe United States for the one yearexchange program with FLEX andhad lived in Utah. She took a fewminutes to talk with us about herimpressions. “We had come onlyfor this one day, but all of us haveenjoyed ourselves so much that wewant to come again and collaboratefurther,” she said. fFuller International volunteersThe Fuller Center’s internationalvolunteers were in Armenia fromJuly 15 to 23 to work with the Khachatryanfamily in Khor Virap.The team leader was Levon (Leo)Manuelian from New York. JoiningMr. Manuelian were individualsand families from differentparts of the United States. Therewere Bob and Pamela Gendryfrom Texas; Sam Droege with hisbeautiful daughters, 14-year-oldAnna and 16-year-old Wren andSam’s adopted son, 16-year-oldStuart Hean; Nadya Esenyan,also from New York had cometo Armenia for the first timewith her 16 year-old daughterAni and a family friend, TalarKeskinyan; there was PatriciaDaggy from New Jersey, GayleFriedman and 16-year-old JacobRosen, who with his tall andsturdy frame was getting thehardest jobs to do. For some ofthe international volunteers itwas their first experience buildinga home with Fuller Center forHousing. Others in the group hadbuilt homes in Mexico, Hungary,and other locales. For Nadya’sdaughter, Ani and her friend Talar,it was their first time ever inHard at work mixing cement.Armenia and they had chosen tobuild a home for an impoverishedfamily rather than come simply astourists. They came from diverseplaces, represented an age groupranging from 14 to 68 years, butthey came with a mission that istruly admirable.The Fuller Center staff in Armeniamade all the arrangements, includingsome sightseeing, but thevolunteers came with their ownmoney and time and more importantlywith the commitment thatevery family deserves to have decentshelter.fFuller Center intern Gevorg serenading volunteers during a lunch break.Establishing and ManagingInternational RelationsAn executive training programmefor Armenians worldwideSeptember 5 - 16, 2008, Ronde, DenmarkThe course focuses on how international business to business andperson to person relationships are established. Attendees will learnabout differences in thinking styles between cultures and how tocommunicate and negotiate effectively. Case studies include theScandinavian Welfare Model. $3200 per personincludes tuition, lodging, meals,sightseeing trips.Sponsored by Europahojskolen at Kalo, Denmark andthe European Education and Research Center, Armenia.All interested organisations and individuals should contactLiana Ohanyan for an application form and study packageby email email@example.com ortelephone at +37 491 817414.
18 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008ArmeniaFrom Armenia, in briefSecretary General ofCSTO in ArmeniaNikolay Borduzha, secretary generalof the Collective Security TreatyOrganization (CSTO), arrived inArmenia on July 21. He met withPresident Serge Sargsian, Secretaryof the National Security CouncilArtur Baghdasarian, ForeignMinister Edward Nalbandian,and Speaker of the parliamentTigran Torossian. At the regularsession of the Council of CSTO,which will take place in September,Armenia will assume the chair ofthe organization.According to the presidentialpress service, the sides discussed anumber of issues on deepening cooperationwithin the framework ofCSTO and also about “Rubezh 2008”joint military exercises (see below).“Rubezh 2008” militaryexercises kick off inYerevan“Rubezh 2008” (Border 2008) jointmilitary exercises of the CollectiveSecurity Treaty Organization(CSTO) were launched in Yerevanon July 22 with the participation ofall member-states: Armenia, Russia,Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan,Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.Present at the opening ceremonywas CSTO Secretary General NikolayBordyuzha, Armenian DefenseMinister Seyran Ohanian,Armenian Chief of Police AlikSargsian, and others.At the launching ceremony, Secretaryof the National SecurityCouncil of Armenia Artur Baghdasariansaid that CSTO’s objectiveis to contribute to regional andinternational security, includingincreasing the defensive capacityof its member-states. According toEGG DONOR WANTEDARMENIAN COUPLE ISLOOKINGFOR A BEAUTIFULARMENIAN EGG DONOR.COLLEGE STUDENTBETWEENTHE AGES OF 21 – 30.FEE FROM $firstname.lastname@example.org, the cooperation of CSTO member-statesis developing in severalspheres, among them combatingterrorism and illegal drug trafficking.According to Mediamax, theexercise scenario provides for theimplementation of a joint defensiveoperation to protect the sovereigntyand territorial integrity ofthe Republic of Armenia.Over 4,000 military personnel,employees of police bodies, the NationalSecurity Service, and otherdepartments will participate in theexercise.The field stage of the exercise willNikolayBordyuzhaand EdwardNalbandian.Photos:Photolure.take place on August 22 in the Armavirregion with the participationof military from Armenia, Russia,and Tajikistan.President of PACE visitsArmeniaThe president of the ParliamentaryAssembly of the Council of Europe,Luis Maria de Puige was in Yerevanfor a three-day official visit.On July 23 Luis Maria de Puigemet with members of the Armeniandelegation to PACE, the HeritageParty faction, senior membersof parliament, and membersof the parliamentary commissionset up to investigate the eventsof March 1. That same day, thepresident of PACE was receivedby Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian,followed by meetings withrepresentatives of different NGOs,Council of Europe diplomats, andFrom left: Nikolay Bordyuzha, Artur Baghdasarian, and Seyran Ohanian at theopening ceremonies of Rubezh 2008 military exercises.opposition politician Levon Ter-Petrossian.Luis Maria de Puige on July 24met with President Serge Sargsian,National Assembly SpeakerTigran Torossian, Foreign MinisterEdward Nalbandian, HumanRights Defender Armen Harutiunianand Catholicos Karekin II.Luis Maria de Puige’s visit ismeant to deepen cooperation betweenArmenia and PACE and topromote the implementation ofPACE Resolutions 1609 and 1620,which focus on democracy in Armenia.Armenian defenseminister receivesChinese militarydelegation...On July 21 Seyran Ohanian, Armenia’sdefense minister, receiveda Chinese military delegation ledState commission for protection of economic competition discusses wheat andflour prices in Armenia.by Major General Den Zingoun.During the meeting the sides discussedbilateral military-technicalcooperation.According to the press office ofthe Defense Ministry, 27 Armenianofficers have graduated from Chinesemilitary academies, with anothernine currently enrolled.... and with the BritishambassadorAlso on July 21, Defense MinisterOhanian received British Ambassadorto Armenia Charles Lonsdale.Mr. Ohanian said that Armeniais eager to continue militarytechnicalcooperation with GreatBritain, primarily in the area ofpeacekeeping. The Armenian ministeraffirmed that Armenia cansend a noncombat platoon to Afghanistan,where Great Britain hasover 8,000 troops.The sides also spoke about thepreparation of the military gamesto be held within the frameworkof the NATO Partnership for Peaceprogram in the autumn in Armenia.Labor and Social AffairsMinistry to constructnew seniors’ homeAnahit Gevorgian, the deputyhead of the senior and disabledcitizen’s department within theMinistry of Labor and Social Affairs,said that the ministry plansto build a new wing for older anddisabled people in Gyumri, Armenia’ssecond-largest city. The newwing will be able to accommodate20 people; a shelter for 30 homelesspeople will also be built.Ms. Gevorgian also said that thegovernment will financially assistby Armen HakobyanAccording to the office of theProsecutor General, Mher Baghdasarian,an aid to Armenia’sDeputy Prosecutor General MnatsakanSargisan was dismissedon charges of kidnapping, extortion,and armed assault.Shavarsh Gharibian, a businessperson,reported to policethat on July 16, on an invitation ofa woman, he went to a villa in theArzni Gorge. A while later, a manwho wanted Mr. Gharibian to relinquishownership of an apartmenthis father had purchasedfrom another person in 2005 cameto the villa. That man was allegedlyMher Baghdasarian.According to Mr. Gharibian’saccount, Mr. Baghdasarian andanother man by the name ofGrish kept him hostage for 15hours and continuously beat him.the Hans Kristian Kofred CharityOrganization, which will establisha mobile social assistance station.This mobile station will travel acrossYerevan during the night, providingclothes and food to homeless peoplewho do not wish to be moved toa temporary shelter.Nor Nork, a district of Yerevan,has provided a building to establisha center for seniors, which willoperate during business hours.Mission Armenia will organizedaytime services for senior citizensat a home in the Artsvanik villageof Syunik province. Also, financialsupport will be provided to the SeniorCitizen’s House of Vanadzor.Wheat and flourimporters blasted byState Commission onCompetitivenessArmenia’s state commission for theprotection of economic competition,during a meeting of the commission’ssenior members, blasted localimporters of wheat and flour. Thecommission said that while globallyThreatening him with a gun, theyforced him to sign a paper thatMher Baghdasarian had paid him(Shavarsh Gharibian) $135,000for the apartment. According toaccounts, Mr. Baghdasarian hadpreviously owned the apartmentin question. He had taken Mr.Gharibian’s father to court, demandingthat the apartment begiven back to him. The Gharibianseventually won the case onJuly 7 as rightful owners of theapartment.The kidnappers allegedly phonedMr. Gharibian’s father to tell himto formalize the handover of theapartment through a notary’s office.However, Mr. Gharibian’s fatherrefused to change the nameof ownership until they releasedhis son. Mr. Gharibian claims thatthe kidnappers then took him inhis own car on the Yerevan-Sevanhighway where their intentionwas to beat him unconscious andwheat and flour prices have beenfalling, the opposite trend is takingplace in Armenia, where commodityprices remain very high.According to Armenpress, AshotShahnazarian, chairperson of thecommission said that the globalprice of wheat fell 28–40 percentin the first quarter of the year, andthat due to the lifting of restrictionson wheat exports by Russiaand Ukraine, Armenian businesspeoplewould have been able tobring wheat and flour into thecountry at much cheaper rates.According to the commission, althoughsome batches of wheat wereimported at lower prices into thecountry, they were sold at very highprices. The gap between the customsand selling prices is very big.The customs cost of 1 kg of flour is130 drams but its selling price is between270 and 450 drams for 1 kg.President Serge Sargsian meeting with the delegation of the ArmenianEvangelical Association of America.The commission will launch aninvestigation into the wheat andflour market to determine at whichpoint the prices are being pushedup. Armenian law can penalizecompanies who abuse their dominancein the market in the amountof 2 percent of the company’s previousyear’s profits, but no more than300 million drams.President Sargsianreceives ArmenianEvangelical Associationof America delegationArmenia’s president received adelegation of the Armenian EvangelicalAssociation of America, ledby Executive Director AndrewContinued on page 19 mAssistant to deputy prosecutorgeneral charged with kidnappingthen push his car down an embankment.However Mr. Gharibian wasable to escape. However after runningabout 100–150 meters, thekidnappers caught up with himand began severely beating himonce again. However after passersby began to stop, the men took Mr.Gharibian’s car and escaped.A criminal investigation hasbeen launched. The two men areon the run. The prosecutor general’soffice stated that two daysafter the incident, Mr. Gharibian’scar was found on the Abovyan-NorHajn highway. Mr. Baghdasarian’smother on July 21 presented a gunallegedly used during the crime topolice.Mher Baghdasarian had beenworking for the prosecutor general’soffice since 2002 and as ofAugust 1, 2007 was the aid to thedeputy prosecutor general. f
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 19ArmeniaFrom Armenia, in briefn Continued from page 18Torikian. President Serge Sargsiancongratulated the ArmenianEvangelical Association on its 90thanniversary and stressed the importanceof the work done by diasporanArmenian organizations.The delegation briefed the Armenianpresident on their history andpast accomplishments and spokeabout projects that are being implementedby their organization inArmenia and Karabakh.Opposition figureGurgen Yeghiazarianfreed, another triedOn Monday, July 21, oppositionfigure Gurgen Yeghiazarian,who had been arrested in connectionwith the events following thepresidential elections in Armenia,was released from police custodypending trial. He is charged withplotting a coup d’etat; he maintainshis innocence and claims the chargesare politically motivated.At a news conference the followingday, Mr. Yeghiazarian denouncedPresident Serge Sargsian’sadministration, labeling it asa “fascist regime” RFE/RL reports.That same day, another prominentopposition figure, SmbatAyvazian, appeared in court. Mr.Ayvazian had been arrested severaldays before the events of March 1and was accused of illegal possessionof a knife and resisting arrest.Mr. Ayvazian demanded thatAghvan Hovsepian, Armenia’sprosecutor general, be summonedto court to personally substantiatethe charges. Judge Gagik Avetisianrejected his demand.Dozens of supporters presentduring the trial greeted the defendantwith applause and chants. Asa result of the ensuing chaos inthe courtroom, the judge expelledtwo opposition politicians, formerspeaker of the parliament BabkenArarktsian and former Ministerof Interior Suren Abrahamian.Hranush Hakobyan.Hranush Hakobyanrecommends Tebi YerkirmovementAccording to Armenpress, HranushHakobyan, who is to heada Diaspora Ministry set to beginoperations in October 2008, hassuggested that a new movement,“Towards Armenia” or Tebi Yerkir, beestablished.Ms. Hakobyan recently metwith the leaders of the ArmenianRevolutionary Federation, Countryof Law Party, and ProsperousArmenia, which are in a coalitionwith the ruling Republican Partyof Armenia. The focus of themeeting centered was preservingdiasporan-Armenians’ Armenianidentity and developing mechanismsfor utilizing the full potentialof the diaspora.According to the press office, thisidea was endorsed by the coalitionpartners. With this same intention,Ms. Hakobyan has also met withCatholicos Karekin II to presenther programs and vision.AGBU scouts in Armenia.AGBU holds firstdiaspora youth andscouts jamboree inArmeniaThe Armenian General BenevolentUnion (AGBU) is holding, for thefirst time, its diaspora youth andscouts chapters’ jamboree in Armenia.Some 300 scouts from Syria, Iraq,Lebanon, and Iran arrived in Armeniaon July 21 to take part in thejamboree, whose objective is to linkyoung diaspora-Armenians withthe homeland.The jamboree was held in Loriprovince, in the community ofLermontovo, where the AGBU hasbought property for a campground.The opening and blessing ceremonytook place on July 24.Armenian wines and grapes.Armenian wineproducers in state ofconstant crisisAccording to Mediamax, Avag Harutyunyan,chairperson of theUnion of Wine Makers, said thatwine producers in Armenia are in aconstant state of crisis.by Nyree AbrahamianOn Friday, July 18, 2008, Armenianyouth from around the world gatheredat Tsitsernakaberd for theopening ceremony of the secondbiannual AYF Worldwide BadaneganJamboree. The theme of thisyear’s gathering was “Getting toknow the homeland.” The weeklongjamboree ran until July 25and was attended by eleven groupshailing from nine countries: Armenia,Georgia, Iran, Lebanon, Syria,Kuwait, Greece, the United States,and Canada. The Badanis (juniors)range in age from 14 to 17.The AYF Jamborees are plannedon an alternating cycle, with juniorsgathering in Armenia one year andThe Kotayk booth at the Drink Expo in Yerevan . Photo: Photolure.Mr. Harutyunyan said that “almostall raw materials are directedto the production and export ofcognac and very little attentionis paid to wine.” About 1 millionbottles of wine are exported fromArmenia each year; however thecountry has the capacity to export6 million bottles, he said.Armenian legislation says that inorder to produce brandy, producershave to use local raw materials.“Before 1998, Armenian cognac hadbeen produced both from Armeniangrapes, and from imported ones; thishelped Armenia a lot in low-yieldyears,” Mr. Harutyunyan stated.The problem, he said, is thatgrapes meant for wine are beingused in the production of brandy.The union is trying to lobby thegovernment to reconsider thislegislation and allow the import ofgrape and cognac alcohol.First-ever specializeddrinks expo takes placein YerevanThe first international specializedDrinks Expo kicked off in Yerevanon July 23. About 25 local and foreignproducers of alcoholic andalcohol-free drinks took part inthe expo. According to organizers,the majority of participants arenew Armenian producers. Internationalparticipants include theRussian Zoloto Polubotka vodkacompany and some Belgian beercompanies.Artak Mirijanyan, commercialdirector of Prom Expo, saidthat this exhibition will help localproducers to attract new businesspartners.Increase in brandyproduction for first halfof 2008According to the National StatisticalService of Armenia, brandyseniors the next. They stay at acamp in Aghavnadzor, Kotayk Province.Four countries were representedat Friday’s event – Armenia, Iran(Tehran and New Julfa) Georgia(Javakhk), and the Western UnitedStates. The other groups would bearriving in the following days.Vahan Hovhannesian, memberof the Armenian RevolutionaryFederation’s Bureau, spoke at theevent, reminding the youth of thesignificance of the Tsitsernakaberdmemorial which was built in responseto the 24-hour mass protestheld in Yerevan on April 24, 1965,the 50th anniversary of the ArmenianGenocide. He stressed the importanceof keeping the spirit of the1965 protestors within our modernfight for Genocide recognition.production in Armenia increasedby 9.4 percent this year. However,during the same period, theproduction of vodka and distilleryproducts decreased by 4.3percent and the volume of wineproduction also decreased by 19.5percent.Children teach adults traffic rules onYerevan’s congested roads.Children teach adultstraffic rules in YerevanThe International Association ofLawyers and Psychologists helda special event in Yerevan called“Children teach traffic rules toadults.” The chairperson of the association,Khachatur Marozyan,said that through this event theyhope to impress upon adults theimportance of respecting and followingtraffic rules.Young people from the YoungLeaders’ School and the youth wingof the International Association ofLawyers and Psychologists, about150 in all, took part in the event infour districts of the capital city.The event was sponsored by themunicipality of Yerevan.The Byurakan Children’s DanceEnsemble performed severalnumbers, which had the youthon their feet and clapping to thebeat. Following the ceremony, thegroup gathered around the eternalflame for a moment of silence tocommemorate the victims of theGenocide. Next, they visited theGenocide Memorial Museum.For many, this was the first timeat Tsisternakaberd and althoughthere was a general air of excitementthat comes with meeting newfriends and seeing new places, itwas a moving experience. 15-yearoldLori Boghigian of Los Angelesput her emotions to words. “I’donly ever seen this place in booksbefore and I knew what it stoodfor,” she said, “But being here is aHail damages crops inShirakSevere thunderstorms and haildamaged crops in the region of Ani,in the province of Shirak. Farmersin the rural communities of Sarakap,Jrarpi, Haykadzor, Bagravan,and Aghin sustained heavy damages.According to Armenpress,the regional Agricultural SupportCenter said the storm hit crops andhomestead lands. It also said that acommission is to be set up by theregional governor to evaluate thedamage to see what assistance canbe offered.New anti-hail stationsto be installed in ShirakThe governor of Shirak, LidiaNanyan at a press briefing saidthat new anti-hail stations areto be installed in the region nextyear, Armenpress reports. Thispast year, six such stations wereassembled and installed in thenorthwestern province whichhave the ability to protect approximately600 hectares of landfrom hail.Through a government initiative,encompassing 57 rural communities,local farmers are beingencouraged to cultivate wheat andother cereals. The governor saidthat those farmers who cultivate atotal of 15,000 hectares of land willreceive a total of 494 million dramsin government subsidies, 35,000drams per one hectare.Births are up in Yerevan.7,411 babies born inYerevan in the first halfof 2008Armenpress reports that ArmenSoghoyan, head of the health andsocial issues department of the Cityof Yerevan, said that in the first sixmonths of 2008 7,411 babies wereborn in Yerevan, an increase of 5percent from 2007.fAYF World Badanegan Jamboree in Armeniacompletely different. It feels morereal.” Having just arrived from LosAngeles two days earlier, Lori waslooking forward to seeing more ofArmenia and forming her own impressionsof a place she had heardabout her whole life.Others saw this week’s jamboreeas a chance to get better acquaintedwith their homeland. MinehNazaryan, 16, could not containher excitement despite having justendured a 24-hour bus ride fromTehran. “There’s something aboutArmenia,” she said, “I’ve been herebefore, but every time I feel closerto this place. It feels like home.”Over the course of the week, AYFyouth from around the worldwould echo this emotion and finda home in Armenia.f
20 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008ArmeniaA visit with the Armenians of Tabrizby Tatul HakobyanTABRIZ, Iran – Father NersesBassilian lost his mother at theage of one. His father sent him tothe Armenian Bird’s Nest Orphanagein the coastal city of Jbail inLebanon. Afterward he was sentto Jerusalem, where he started hisspiritual service in the ArmenianPatriarchate there. For the past fewyears he has been ministering inchurches in Tabriz and its adjacentArmenian settlements.“Even if only a single Armenianremains here, I will continue myspiritual service in Tabriz. I can feelthat people need a clergyman here,”said Father Nerses. He lives in Tabrizwith his wife and two childrenand has adapted to the situation,even though he always remembershis birthplace, the pearl of theMediterranean, Beirut.In Atrpatakan (there are twoAtrpatakans in Iran: Eastern, withUrmia as its center, and Western,with Tabriz), the Armenian ApostolicChurch is mentioned from the12th century, which means that theArmenians have been present herefor at least eight centuries. Up tothe 1830s, the Tadeh monasterywas the center of the diocese, afterwhich Archbishop NikoghayosKarbetsi moved it to Tabriz.Today the number of Armeniansin the Atrpatakan diocese is about5–6 thousand, approximately 200of whom live in Tabriz. There areArmenian communities also in thecities of Urmia and Salmast and ina number of its surrounding settlements.The Armenians in Tabrizlive mainly in the city’s central districts:Lilava and Ghala.Armenians have had a numberof migrations from the Atrpatakandiocese settlements. First, after the1828 Russian-Armenian war, morethan 45 thousand Armenians andAssyrians moved to eastern Armenia.There they established newsettlements or lived next to the locals.Tens of thousands of IranianArmenians emigrated to Soviet Armeniain the 1940s. A significant,but not huge repatriation has alsooccurred during the recent 20 yearsof Armenia’s independence.Father Bassilian always advisesthose Armenians who have decidedto leave Atrpatakan to return tohistorical Armenia instead of movingto the United States, Europe, orAustralia. “Armenia and not Glendaleis the place for every Armenian,”he says.Grigor Manukian, 76, movedto Tabriz from the village of Darashamb.“My sisters live in Yerevan.They moved there during the1946 repatriation. I remained inTabriz with my family. Our numbersare constantly decreasing. Thenumber of those getting married isvery low. There is almost no youth,the numbers of those getting marriedis very low, there are almostno births and the numbers of thosedying is very high,” said Mr. Manukianand noted with regret thathe would like to move to Armeniawith his family, but he does nothave the means and he is old.Ara Ter-Stepanian moved toTabriz from Tehran. He believesSt. SarkisArmenianApostolic Churchin Tabriz. Photo:ArmenianReporter.An Iraqi-Armenian family struggles to integratethat even though the communityhas gotten smaller, Armenians willalways live in Atrpatakan. Mr. Ter-Stepanian lives in Tabriz with hiswife, midwife Christine Hakobian,while his sons moved to the “PromisedLand, America,” years ago.“In 1928, when Griboyedov organizedthe repatriation of Armeniansto eastern Armenia, only 5–6 Armenianclans remained in Tabriz. Lateron, the number of Armenians onceagainst started to increase. Duringthe Qajar dynasty, there were manywealthy Armenian trading families,such as the Tumanians and the Budaghians.Thousands of Armeniansmoved out during the Soviet yearsand settled in Armenia, but, as youcan see, there are still Armenians,”said Mr. Ter-Stepanian.There are many respected Armeniansin Tabriz. Even thoughTabriz and its regions are mainlypopulated with Turkic-speakingAzeris, relations between them andArmenians are neighborly. This ishow Socrat Abgarian, memberof the Diocesan Council, presentedthe relationship between the twopeoples, “The Armenians and Azerishave the same relationshiphere, as the Armenians and SovietAzeris did in Armenia during theSoviet Union. The only difference isthat we do not intermarry.”The Armenians are also respectedby the local authorities. The Armeniansresiding in Tabriz and itssurrounding settlements have producedmany famous silversmithsand other professionals: doctors,pharmacists, engineers, and bankers.In Tabriz many people knowthe Aghajanian sisters, Mariamand Hasmik, who were born inKhoy and who are both doctors.Hasmik is a well known pharmacist,owns her own drug store, and hastaught at medical school. Mariamis a gynecologist and obstetricianand has worked in the city’s hospitalfor the past 30 years.“We Armenians are highly respectedhere. The governmentpays attention to the community.Within the community we have ourrights. Unfortunately the numberof Armenians is constantly decreasing.Their departure make us lonelyand sad,” said Hasmik Aghajanian.However, our compatriots in Tabrizcontinue to create, preservethe churches, organize differentevents in the community, and invitefamous actors, singers, andwriters from Armenia, regardlessof their decreasing numbers.Painter and musician VardanVahramian is the conductor of theKomitas vocal quartet in Tabriz. Hishouse is more a studio, from whichthe pleasant sound of music is constantlyheard and the walls are decoratedwith the artist’s surreal paintings.Remembering her childhood,Marusia Vahramian, the motherof the family, recalls that during the1920s Tabriz had an Armenian populationof about 15 thousand.“After the collapse of the First Republic[in 1920] about 10 thousandArmenians, including renownedintellectuals and political figurescame to Tabriz. Architect AlexanderTamanian, painter GevorgBashinjaghian, linguist HrachiaAjarian, and other famous Armenianssettled here. Actors PetrosAdamian, Vahram Papazian, andSiranoush have performed on thisstage,” remembered Mrs. Marusian.Wherever Armenians settle, theydo three things first: open a school,construct a church, and publish anewspaper. Despite the decrease intheir numbers, the Armenians in Tabrizcontinue these important measuresaimed at preserving the Armenianidentity. Today four Armenianchurches function in the city, theAtrpatakan Diocese publishes theArtaz periodical, and the only Armenianschool here teaches its studentsthe Mesropian orthography, Armenianliterature, and religion.Armineh Hovsepian-Vahramianis the headmistress of the Armenianschool in Tabriz. “In my time,when I graduated from this school,the number of students reached600–700. Today 100-120 studentsattend the school,” said Mrs.Hovsepian-Vahramian.Tabriz is one of the closest citiesto Armenia with an Armenian community.That community can havemuch closer ties with the homeland.fBittersweetmoments in thehomelandby Armen HakobyanYEREVAN – The Bavukian familyis one of the hundreds of familieswho in recent years have foundshelter from the war in Iraq in thesafety of the motherland.“We came to Armenia in 2006.Of course every Armenian lovesArmenia and it is natural that wewould move to Armenia from Iraq,because here you don’t feel like aforeigner – this is your country.We were raised in Iraq with thebelief that Armenia is our truefatherland. We came because wewere worried about the security ofour children. You know the situationin Iraq and everything thatis taking place there,” said VaheBavukian.While Mr. Bavukian, the 42-yearoldfather of the family, spoke withus, his wife Shoghik, with typicalArmenian hospitality, set up a tableof sweets and soft drinks, and lateron joined in our conversation. Vaheand Shoghik have two children: 15-year-old Rosa, who during our visitwas at her grandparents’ home, and12-year-old Armen.Vahe recalls that they moved toArmenia using their own resources.The fact that Shoghik’s parents,Hovhannes and Hripsime Vardanians,had settled in Armenia fromwartorn Baghdad sometime earlierhad played a role in their decisionto come.When asked how the homelandgreeted them, Vahe and Shoghikreply with a gentle smile. “The factthat the Migration Departmentgave us a refugee permit is important.This is the best thing; the governmentwelcomed us and gave usthe temporary refugee status,” Mr.Bavukian said. Over the course ofthe interview it became clear thatthe role that the Armenian governmentplayed in helping Iraqi-Armenianfamilies settle and integrate inArmenia was limited to providingthem with refugee status.The Bavukians said that the ArmenianRed Cross supported themby distributing food and 20,000drams each month for an entireyear. Apart from that assistance,the UNCHR organized the purchaseof winter clothing and shoes forthe Iraqi-Armenians.Vahe and Shoghik Bavukian with their son Armen. Photo: Armenian Reporter.In search ofemploymentopportunitiesThe Bavukians have rented anapartment in one of the multistorybuildings in Yerevan’s southwesterndistrict. So far, Vahe andShoghik have been unable to findemployment. Vahe has a mathematicsdegree from Basra University;however, he never workedin that field. He owned a businessin Iraq. Shoghik is a hairdresser,which has helped them earn a littleincome during their more difficulttimes in Yerevan. Of course, herwages do not completely cover thefamily’s expenses, but it is betterthan nothing.“The main problem is employment,as well as accommodation. Rent isvery expensive and even when thereis income, we spend the majority ofour money on the rent. We also havelanguage issues and because of thiswe, the Iraqi-Armenians, have troublefinding jobs, when finding workis in itself a difficult thing,” notedVahe. “I have approached someplaces, but they have not acceptedme either because of the languagefactor or my age. My friends havealso tried to find work in differentoffices, but they too have failed becauseof their age.”Mr. Bavukian says that at best itis possible to find work as an unskilledlaborer, but even that isn’tvery easy. Judging by their stories,other issues have also not been resolvedsmoothly. Even though movingfrom Iraq to Armenia did notinterrupt their children’s educationthere were problems with integration,especially with the local schoolchildren.According to the Bavukians,their children, Armen andRosa, initially faced an unfriendlyreception at their local school.“The children had some issues interms of language. In the beginningthe other children were bullyingour children by calling them Arabs,hitting them, and throwing stonesat them. The teachers and administrationof the school were forced toexplain that our children are Armeniansjust like them. Currently wedo not have such problems and thechildren have become used to oneanother,” noted Mrs. Bavukian.The Bavukians are currently livingoff their dwindling savings. Itis apparent that financial stabilityis difficult to attain in the homeland.The family cannot affordto pay the fee for music lessons,5–10 thousand drams, at the localmusic school for their musicallyinclined son, Armen. Even suchsmall amounts are needed fortheir daily expenses. “Our immediatefuture is uncertain. You areunsettled because there is an accommodationproblem. If I leaveArmenia, I will return to Iraq. Icannot see myself elsewhere.These are the only two places I canlive,” noted Mr. Bavukian withbitterness, but at the same timewith his typical smile. f
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 21ArmeniaSecuring future generations by honoring ancestorsn Continued from page Mher Sadoyan, director of theATP Armenia Office, spoke aboutthe decision of Caroline Mugar toestablish the Armenia Tree Project.Seeing that tens of thousands oftrees had been cut down during theenergy crisis of the early 90s, Ms.Mugar was moved to act. She realizedthat an environmental tragedywas unfolding. Armenians weredesperate to find wood for heat andfuel and chopped trees down randomly.“An idea was born to starta tree planting project and createnurseries that would later servethe public,” he said. He noted that14 years ago ATP started with 3–4employees and it currently has 80employees in Armenia alone.The “strategicallyimportant” nurserySeyran Ananian, the mayor ofMargahovit, said that the ATP’s MirakFamily Nursery is strategicallyimportant. “In these conditions,first of all, jobs are being createdin the village. The second reasonis that the logged forests will berestored. In other words, we willbe able to bequeath forests and aflourishing nature to our futuregenerations,” said Mr. Ananian.The mayor said that of Margaabout70 percent of the able-bodiedmen in the village have left to findwork abroad, mainly to Russia. Aftertalking to the villagers for a few minutes,it becomes evident that theirnumber-one issue is employment.“The entire territory of the MirakFamily Nursery in Margahovit isfive hectares. Starting in 2009 thenursery will produce about 1 millionyoung saplings of pine, oak,and maple annually,” Mr. Sadoyansaid. He added that 17 people fromMargahovit currently work in theAttaches greatimportance to U.S.-Armenia relationsby Armen HakobyanYEREVAN – On July 21, PresidentSerge Sargsian held a press conferenceto report on the first 100 daysof his presidency. Questions directedto the president by journalistsduring the 90-minute press conferencecovered the domestic politicalsituation, regional cooperation, andinternational relations. The presidentalso spoke at length about theU.S.-Armenia relationship.The president was asked his prioritiesin developing relations betweenthe United States and Armenia.“We attach great importanceto our relations with the UnitedStates,” he said. “The United Stateshas allocated vast financial andhumanitarian aid to Armeniaever since its independence andwe have implemented numerousprojects with the United States.The United States is one of the cochairsof the OSCE Minsk Group,and even today we are continuingto deepen our relations with them.I am sure that in a few months,after the presidential elections inthe United States, we will continuestrengthening our relations withthat country,” Mr. Sargsian said.In response to a question concerningIran-Israel-U.S. relationsand the possibility of Armeniainitiating dialogue between thoseFrom left: Father Arakel Aljalian, Michael (Murielle’s husband), Murielle Mirak, Robert Mirak, and Mher Sadoyan . Photo:Armenian Reporter.nursery. “In the future we hope toincrease their number by another15. At the peak of the season, wehire 300–500 temporary workersin the Gegharkunik and Lori marzesto plant forests.” He noted thatthe monthly wages of the workersinvolved in the forest planting is 45thousand drams ($150).“In terms of reducing poverty,our activities started in the Aygutvillage in Gegharkunik province.Aygut was resettled in 1988–91by refugees from Azerbaijan’sArmenian-populated areas). Wecreated small backyard plots forthem and they have become integratedin the project with stablejobs. We buy young saplings grownthree countries, President Sargsiansaid, “Iran is an important partnerfor us and not only in geopoliticalterms, but also because we havegood cooperation. We have a largeArmenian community in Iran andwe share a common history: wehave lived next to one another forthousands of years. Tens of thousandsof Armenians live in Israel,we share similar tragedies – thememory of the Genocide and theHolocaust. We are good partnerswith the United States; the UnitedStates is one of Armenia’s greatestfriends, more than one million Armenianslive in the United Statesand, of course, we would not wantcomplications in the future. However,on the other hand, I do not believethat this is the occasion whenArmenia should act as a mediatorand offer its services. If one or all ofthose countries should consider usingArmenia’s resources, we wouldbe only too happy to contribute tothe process of peace.”Dialogue with theoppositionAsked about dialogue with oppositionpoliticians, Mr. Sargsian said,“I think that people misunderstandthis. When I say dialogue, I meandialogue with the people, within society,and not dialogue between thepresident of the country and a person,”he said. He added that suchprocesses must be ongoing and “weshould never consider that it is toolate for any kind of dialogue.”Mr. Sargsian was also asked aboutstatements made by oppositionpolitician Levon Ter-Petrossianby them, which are later plantedin nearby forests,” Mr. Sohigiansaid, explaining their approach.The ATP’s backyard nursery microenterpriseprogram was selectedas the National Winner for Armeniaof the Energy Globe Awards,also known as the World Awardfor Sustainability. ATP representativesattended the awards ceremonyon May 26 at the EuropeanParliament in Brussels, where theprogram was selected from among853 projects from 109 nations.Henrik Gabrielian is mayor ofthe Aygut village, which has a populationof 1,100. Some 350 refugeefamilies live there. “We have been cooperatingwith the ATP for five yearsduring one of his rallies. Mr. Ter-Petrossian had said that he is readyto cooperate and engage in a dialoguewith Mr. Sargsian on the conditionthat he release all the politicalprisoners within one day and withone phone call. He was asked whyand are very satisfied and gratefulto them for providing us with jobs.People have jobs, we earn money, wegrow young plants, and sell them tothe organization. We work togetherin harmony like a family and our residentstake care of the planted treesvery well,” Mr. Gabrielian explained.“My father never forgothis motherland”This background underlines the importanceof the Margahovit nurserymade possible by the Mirak family’sdonation, as well as similar initiativesimplemented elsewhere in Armeniaby the ATP, which receives itsfunds from over 3,000 donors.he didn’t respond to this proposal.“If they demand and hope tohold new elections, then whatwould we talk about? When tohold those elections? I am tiredof elections. I believe that thenext national elections will be inFather Arakel Aljalian blessedthe nursery, after which all thosegathered, both the Armeniansfrom the United States and thosefrom Armenia, recited the Lord’sPrayer. Robert Mirak is striking inhis youthfulness and agility. AfterMr. Sohigian’s speech of welcomeand gratitude, Mr. Mirak delivereda speech in Armenian.“Today we will dedicate this nurseryto the memory of John and ArtemisMirak. I am their eldest sonand I am very proud that today I ampresent here with my sister Murielleand her husband Michael,” he said.Noting that his parents were orphansfrom Arabkir, Mr. Mirak saidhis father changed his name “fromZaven Mirakian to John Mirak, inorder to further his success. However,even though he Americanizedhis name, my father never forgothis motherland.“My father passed away in 2000and my mother in 2003. They neverreturned to their birthplace. Myfather, in particular, longed to seehis beautiful Arabkir. I am sad thatmy father and mother are not presenttoday in order to see this amazingnursery, as this nursery bringstogether their favorite things:mountains, trees, and Armenianprojects. Wherever they may betoday, I know that they are happythat this project is stable and prosperous.Our family hopes that thisnursery will flourish and Armeniawill flourish for thousands andthousands of years.”The schoolchildren of Margahovitwho are included in ATP’snature preservation educationalprogram presented a beautiful performancefor the guests and passedout their colorful paintings to theguests on that memorable day.It is to them that the Miraksbequeath a future with theirgenerosity.fArmenia’s president reports on his first 100 days in officeAncient Country, Modern Financial Solutionsfour years, at the right time. Asfar as releasing dozens of peoplewith a single call, that is a verybad temptation, because releasingdozens of people with one callalso means imprisoning dozens ofpeople with a single call.” fAn integrated financial services group offeringinnovative, flexible, affordable, easy access intermediationto a broad customer base,and a progressive forceencouraging investmentinto Armenia.
22 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008EditorialSo far, Ankara offers no cause for optimismthe armenianreporterThis week, Presidents Abdullah Gül of Turkey, Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, and Ilham Aliyevof Azerbaijan got together in Kars to kick off the construction of the Turkish segment of theKars-Tbilisi-Baku railroad. The existing rail connection between Kars and Tbilisi, over Gyumriin Armenia, has not operated since Turkey closed the Turkish-Armenian border in 1993.The Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railroad project, with which the three heads of state are conspicuouslymoving forward, is based on a disturbing premise: the hostility of Turkey and Azerbaijantoward Armenia will continue indefinitely, and regional infrastructure projects shouldaccommodate this reality.Azerbaijan clearly has no intention of accepting a compromise settlement of the Karabakhconflict, and thus has no plans to work toward the eventual establishment of open borders,trade, and general good-neighborly relations with Armenia.How about Turkey? Does its leadership have any interest in establishing diplomatic relationswith Armenia and opening the border?The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) occasionally shows signs that it seeksto distance itself from the rabid anti-Armenianism of the forces it displaced from power in2002, ultranationalist forces that are deeply entrenched in the military, judiciary, and otherinfluential circles.But every positive sign to date has been a false start; the AKP leadership has faltered in theimplementation.First there was the promise to restore the Armenian Holy Cross Cathedral at Aghtamar inLake Van. The project could have served as an acknowledgement of the Armenian civilizationthat thrived for millennia in the Armenian plateau. It could have been a gesture of goodwill, arare symbol in Turkey of tolerance for ethnic diversity, an opportunity for Turkish and Armenianarcheologists and others to work together. In the end, the restored Cathedral of the HolyCross – minus a cross that had been built but was never installed – was opened as a Turkishmuseum, as our correspondent Tatul Hakobyan reported from Aghtamar in 2007. It was notreturned to the Armenian Church, nor is the Church allowed to carry out services in it.Then there was the prosecution of the murderous conspiracy to intimidate Armeniansin Turkey, which culminated with the assassination of Hrant Dink in January 2007. TheAKP leadership showed the right amount of outrage after the murder; high-level officialswere dismissed from their posts and a broad investigation was initiated. The AKP leadershipoccasionally uses this case as a tool in its struggle with its entrenched rivals. But itshows few signs of the political will required to move forward in a thorough and courageousmanner.Now there is President Abdullah Gul’s visit, this week, to Ani, the uninhabited medieval Armeniancapital on the Turkish side of the border with current-day Armenia. The visit comes inthe wake of overtures by President Serge Sargsian of Armenia. Mr. Sargsian invited Mr. Gül tojoin him in Yerevan on September 6 to watch the World Cup qualifying soccer match betweenthe national teams of Armenia and Turkey. (No answer yet from Mr. Gül.) Meanwhile, Mr.Sargsian has confirmed reports that Armenian and Turkish diplomats held a secret consultationin early July.Mr. Gül’s visit to Ani was presented as some sort of goodwill gesture on his part. That wasthe interpretation preferred by Turkish and foreign correspondents who joined Mr. Gül forhis tour of Ani – even though the main purpose of the excursion to eastern Asia Minor wasthe groundbreaking ceremony the next day for the Armenia-bypass railroad.That interpretation may have stood had the Armenian Reporter not sent its own correspondentto cover the presidential visit. As Tatul Hakobyan reports in the news pages of thisweek’s issue, Mr. Gül had nothing positive to say during his visit.Instead of acknowledging the significance of Ani as the capital of the medieval ArmenianBagratid state, or its immense architectural interest as City of 1,001 Churches, or making anyreference to the Armenian heritage it exudes, these were the words he could manage: “Ani is avery important place for us because Turks first entered Anatolia through Ani,”Instead of calling for an effort to better preserve the invaluable historic site – and the manyArmenian historic monuments across Asia Minor that are neglected by the state – he foundit appropriate to shift blame for the deterioration of the site to mining operations across theArmenian border.In Kars, our correspondent gave Mr. Gül an opportunity to say something positive. Mentioninga centuries-old ruined bridge across the Akhurian River – which serves as part of theborder between Armenia and Turkey – he asked Mr. Gül, “Don’t you think it can be reconstructedas a new bridge between Armenia and Turkey?” The Turkish president simply reiteratedlongstanding Turkish policy, which, he said, “is so clear.”It was another wasted opportunity. It was another sign that anti-Armenian hostility isdeeply ingrained.Contrary to some dire predictions a decade or more ago, Armenia has experienced impressiveeconomic growth in spite of closed borders to the east and west. It is thus not indesperation that Armenia seeks open borders and good-neighborly relations. Armenia isright to have a constructive attitude, seeking normal relations, setting no preconditions,but also declining to be blackmailed into accepting preconditions imposed by Turkey.It is up to Turkey and its leadership to overcome its long legacy of chauvinism domesticallyand internationally and to demonstrate that it can cultivate friendly relations with all itsneighbors as befits a European state of the 21st century.We believe Turkey can do so. Unfortunately, our encounters with Turkey’s head of state thisweek give us no reason to believe the Turkish leadership today is committed to doing so.The United States must do more – much more than the Bush administration is doing today– to help Turkey and its leadership make the commitment to ending chauvinism and cultivatinggood-neighborly relations. As Armenian-Americans, we must do our part through thepolitical process in the United States, supporting the election of officials who understand theimportance of this matter and urging them to act accordingly.fTrustee contributions to the AGMMFrom left, Presidents Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, Abdullah Gul of Turkey, and Ilham Aliyev ofAzerbaijan stand during a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Turkish stretch ofa railway linking the three countries, in Kars, Thursday, July 24, 2008. The $600 million rail line willconnect the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, with Kars, via the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. AP Photo.Armenian Reporter (ISSN 0004-2358), an independent newspaper,is published weekly by Armenian Reporter llc.Gerard L. Cafesjian, President and ceoPublisher Sylva A. BoghossianOffice manager Lisa KopooshianCopyright © 2008 by ArmenianReporter llc. All Rights ReservedPeriodicals postage paid at Paramus, N.J., andadditional mailing offices.POSTMASTER: Send address changes to PO Box129, Paramus, NJ 07652-0129.The views expressed, except in the editorial, arenot necessarily those of the publishers.Editor Vincent LimaWestern U.S. Bureau Chief andArts & Culture editor Paul ChaderjianWashington editor Emil SanamyanAssociate editor Maria TitizianAssistant to the Editor Seda StepanyanCopy editor Ishkhan JinbashianArt director Grigor HakobyanLayout assistant Nareh BalianFinancial contributions by former and current members of the Board of Trustees of Armenian Genocide Museumand Memorial (AGMM) for the benefit of the AGMM as of September 2006.The Armenian Reporter is your newspaper. We urge you to send us your news and yourviews.News. Please send your news to .Letters. Please send your letters to Letters should be no morethan 250 words long and may be edited for clarity. 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The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008 23CommentaryLiving inArmeniaRekindling the spirit of volunteerismby Maria TitizianThere are incidents which move us to becomeengaged, which motivate us, and which makeus take action. Throughout the years of ourlives here in Armenia, I have taken it uponmyself to do things that make many localslook at me funny.I always knew that I, or anyone else inmy position, would not be able to make anymonumental changes in the direction anddevelopment of this country. Everything hadto be done in small measures, in small stepsintermingled with lots of patience and lots offrustration.Whenever I did take action, people wouldquestion my motives – maybe not so muchthe motives – but the potential outcome, ifany. I have called to complain about sexistcommercials which threatened to overtakeArmenia’s airwaves, inciting, throughmy rage, my friends to do the same. I havecalled television stations to complain. Ihave tried, in very small measures, to makechanges in the way women were objectifiedin the media, and in society in general. Iknow that I was rarely successful. But atleast I tried.A few months ago, I found out that therewas a traffic police hotline I could call toinform the responsible authorities if therewas a traffic accident, or congestion. I haveabused that civil right endlessly, calling at everyopportunity to complain about gridlockand traffic lights that don’t work. Lately Ihave even called to complain that after repavingthe road by my house, they didn’t botherto paint the white lines, causing people todrive even more erratically than before. Ifsaid authorities have call display, and havefigured out who I am, they may very possiblyissue me a ticket for harrassment. I’ll take mychances and keep calling.Eyebrows are raised, and eyeballs arerolled, but I can’t help myself. Public action isthe only way to affect change, but my publicaction has often been solitary and therebyineffective.A weekend roadtrip inArmeniaby Nyree AbrahamianThe spirit of community, of everyone workingfor the public good has somehow beenmisplaced in Armenia. I fear that it nevereven existed. Volunteerism, when and whereit did occur, was legislated during the Sovietera, hence making it distasteful for mostwho remember the days they would have togo and clean up a public park or a courtyard.These were call Shapatoriakner from the Armenianword for Saturday.Once we had organized an art exhibitionfor a benefit at one of the local museums.The day of the opening, the director of themuseum informed us that he was going tomention our names in his speech. Whenwe protested and said that we didn’t wantour names publicized, he stared at us andcouldn’t quite comprehend the meaning behindour request. He said, after all the timeand effort we had spent, why wouldn’t wewant to be recognized? He didn’t understandthat it wasn’t about us; we were doing somethingin which we believed.Volunteerism is something that is sorelylacking in Armenian society. A friend mightgive another friend a new car as a gift, butthat same person will not consider donatinghis time to help clean up a park.Sometimes when I begin to lose my faith,I stumble across people who through theirpersonal example, are paving the way of enlightenmentfor our new generation. Theyare the modern heroes of our country and Ibelieve they need to be recognized.Some days ago I received an e-mail fromone of our readers in the United States. Heinformed me that he would be in Armenia tohelp build a home for a family with the FullerCenter for Housing. He invited me to comeand join them for a day in the village of KhorVirap to help a family of eight who had nohome, build a dream.I couldn’t refuse.Last Friday, with a colleague from the Reporter,we drove out to Khor Virap to jointhe international volunteer team who hadtravelled from the United States to Armeniafor the sole purpose of building a home. Formany it was their first time in Armenia. I wasWe left Yerevan Saturday morning, a motleycrew of repats and diaspora Armenians – tenfriends from Toronto, New York, San Francisco,Los Angeles, Aleppo, and Tehran – anda driver named Tarzan. We had been planningour trip to Tatev Monastery and SadaniGamourj (Devil’s Bridge) for a week, whichis about as much time as we’ve ever put intoorganizing one of our weekend adventures.Still, we only had a vague idea of what thejourney ahead of us would bring.Tatev is only about 200 km (120 miles)southeast of Yerevan, but thanks to themountainous landscape and rough roads, theride takes four hours on a good day. We wereoriginally considering taking a marshrutka (aminibus about the size of a large van – themain mode of public transport in Armenia)to Goris and taking taxis from there to Tatev,but that would have been a hassle with allour bags and a strain on our limited funds.The day before we left, a friend recommendedTarzan, a marshrutka driver who coversthe number-120 route in Yerevan and takesgroups on excursions out of the city for alittle extra cash on his days off. (Incidentally,that is his real name. His parents actuallynamed him after the Tarzan who was apparentlyall the rage in 1950s Armenia.) So forthe weekend, we had our very own rusty orangemarshrutka and private chauffeur, all foronly about $20 per person.Tarzan’s friend Arshavir came along for theride. He wanted to visit his family in Shinuhayrvillage, near Tatev. The two spent theentire ride there and back taking cheap shotsat each other. It was usually the same joke;Arshavir would say something about Tarzanfalling out of a tree and Tarzan would call Arshavira monkey. Perhaps not so funny now,but we found it hilarious every time.In typical road-trip fashion, we took waytoo many breaks on the way there. Hardlyhalf an hour went by without us stopping forroadside watermelons, peaches, moonshine,gas, or bathrooms. We stopped in Goris topick up groceries – meat, bread, tomatoes,and eggplant – and continued to Shinuhayr,a village of about 400 people, whereArshavir proudly informed us, there livedan American. “Dagen from America lives inmy village,” he said, “Do you know him?” Ofcourse none of us knew the guy but we wereintrigued, so we stopped by his apartmentto see if he would join us for khorovadz atSadani Gamourj.“Dagen from America” turned out to be aNebraskan Peace Corps volunteer who hadlived in the villages of Syunik for three years.Khorovadz, stalactites, and hanging with TarzanPeering into the valley below from TatevMonastery. Photo: Armenian Reporter.Levon Manuelian at work in Khor Virap. Photo:Armenian Reporter.His fluency in Armenian and in the villagedialect put us all to shame. He even taughtme some new words, like djori (mule). Neverin my life have I had to say “mule” in Armenian,but I guess when you live in Shinuhayr,it becomes part of your everyday vocabulary.By the time we got to Sadani Gamourj, itwas already evening and we were gettinghungry. But we also wanted to swim underthe famous Devil’s Bridge. Tarzan and Arshavirstarted preparing the fire for khorovadzand suggested that the men help them withthe barbecue while the women go to swim.My four girlfriends and I were not at all opposedto this idea. For once, gender stereotypeswere working in our favor and we tookfull advantage.Sadani Gamourj is a monument protectedby the World Wildlife Fund. Its naturalbridge was formed by centuries of mineralsand calcium salt sediments accumulatingalong the river. We had heard stories andseen pictures of rock formations under thebridge, but none of them did justice to thereal beauty of the place. Once we got down tothe bottom of the gorge, it was like a differentworld. Somehow, the name Devil’s Bridgedid not seem so fitting. The rocks were green,purple and pink. There were stalactites hangingoverhead, cool springs, deep pools, andwarm mineral waterfalls at almost everyturn. When we finally emerged on the otherside of the bridge, we felt like we had justdiscovered paradise.By the time we got back up to the top ofthe gorge, the khorovadz was getting coldand our men were getting impatient. As wefeasted, we assured them that we’d be backtomorrow and tried to play it like they didn’tmiss much. Soon the genatses started flowingand the guys cheered up, forgetting thatthey were supposed to be sulking.Tarzan had bumped into some old friendswhile barbecuing and by the time he was ableto say goodbye to them, it was already dark.This made driving up to Tatev Village a littletricky. Under the best circumstances, theanxious to meet my new friend, Leo Manuelian,who as it turns out has been coming toArmenia every year for the past five years tohelp impoverished families with no shelterbuild a family home.When we arrived, the volunteers were busyat work. Some were working on the roof, otherswere standing in a bucket line, handingbuckets of cement hand to hand, to lay downthe new floor of the house. Members of therecipient family, their relatives, and fellowvillagers were also on hand, along with internationaland local volunteers. A small civilizationin matching t-shirts and work gloveswere busy at work. A group of selfless peoplecoming together to help rebuild the lives ofanother small civilization.There were Americans, diaspora Armenians,and local Armenians, a small model ofa global village busy at work.We were given our own t-shirts and glovesand set to work. During a water break, oneof the Fuller staff took me to see Leo – therebefore me was a robust, sunburned face takenover by Armenian eyes, full of infinitekindness.Leo was born in New York, the child ofGenocide survivors. I don’t know what Leodoes back in New York, but I do know thatmost summers he comes to Armenia, sometimeswith his family, this time on his own,to build homes, and this year was the leaderof the Fuller volunteer team.Under the blistering sun on an unusuallyhot dry summer day in the Araratian valley,Leo worked alongside volunteers of all ages.Young local volunteers had also come to jointhe Fuller team, and while listening to music,worked tirelessly for hours, hoping to finishlaying down the floor that day, before theymoved on to the next task.These young volunteers were inspired byLeo and his team. They said they wanted tocome back and help some more. So did we all.When people in Armenia hear that peoplefrom the United States, not Armenians, butAmericans have come to this country, sometimeseven with their children, to help builda home for a poverty-stricken family, theycan’t understand it; they don’t know what tomake of it. To volunteer in your own neighborhoodmight be something comprehensible,but to travel thousands of miles to aforeign country to help one family . . . well,it’s difficult to understand.Today there are many international and localNGOs that provide a multitude of opportunitiesfor volunteering in Armenia. Thousandsof diaspora Armenians have made thejourney to the homeland to volunteer theirtime, money, and expertise. Many NGOswould stop functioning or seriously curtailtheir activities if they didn’t have volunteers.This spirit of giving, of community servicemust become ingrained in Armenian society.As for people like Leo, they will continueto come and give of themselves. No monumentalchanges, only small steps, in smallmeasures to help build a nation.Hats off to them.fWhen the paper went to press, the white lines hadbeen drawn on the newly paved road by Maria’shouse.ride up to Tatev – carving up a steep mountain’sedge on a dirt road with no guardrail– keeps you on the edge of your seat. Whenit’s pitch black and you’re sitting in a ricketyold marshrutka, things get a little more interesting.We had to get out and push a fewtimes, but eventually, we made it up to Tatevin one piece.The original plan was to camp out by themonastery, but it was too dark to set up campand we really didn’t have the proper equipment.At this point, I was so tired, I couldhave passed out in the nearest pile of hay.Luckily, Dagen knew a Peace Corps volunteerin Tatev Village who was kind enough to takeus in. After a while, the sleepiness wore offand we stayed up all night playing cards, eatingcheese, and picking up where we left offwith the genatses. (When in Armenia…)The next morning we walked to TatevMonastery, one of my favorite spots in Armenia.Perched way up high at the top of asteep cliff, its location gives the walled complexan intrinsic sense of spirituality. There issomething about those mountains that justdraws me in and makes me never want tocome down.But we had made a promise to the guys,so we eventually left the monastery andheaded back to the Devil’s Bridge. It wasjust as breathtaking the second time around.Someone commented that it was a shame wecouldn’t take our cameras down there, but Ithink I like it better that way. It makes theplace and the memories all the more special.Pictures could not have captured the experiencewe shared; a group of friends fromall over the world, together discovering ourhomeland.My friends back in Toronto often ask mewhat life is like here and I always find it hardto explain, but our weekend in Tatev sums itup pretty well. You never know whom you’llmeet, where you’ll end up, what’s under thebridge or on the other side until you’re actuallyliving it. Life in Armenia is completelyand wonderfully unpredictable. f
24 The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008The thing I miss seeing the most?I miss seeing mygrandchildren grow up...Thousands of older Armenians accept blindness as a part ofaging when it can be corrected with a simple surgery.We provide those surgeries with your help.aecp the armenian eyecare projectPlease send your donation to: P.O. Box 5630, Newport Beach, CA 92662Toll Free: 866-448-2327 • Fax: 949-673-2356 • email@example.com • www.eyecareproject.combringing sight to armenian eyes
The Armenian Reporter | July 26, 2008