Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Crossroads, Connections and Unexpected Reunions

April 21

My alarm clock goes off at 7:15. I drag myself out of bed to start my day. It is April 21, and the countdown to the 24th is in full swing. I know that a busy day is ahead, but by the time I drag myself home at 11:30 pm, the word "busy" no longer applies.

I have an early morning meeting scheduled with a journalist from the Irish Times, who is in town to report on the commemoration ceremonies planned for the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. About 45 minutes into the interview, I look up and see two of my dear friends from Australia, Varant and Houry, walking toward my office. They have decided to pay me an unexpected visit. They have come to Yerevan because they couldn't not be here. It is a joyful reunion. We say goodbye to our now Irish friend, sit down for a quick chat until I get called away to a meeting.

Hrayr Jebejian, the General Secretary of the Bible Society of the Arabian Gulf comes in later in the day for a scheduled interview. Just as we are going to walk to the studio, a couple from Montreal comes to CivilNet. Dr. Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian, a psychiatrist and her husband Dr. Jirair Kuyumjian are loyal viewers of CivilNet and have decided to stop by our office. There are handshakes and many kind words exchanged. In the middle of the conversation, I find out that Rita is here because a book she had written was translated in Armenian and she is here for the launch that is going to take place at the Genocide Museum-Institute the following day. I had read her book, "Archeology of Madness, Komitas, Portrait of an Armenian Icon" years ago and I am thrilled that I am getting the chance to meet the author. We agree for her to come in the next day for an interview.

Then I interview Tatevik Revazian from Copenhagen, a young woman who was instrumental in having the city agree to erect a sculpture for the Armenian Genocide, which is being protested by the Turks of Denmark. Afterward, Pierre Akkelian, the President of Canadian Gem and founder of the Armenian Jewelers Association is scheduled to come in for an interview about an exhibition that will take place in St. Petersburg called the Treasures of Western Armenia. But before he arrives, Kourken Sarkissian, the founder and president of Zoryan Institute arrives with Professor Roger Smith and a few of the students who have taken part in the Institute's Genocide studies course. 

As we sit around the conference table, Pierre arrives. The discussion is about Genocide recognition and where we go from here. I interview Pierre, and then I have another interview with an Argentinian-Armenian human rights lawyer. Just as they leave, my former colleague Paul Chaderjian, who now works for Al Jazeera stops by. After he leaves, I go to Derian Kebab to meet up with my Australian friends for a late dinner. It's 8:30, and I'm really really tired.

I walk into Derian Kebab and there I see a large Norwegian delegation. Tim Straight, the honorary consul of Norway, Jussi Flemming Bioern, the grandson of Bodil Biorn, a Norwegian missionary who saved thousands of Armenian lives during the Genocide are there. Hugs, introductions follow. The mayor of Kragero, Norway is there, historian Bard Larsen is there. Toasts are made, food is ordered and after a couple of glasses of wine, all is good.

Just as the evening is winding down, a young man walks in, he looks familiar, but hey, everyone looks familiar at this point. He walks up to Jussi and says, "Don't you remember me? I went to Der Zor with you in 2004." Jussi, at this point, is absolutely stunned, he can't believe it. He holds the young man's face with his hands and I think he's crying. I look at the young man and realize it's Kevork Hagopjian, whom I had met in London a few years ago. Kevork is from Aleppo and he was doing his masters in London. I stand up and say, "Kevork?" As I do, my chair tips over, I bend down to pick it up, hug Kevork, turn around and see two other friends, Annette and Armine from London. More hugs, more hugs, more hugs....Armenia is the most bizarre, yet most beautiful place on earth at this moment.

As Tim says, "This Is Armenia."

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