Armenia, an outsiders’ view.
Over the years my thoughts have often dwelt on Armenia and my desire to visit strengthened over that time. This interested goes back to my paternal grandmother, father’s mother who never learnt to speak English and I suppose for cultural reason never really got on with my mother, or for that matter members of her family. My father at the time of his death possessed in his library a book written by his brother Petros Creet about George V. After his death a few weeks before end of the second world war, my Mother’s decided to migrated to Australia, so that I lost contact with the Armenian side of our family. Apart from the occasional letter from his elder brother Leo and my grandmother, I would never have realised that I had any Armenian heritage at all. Later I discovered that the book about George V, who was the Supreme Catholicos of All Armenians, from 1911-1930, during that dark stain on Armenian history the 1915 Genocide. He attempted to aid and organizes relief for the thousands of people driven from their homes, no small task. As an added bonus he was the person who appeared in our family photo album, naturally I felt curious about his life. When I decided to visit the country I had no idea who he really was or why my Uncle had written the book.
During my recent visit I decided to attend a High Sung Mass held at St. Echmiastsin Cathedral outside of Yerevan Armenia's Mother Church, the service was wonderful, both the male and female parts lead by great singers was an experience in itself. After the service, I decided to show the photo in my uncle’s book to a priest asking whether he knew who this person was, and it was only then that I discovered his true identity. Much to my surprise he told me he was buried right next door to the Cathedral entrance and showed me the grave. He was a much loved bishop and as Supreme Catholicos during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 had the task of organizing relief for the refugees and wounded soldiers and their families.
The city of Yerevan itself proved to be an even greater surprise, not the typical grey Soviet style city suggested in guide books, but instead I was confronted with what seemingly on the surface at least was a modern city of wide tree lined boulevards, smartly dressed citizens, and extremely attractive young women searching the shop windows for the latest Parisian fashions. All this did not equate to the guide book description of a very poor country with a very low wage structure, nor did the description equate with the packed street café and restaurants. It would appear that the city has somehow reinvented itself since the collapse of the USSR. New building everywhere in the soft pink Armenian stone embellished with relief sculptures for which the country is famous. An abundance of parks, squares and fountains all created a very pleasant experience. One of the most satisfying aspects was the recognition of Armenian song birds, the poets, artists, composers and creative former intellectuals with the erection of memorial sculptures and statues to pay homage to them.