By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BOCHUM, Germany — Exactly one year ago, as Germans celebrated Pentacost, a massive storm “Ela,” swept through the industrial heartland of the Ruhr, destroying thousands of trees. As Azat Ordukhanyan, Chairman of the Armenian Academic Society 1860, witnessed the devastation in Bochum, he was reminded of the 1988 earthquake that struck his native land in his student days in Yerevan. Germany — both east and west — had at the time joined many other nations worldwide to provide relief, and in a spirit of gratitude and compassion, he decided to organize a donation of 155 trees from Armenia to plant in Bochum. It was to celebrate the 155th anniversary of the founding (in Leipzig) of his Armenian Academic Society that he chose that number.
Bureaucratic technicalities proved to be of no consequence, as the city’s mayor, Dr. Ottilie Scholz, and the city council readily agreed. In December 2014 Ordukhanyan flew to Armenia for talks with the relevant ministry officials dealing with ecology and agriculture, and they offered to supply the trees from their nursery at the Sangesur Institute in Kapan in southern Armenia. Consideration of where the trees should be planted in Bochum gave rise to the idea of setting up two friendship gardens, one in Bochum and the other in Yerevan.
On January 21, 2015, the President of the German Bundestag Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert (the same who was to chair the historic parliamentary debate on the genocide on April 24 this year) met with citizens in Bochum and decided to place the donation and the friendship gardens under his patronage. On April 11 Ordukhanyan planted the first tree for a German Garden in Yerevan and flew back home with 155 saplings (plus 50 more). Following talks with the city officials responsible for public parks and visits to possible sites where the storm had wrought massive damage, it was decided to plant the first official Armenian plane, walnut, willow and lilac trees in fallow land in a park near the city center on April 18, 2015. In a sign of friendship, the city was to plant a linden tree there.