By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BOCHUM, Germany — For centuries Germany and Armenia have maintained friendly relations, but there are probably only a handful of individuals, whether in Berlin or Yerevan, who have any inkling of this fact. For broader layers of the two populations, it is virtually unknown. But thanks to the initiative of Armenians and their German friends in the city of Bochum, the exciting history of this close relationship is being brought to light. On September 12 an overflow crowd of members of the Bochum community showed up for an event titled, “Gardens of Friendship link Orient and Occident – Yerevan and Bochum.” The gathering was organized in the form of an open interview conducted by German author Heide Rieck with Armenian historian and doctoral candidate Azat Ordukhanyan, who chairs the Armenian Academic Association 1860, the oldest Armenian organisation in Germany. In the course of their discussion, they shed light not only on the history of this bond of friendship, which was shattered by two world wars and two genocides, but on the perspectives for future development.
Back in spring of 2014, when violent hurricanes wrought havoc in Bochum, devastating thousands of trees, Ordukhanyan decided spontaneously with the board of his association to donate 155 trees from Armenia to this, his adopted city, in commemoration of the willingness to help displayed by East and West Germany after the earthquakes in Armenia in 1988. At that time he was a student in Yerevan. These gestures of good will inspired him to launch the idea of Friendship Gardens, one in Yerevan, his birthplace, and one in Bochum, his adopted place of residence. The initiative enjoys the patronage of Prof. Norbert Lammert, speaker of the German Parliament, Bundestag. On October 17, 2015 a third garden will be established in Yeghegnadzor, whose university is 100 years older than that of Heidelberg and whose museum displays the world’s oldest leather shoe.
Following introductory remarks by Rieck, Ordukhanyan delivered an illustrated lecture tracing the history of representative Armenian personalities in Germany. She mentioned that plans are afoot for a seminar on the German presence in Armenia.
The second part of the event featured reports on the planting of Armenian trees in Bochum. And the third part was dedicated to the melodies of poetical language, both Armenian and German. Rieck was joined by a local Armenian, to read selections from a bilingual volume of poems by Parujr Sevbak, just released by Schiler Verlag in Berlin. The translations are the joint effort of Heide Rieck and Agapi Mkrtchjan, an Armenian poetess and author from Wiesbaden, entitled, “Parujr Sewak – Und sticht in meine Seele – 24 und 4 Gedichte”.