NICE, France – A new wave of Armenians came to Nice after the Armenian Genocide, in the early 1920s. A local Armenian church, St. Mary, was consecrated in 1928. Today there are approximately 4-5,000 Armenians living in the city, and aside from the church and school, a number of monuments and signs referring to them.
The Armenian presence remains vivid in the streets of the city. In one spot, on the Rue de France, a plaque commemorates Nechan Der Mardirossian (though his name is misspelled) and his two companions of Italian origin, who resisted soldiers of the German army and the French police in March 1944. While two were killed during the fight, Der Mardirossian was wounded and died in a nearby hospital. The three fought as members of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans Français, a French Communist resistance force to the Nazi occupation.
During a visit this summer, at first glance, the store sign “Garni” appeared to be an obscure version of a French word, until several women speaking Eastern Armenian were spotted in its vicinity. After walking a few more minutes, a store with “Nver” written on its bilingual front made it clear that the Armenian presence was not just a historical one in the city. “Nver” belongs to an Armenian from Turkey, who runs three such gift stores in the city.
There are various high-end stores, and a number of restaurants and cafes run by Armenians from different corners of the world, ranging from the Republic of Armenia to Lebanon.
The three colors of the Armenian flag popped up frequently on people’s clothing and bags. It even periodically waved at the beach on the famous Promenade des Anglais, at the section connected with the local AC Marriott hotel, in recognition of the large number of visiting Armenian tourists, while Armenian often could be heard spoken on the streets of the city.