Vahram Mavyan

Armenians Meeting in the Most Unexpected Places

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It is a fact that despite being relatively few in number, we Armenians are everywhere. Even in the most unbelievable places, in the least populated regions of the world, we learn about the distant presence of an Armenian or some Armenian traces. Once writer Vahram Mavyan recorded similar meetings in his two books, There are Armenians Everywhere and The Fragments of Armenians.

For years I have heard from different people, in William Saroyan’s terms, “small Armenian stories” about meetings with Armenians or Armenian-related people in the most unexpected places, each one – a complete short story or a short film, which hereby I present to the readers.

Himalayan guru and the Armenian woman

From the stories of Hayk Isakhanyan from Yerevan, who has visited India for couple of times:

“I am in the Himalayas, North India, in Uttarakhand province, city of Uttarkashi, practicing yoga with a local guru. Once I injured my shoulder and asked my teacher what exercise I could use to get my shoulder in order. And I was surprised when he said:“A good way to relieve shoulder pain was taught me by a woman from Armenia, who came to me years ago…”

 

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Zhingyalov hats in the Tantric temple

Hayk continues:

“I was in India again, again in the Himalayas. I was looking for a Tibetan teacher to master their various techniques. I was sent to a Tantric temple not far from Dalai Lama’s city, which is one of two most important Tantric temples. I arrived at that very interesting, beautiful place to attend a ceremony. A large number of Tibetans came, as well as many tourists. I was about to enter the temple, but suddenly I heard from behind in Armenian:

Baryev, akhpierr, vontsyes? (Hello, brother, how are you?)’

I could not believe my ears. The Himalayas, Tantric temple, and suddenly… Armenian words, but with Russian pronunciation. I turned back. A strong man with a shaved head, 45-50 years old, approached me and extended his hand.

‘Is it written on my forehead that I am Armenian?’ I asked him.

Akhpierr (brother),” he said and continued in Russian, “our group is from Ukraine, but I am from Hadrut!’

I hugged the Ukrainian from Artsakh very tightly.

‘Are you from Yerevan?’ he asked.

‘I am, but my grandfather was also from Artsakh.’

At this word we hugged each other again and entered the temple.

The service started, we were all sitting folded, but we did not see or hear what was happening – my new acquaint and I were talking non-stop. At the hottest moment of the service, when the bells were ringing, the Ukrainian asked me:

‘Brother, do you like zhingyalov hats?’

Zhingyalov hats is the traditional Artsakh dish — a very delicious flatbread stuffed with herbs. We started to laugh loudly. The Tibetan clergy, who were very forgiving and tolerant, were already looking back and scolding us.

 

“The Armenian Lions”

Another story from Thailand, told to Hayk Isakhanyan by Hrant, an Armenian businessman from there, now deceased. When he had just gone to Thailand, once the Armenians living in that region decided to start a joint business in Taiwan. Once in Taiwan, they met a group of young businessmen. When the latter found out that they were Armenians, they put them in the van and drove through the jungle without saying where they were taking them. The men could have escaped, but there was nowhere to run. Finally, they reached a village and were invited to a hut, in front of which a very old man sat. The Taiwanese people said something to the old man, helped him to his feet, and the old man bowed before the Armenians. Everyone was amazed at why this respectable old man over 100 bows before these 30-40-year-old foreigners. And the old Chinese man explained that when he was young and participating in Chinese revolution, there were some “Armenian lions” fighting side by side with the Chinese.

The old man not only carried that memory, but also told the young people around him about it, passing it on from generation to generation, so that now, when these young people meet Armenians for the first time, they consider it necessary to take them to that old man.

 

The grateful Vietnamese

An Armenian named Artashes traveled with a friend in Vietnam. In one of the big cities they accidentally deviated from the main street. Suddenly a group of motorcyclists appeared and surrounded them. The guys understood that they would definitely be robbed, but the question is whether they will stay alive. Artash said his friend in Russian: “Oops, we are lost!” At that word, one of Vietnamese, pointing his finger at the guys asked in Russian: “Are you Russians?” “Armenians,” they answered. At that word, the strong-built Vietnamese ordered something to his fellow guys, put the Armenians on motorcycles and drove them somewhere. Our guys thought that if they were going to kill them, where are they taking them now?

And they were taken to a luxurious restaurant, they were honored and after a while, when they have already gained courage asked what all this tribute means. At that time, the strong-built Vietnamese told that he had studied in Moscow and that once he had been attacked by Russian skinheads. And only a few Armenian students arrived and rescued him.

 

 “Sir, I am not a whore!”

From the stories of my dear professor P. H.:

“I was in France for a conference. In the hotel I was making my bed every morning. One day the cleaner, a black woman, entered the room and began to speak with me. I became very nervous, as I did not understand a word and telephoned my French-speaking colleague who was staying in the same hotel and said:

‘Come and see what this whore wants from me!’

Suddenly the black woman said in Armenian: ‘Baron, yes poz chem! (Sir, I am not a whore!)’

I almost died of shame! I began to apologize endlessly, until she explained in fluent Western Armenian that by making my bed in a wrong way, I doubled her job. When I could bring myself to look into her eyes, I dared to ask where she has learned Armenian. The woman, who forgave me generously, said that she worked for many years in the house of Armenians, who taught her to speak the language.”

 

“Barev, Rubik!”

The late film director Ruben Gevorgyants from Yerevan told that during the Soviet years they left for India with a group of tourists. In one province they were told that the next day they would go to a mountain village and meet a local guru.

The next day, when they reached that village, this guru came and seeing Gevorgyants, exclaimed in Armenian:

Barev (hello), Rubik!”

Gevorgyants answered him:

“Barev, Rubik!” and they hugged.

The KGB employee (they always accompany Soviet tourists) immediately approached and asked what language he spoke to the guru and what they said to each other. Laughing, Gevorgyants said that this guru actually is his old acquaint Ruben Filyan, a writer from Yerevan, who had moved to India a few years ago.

 

A Fijian Armenian?

My neighbor Armen Babayan told us how once his aunt Shoghakat’s husband, Mikhail Berkovich, a mariner from Vladivostok, traveled to Fiji island in the 1960s with the Soviet delegation and met with the mayor of the capital Suva. The latter was interested in the guests’ families. Hearing that Berkovich is married to an Armenian woman, after the meeting he approached him and said: “So your wife is Armenian… you know, I am Armenian too.” Berkovich later told his wife that he would wait for everything except meeting his wife’s compatriot on the island of Fiji.

I tried to find out the name of that mayor, but so far did not succeed. Probably that can refer to one of the members of the Suva city council, among whom there were six Europeans in the 1960s.

 

An Iceland-ahay –

 

My eldest son traveled for Iceland in 2018 with his girlfriend. They were standing in line at the Reykjavik airport and talking, when a young girl in a uniform, an airport employee, approached them and asked in Armenian:

“Are you speaking Armenian?”

She looked just astonished.

“May I see your passports?”

She started examining the Republic of Armenia passports thoroughly.

“This is the first time I see Armenian passports,” said the girl and told that she was born in Iceland and her parents had moved to Iceland from Vanadzor. She also suggested her assistance to her compatriots…

 

Thus, from Fiji to Iceland, over the Himalayan mountains, there are traces of Armenians, close and distant memories about the Armenians, which in these cases, as we have seen, are positive…

Nevertheless, blessed is the nation that does not have to emigrate and stays in its ancestral country, developing and flourishing it in every way…

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