Tomáš Palonder on stage

Tomáš Palonder: ‘My Armenian Legacy Is Deeply Rooted in My Soul”

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YEREVAN/BRATISLAVA — Tomáš Palonder, is a 40-years-old Slovak actor, singer and moderator. He was born in Moscow to a Slovak father and an Armenian mother. He graduated from the Department of Music and Drama at the Bratislava State Conservatory and later studied acting at the Academy of Performing Arts.

Since 2000, he has acted in a number of television series, commercials and was the moderator of the television show “Deka,” and later also of the live show “Dekabox.”

Today, he is best known for performing at the La Komika Theater, Theatre agency Mystik, GUnaGU Theater, the Aréna Theater and Teatro Wüstenrot, and as a former singer for two Bratislavan bands, Bruno Benetton and Love 4 Money.

He regularly lends his voice to characters in television and radio commercials for dubbing. He comments on documentaries in Slovak, English and Russian versions and occasionally moderates various cultural and social events. In 2010, together with Marcel Palonder, accompanied by Street Dance Academy, they performed as Palonders at the Eurovision Song Contest in Slovakia with the song Slová slov. Since 2019, he has been the voice of Radio Slovakia.

Dear Tomáš, I admire people with “art in their blood.” Your father František Palonder is a director, screenwriter and playwright, your uncle Marcel Palonder is a singer, musician and music teacher. Your becoming actor and singer was destined or in the beginning you wanted to choose another profession?

I naturally gained interest in the field of art thank to my family, always wanted to act in the theatre and make some music. It’s my life. I’m forever thankful to God, that I’m able to make living of something I dreamed about since my childhood, although I have to admit it is a very difficult path.

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Charles Aznavour once said: “When I am tiring of singing I act and vice versa.” Is the same with you?

Unfortunately, I cannot choose too much. I don’t like art that is primarily entertaining for masses. I have my specific taste in everything I do and this makes things a bit more complex. For example, my former music endeavors earned me very little money. It was as more of a hobby. As an actor you can have some earnings unless you are brutally versatile, therefore I record voiceovers in English, Slovak, Czech and Russian languages. I act in various theatre plays, comedies & dramas. When I receive a role in TV, I usually accept it. I host various events. It is a lot to take.

 

You act in both dramas and comedies. Which do you prefer?

To me a comedy is drama and vice versa. Chekhov’s plays are a caricature of people that surrounded him, yet his plays are not staged as comedies. Everyone sees his stories as a heavy psychological load, which is true, but at the same time there is a lot of sarcasm. Oscar Wilde or Moliere also made jokes in their plays that were extremely sharp. I honestly love both genres and I can proudly present myself as very capable comedy as well as a drama actor. For example, the role of Travis Bickle in my favorite film “Taxi Driver” (1976) is painfully dramatic yet in many occasions childishly funny. The roles of Robin Williams were comical yet in the movie “Awakenings” (1990) he just gave me chills, big time!

Tomáš Palonder and friend

One of your bands, Bruno Benetton, was once very popular among Slovakian youth. What is the rock music scene now?

Well, today’s music scene is not my cup of tea. Bruno Benetton involved too much travelling and too many concerts for way too little money. However, it was an amazing experience.

 

The language of rock music is English, your lyrics for your group are also in English. Do you think that other languages, including Slovakian, can fit into rock?

Yes there is a huge number of great Slovak songs with Slovak lyrics. Great Slovak bands to me are: Isabelle, Tublatanka, Elán, Vidiek , Metalinda, and interesting singers with amazing Slovak lyrics are: Richard Muller, Peter Lipa, Dezo Ursiny, Sona Hornakova! Beata Dubasova to name just a few. I love them. To me English is a bit easier to work with. English words have multiple meanings. That is what I need.

 

You worked for three years in UK and the US, but you preferred to come back to Slovakia.

Yes, of course. I have no brothers no sisters here and at that time I didn’t even a cousin. My grandfather from father’s side got ill and my grandmother from mother’s side also needed a lot of assistance. I packed my bags and got back to Bratislava to help my family.

 

I think, your being half Armenian makes you a bit different from the common actors family both from outside and inside – am I right?

Let’s be honest here. No one cares about my Armenian roots here. Half of population here have no idea what Armenia is, therefore some thought I’m half Tatar, Romani, Jewish, etc. They have mistaken me for everything. My appearance is not too favored here. I receive zero offers for film roles here as well as in the Czech Republic. I’m excluded no matter how good my English, Czech or Russian is. Finally, I have teamed up with a young actor’s agent and I really hope to finally receive some interesting film roles.

 

Your paternal grandfather, Artashes Movsisyan, was originally from Artsakh (Karabagh), your grandmother Varvara, from Tbilisi. Have you been in Armenia and what does this heritage mean partial to you?

My Armenian legacy is deeply rooted in my soul. I have a deep respect for Armenian culture and history; I always read relevant articles on these topics. Still, I feel European; I like European civilization very much. My paternal grandfather was of German descent and my paternal grandmother from a Hungarian family.

 

In an interview you said that you found out that the grandmother of your paternal grandmother was also an Armenian with a surname Salvian. Although this does not sound Armenian, could you please provide some details about her?

She was a refugee from the Ottoman Empire. Her mother has seen her birth certificate in Hungary; it is written in the Armenian language. We only found out this a few years ago, when looking through old family photos. We couldn’t believe such a coincidence. This means I have more than 50 percent Armenian blood.

Your mother, Ľudmila (Movsisyan) Palonderová, works in Slovakia’s Ministry of Culture, where she fosters the development of Armenian-Slovakian cultural contacts. What particular Armenian project she has initiated?

She organized an exhibition devoted to Armenia, and, in 2015, a concert of Slovak singers at Spendiaryan Opera and Ballet Theater in Yerevan, as well as the visit of our Minister of Culture of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Marek Madaric. She has also organized performance of Armenian folk dancers at our most prestigious folklore festival “Východná.” Especially in this regard, I am beyond proud of her. She is an extremely talented and devoted organizer. Everyone loves her for that! True, hardworking, Armenian beauty!!!

Are you in touch with Armenians in Slovakia? Who are more or less famous names among them?

I can mention following names: a good friend of mine of one is the greatly talented Armenian singer and pianist Karine Sarkisyan, who lives in Slovakia and was born in Yerevan. Then there is also an interesting figure, the director of Slovak TV news section, Vahram Chuguryan or another great professional, Rafael Avnikjan, a great and renowned choreographer. Also, Mr. Gevorkyan a very successful entrepreneur and owner of a steel factory in Slovakia or Mr. Bagrat Hakobyan, the Armenian ambassador to Slovakia.

Thank you, Tom, for your answers. I wish you will continue your mother’s promotion of Armenian culture in Slovakia and in general, every Armenian living in foreign countries can become a kind of ambassador for Armenia.

Thank you very much for reaching out, Artsvi! I’m trying to do my best. Although my home is Europe, whenever it is possible I always support and promote Armenia. It is very personal matter to me even if I don’t speak Armenian. This relationship is strong and without any discussion. What I’m also very happy about is the fact that my father Frantisek always hugely admired Armenian culture and history even before he found out about his great-grandmother being Armenian Salvian. I also would like to wish you the best of luck and good health and good cheery people around wherever you occur!

 

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