Working visit of the President Armen Sarkissian to Gyumri
On the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the 1988 earthquake, President Armen Sarkissian visited today Gyumir to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the earthquake.
At the Sourp Astvatsatin (Seven Wounds) Church of Gyumri, the President of Armenia was present at the liturgy for the memory of the victims, led by Father Geregin Vardapet Hambardzumian and blessed by the Primate of the Shirak Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Ter Michael Archbishop Ajapanian. Present at the liturgy were also RA Minister for Emergency Situations Felix Tsolakian, Head of Shirak marz Tigran Petrossian, Mayor of Gyumri Samvel Balasanian, numerous residents of Gyumri.
Afterwards, President Sarkissian laid a wreath at the monument dedicated to the memory of the innocent victims of the earthquake and paid tribute with a moment of silence.
Prayer for the souls of the victims of the earthquake was led by the Primate of the Shirak Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Ter Michael Archbishop Ajapanian.
“It is time that we return to you the love, which we have been holding in our hearts for over 30 years, the warmth, care and the enormous esteem which we have for your patience, your dignity. It is time we all together rebuild this magnificent city, Spitak, Vanadzor and bring bacj life and joy here,” President Sarkissian said today in Gyumri responding to the questions of the journalists.
He noted that through these years, the residents of Gyumri, Spitak, and Vanadzor have been carrying patiently their load of difficulties, and waited probably for the day when we all together would be able to focus our attention on them.
“Yesterday I was lucky to listen to young Gyumretsis and rejoiced with all my heart. You have one thing which you have always had – great talent, love for the Fatherland, music and arts which Gyumri has always been famous for. It never was lost,” the President said.
Speaking of why it took 31 years to rebuild Gyumri, President Sarkissian noted that history shouldn’t be forgotten: in 1988, along with the great tragedy there was also the issue of Artsakh’s deliberation, building of a newly independent state, and our national liberation movement.
“1990-1991, the war, hardships, closed roads, a country with no army, with a young government which had to learn and to rule the country… The beginning was very difficult and all our compatriots, who lived here, at the northern part of Armenia, all these 31 years, who lost their relatives, friends, their homes, lived in domiks, in dire conditions, deserve commendation.
Even when they got an apartment, the city still was not lively because apartments are not everything in people’s lives, purchasing a home is not the end of everything if there is no job, if the ambiance is not there, if there is no joy, if there is no place where they can gather all together and spend their time. This city, Vanadzor, and Spitak had a spirit, had a spirit not 30 years ago but for centuries and it seemed that the spirit was frozen. Probably, we all have our share of guilt that at some point didn’t put more energy, time and love into Gyumri,” the President said. “Now I am the President of Armenia, there is a new government and, in general, I think our people have a new attitude towards our life and values. Now we all should to be responsible for bringing life back to this city. I am trying to explain to all our compatriots that Armenia is not just Yerevan. Armenia is our entire country.
I see my mission in bringing back to Gyumri life, love, and attitude, so that every Armenian instead of spending holidays abroad, spend them and New Year in Gyumri. Gyumri has plenty to offer: love, culture, delicious food, everything. Let’s be constructive on this issue, lest ten years later, we don’t have to tell why we didn’t do it.”
He recalled his first visit to Gyumri as the Prime Minister of Armenia. “When I became the Prime Minister, even though I was very young, I had great experience and had seen a lot. When I came to Gyumri as the Prime Minister, I was expecting that people would be hard on me because they had been forgotten for many years and the life was bad. I was ready for any word, any attitude and as the Prime Minister of the country had to give answers. But just the opposite happened: people welcomed me kindly and warmly. A grandma suggested we go to her home and not to show the dismal conditions they were living in but for a treat. She opened her heart and shared whatever she had with me. To be honest, after that dignity and love of Gyumretsi became more precious for me, and when because of some health issues I was not able to carry on with my duties, I was having nightmares for many years. Thus, view me as a Gyumretsi, because I am and in the nearest future I want to purchase a home here not to travel back and forth but to come and to stay here.”
President Armen Sarkissian in Gyumri visited the Austrian Hospital for Maternity and Children’s Health. The President toured the hospital and conversed with the medical staff. He highly praised their work and noted that to be a kids’ doctor is the most respectable thing in the world.
Four babies were born this night in the revitalized Gyumri. President Sarkissian handed gifts to the parents of the babies, congratulated them and wished that the babies bring joy to their parents, families, and Gyumri.
President Armen Sarkissian got acquainted with the young obstetrician Armen Mkrtchian who went to Sudan to substitute the winner of the Aurora humanitarian award, Tom Catena. The president hailed his humanitarian work.
The Austrian Hospital of Gyumri has been operational since 1991 through the funding provided by the Austrian Republic. Since 2006, various surgeries are being performed here, there is a resuscitation and neonatology department equipped with modern and innovative technologies.
President Armen Sarkissian in Gyumri visited the Chalet Gyumri center of the Shirak Center non-governmental organization.
It is a unique compound built with the stones from the structures damaged during the 1988 earthquake, polished stones of more than 150 years, wood of Sarighamish, bonded together by the metalwork of old blacksmiths.
The President toured the center and familiarized with the history of Chalet Gyumri. Pictures on the walls present the history of the old Gyumri. Unique photographs, books and various article tell the visitors about the past of the city.
The Shirak Center non-governmental organizations, according to its director Vahan Toumassian, implements different social programs for the children who live in the small houses. Armen Sarkissian met and conversed with the children residing in the small houses, gave them presents and invited to the Presidential Palace to participate at the New Year festivities.
President Armen Sarkissian, who is Gyumri on a working visit, today visited the LOFT Center where leadership and communication courses for the beginner women entrepreneurs of the city are offered through the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The organizer of the courses, Director of the Resident mission of the Bank to Armenia Paolo Spantigati presented the program and expressed hope that the courses would be useful and would allow women entrepreneurs to acquire new skills and further develop their companies.
In his remarks President Sarkissian said in particular, “I truly believe that opportunities in our country are ample today. It is important for you to believe, it is significant.” According to the President, there are multiple examples when societies of different countries were able to survive because women were more pragmatic, stronger and were able to keep their families, communities, and societies strong. “There have been talks on the protection of women, familial or other problems. I believe we will overcome all that and one way to do it is the system of our values,” the President noted, “because our national values, our families deep within, in their roots hold all those values which result in strong families.”
President Sarkissian conversed with the women entrepreneurs-participants of the course, responded to their questions, listened to their stories and observations. He noted that Armenian women also have an advantage because their families would support them in their undertakings. “Today Gyumri is alive and lives on also because of the women, because they didn’t despair and stood strong. We have to help each of you in finding a talent you have within and use it. Be confident and move forward with no fear,” the President said addressing the participants of the course.
He proposed that the ADB establishes a special fund to finance women’s startups.
Armen Sarkissian agreed with the observation of a participant of the meeting that the most important factors for carrying out any program or business is peace in the country, stability, and the rule of law. He stressed the importance of the rule of law and fight against fraudulent trends.
In this context, he spoke in particular about the fight against corruption and noted that there were many forms of fight; however, the most important of them is the change in the attitude and mentality towards such occurrences, shaping of a new culture and intolerance of the society. “For the body to fight a disease, it is necessary to fortify its immunity. By the same token, for the fight against corruption to be efficient, it is necessary to shape a society which rejects corruption and has a high level of resistance towards it,” President Armen Sarkissian said.
President Armen Sarkissian in Gyumri visited the Aregak inclusive bakery-café and was welcomed cordially at this venue which became so dear to him long ago. During his visits to Gyumri, Armen Sarkissian almost always comes here.
The President conversed in a warm and sincere atmosphere with his friends – employees of the café Michael, Grisha, and others, inquired about their lives and work and enjoyed some of their freshly baked pastry.
In the framework of his working visit to Gyumri, President Armen Sarkissian visited the workshop of the “Gyumri Is My Home” youth initiative.
The young people told about their various projects, such as a skating ring in Gyumri, creation of mosaics on different themes, aphorisms on the streets of Gyumri, ecological actions, tree planting, beautification of the city, etc. The “Gyumri Is My Home” youth initiative has 300 members and was launched in 2012. The main objective of the initiative is to disclose and solve problems existing in Shirak marz, particularly in the social, tourism, culture, and sport areas. Accompanied by the founders of the initiative, President Sarkissian familiarized with the unique works of the young people, observed their yet another gift to the city – a mosaic made of corks. Later, the President met with the members of the initiative and spoke of the role of the young people in the reviving Gyumri.
“Hearing about you from different places, I thought that we could become companions and do something together,” President Sarkissian said and added, “You are our country, the future of our country. You are the people who do creative job and it is the most important thing. There is a great philosophy in that. I would be glad if there is an opportunity to work together.”
The President spoke in particular about the native of Gyumri, philosopher, musician, and a great thinker Gyurjiev and recalled engaging memories, ”In 1984 I was working at the United Kingdom when on the eve of the New Year, in December, the Gyurjiev Association invited me to a meeting. I thought there would be five or six people, while the meeting took place in a grand hall where nearly two thousand people gathered. On the next day too, around two thousand appeared and, mind you, high-level persons, state figures, businessmen, people from arts, etc.
After visiting Armenia, the association was conducting meetings twice or three times a month. They printed the historical map of Armenia and handed it out. It seemed that there was some kind of connections with the Scots, English, Germans and others. But they were gathering to paint old historical maps and present them as gifts. I have two of them, and one in the Embassy of Armenia (in London), hanging on the wall. Gyurjiev is an asset and it would be wrong not to use it.” The President expressed desire to reconstruct Gyurjiev’s home in Gyumri. “Gyurjiev’s home doesn’t exist but I have an idea to reconstruct it or build a new one.”
The conversation of the President with the young people continued over the topic of values. President Sarkissian stressed as extremely important the ability to appreciate national values. “We often err and believe that whatever is far away from us, abroad, is more important and has a greater value. But your own is the most precious,” the President said. “Everything that was created in the course of centuries and is precious, I believe is an ordinary thing. We shouldn’t lose that asset. We have multiple traditions which shouldn’t be observed artificially, shouldn’t be turned into something vulgar or indecent. On the contrary, interacting with others, we need to clean them and present in a beautiful way.
What I mean is the following: there are so many values around you. You find a nail on the street and try to use it to make something interesting. The same is true with our cultural values. You live in Gyumri; here on the streets, in the homes there are multiple “small nails” which need to be found and cleaned of rust. On the entire territory of Armenia in general there are vast values which should be found, each “nail” should be picked up, polished, and something from it should be made which will make foreigners wonder. This is not arrogance. We are what we are today. The history of Tigran the Great must be known but boasting about it will get us nowhere. The past and history do not mean anything if one is not able to refine it, to give value.”
Stressing the importance of a teamwork, President Sarkissian said, “The best leader and organizer is the person who can get around him people who are able to carry on with the work without him. My advice to each of you: even if you’re doing something small, create a team, and give others the opportunity to speak out. Never be scared to work with the people who are smarter and more experienced than you. It will only prove that you are strong. Only weak people are anxious that someone could be smarter or more experienced than they are. Great success always comes with a team.”