Saturday, March 30, 2002

Not to be redundant, but I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter.

I was going to log yesterday, but I was really tired from sleeping late the night before and then having to get an early start in the morning.

Yesterday afternoon I went to Stepanagert as there were a ton of things to do.

On the way there in the rain, my windshield wipers stopped working. It became clear that it was an electrical problem, so I went to the only auto electrician I know of in Stepanagert. His shop is on Alex Manoogian Street. I got there and called for him (his name is Samuel) and out comes this kid of maybe 14 years old. He asks me what the problem is and tells me to pull the car into the garage out of the rain. In a couple of minutes, this kid, whose name is Sasoon, has the windshield wiper motor and all the linkages and so on out and on the work bench. Well to make a long story short, he cleaned, adjusted, tested and so on the whole system in about a half-hour with the confidence that Samuel commands. I asked where Samuel was and he said that he went to Russia, as business was not good. It turns out that Sasoon is Samuel�s son. So I paid him 1,000 dram he asked for (I wanted to pay more, but have learned in the past that doing that is almost an insult) and went on my way. I didn�t ask if he was going to school or not, but will say that here is a kid who is working to help out his family. I later find my self at a glass shop and the guy there who knows Sasoon said that he is now probably the best auto electrician in Stepanagert and if he plays his cards right, will do well for himself.

So Stepanagert was a full day of running around looking for things and meeting with people.

I got home at 8:00 p.m., just in time for the weekly on-line chat of the Armenian Diaspora conference deal. I was really tired and didn�t have time to shower of get into my best meeting pajama�s, so for those that were on-line, if you detected a little tension or a light smell of grunge, you now know why.

I have to say that this gathering was much better then the last one. This time they had 4 business people from the Diaspora that are doing business in Armenia. I knew a couple of them, including Nigol. So there were some really good questions and equally good answers. I guess they are going to post all these gatherings on the website and for those that are planning on doing business in Armenia, you my get a few of your questions answered by reviewing that transcript of that meeting.

Well I have to get going, as I have to go to the village to check on the cookie factory and then back to Martuni by 6 for a birthday party.

Friday, March 29, 2002

Yesterday was quite productive in the area of construction and the weather was great.

In the evening I was invited by my neighbor to a birthday party for their son�s fianc�, at the village of Bertashen, which is in the Martuni region. So as I was getting all dressed up, I hear thunder, followed by a sudden rain storm, followed by hail, high winds and a blackout. I quickly ran out to put my car in the garage so it would not get damaged from the hail. Went back inside and changed into more appropriate clothes as I knew the village would be muddy. We waited for the storm to pass, but it looked to have no end. So in rain and mud gear, we headed out in two cars. We got to the village, which is up in the mountains and due to the rain (which had stopped) and a small mudslide, my car would not go up the street to the house where the party was being held. We parked the car at the bottom of the hill walked half a kilometer up the dark and muddy street.

The party was small and intimate. Maybe 20 people were there. The conversation was great and the food, as usual was too much. As the time neared to leave, a downpour started that seemed to have no end. It was agreed that it would be better to stay the night. As usual, the accommodations were great and with the sound of rain, it was not difficult to fall to sleep.

We woke early this morning, had breakfast and made our way back to Martuni.
Here is letter #4.

Well, I suppose that Diaspora Armenians, are developing, as it is called in the United States "charity burnout". People feel after many years of money being sent to help those in need, that nothing really has gotten any better. So a discouragement sets in and
people are inclined to not help. Money from the Diaspora would be well spent purchasing land and training provided to assist the people to become self-sufficient. Also continual advocacy should be done on the Armentel affair as the Armenians can greatly benefit from the I.T. like Ireland has, once Armentel is straightened out. Armenians can have good paying self-supporting jobs instead of being a needy people in need of endless handouts.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Here is letter #3 that responds to my question I asked on March 23rd log. I wanted to save this one for last, but since I said I was going to post the letters in the order received, I'm sticking to that order.

Dear Ara,

Once again you've posted a memorable and thought-provoking message, which I'm sure will make at least a few people think about their involvement (or lack of) in Armenia and in preserving Armenian culture and heritage.

In response to your first question, "what has changed that the people today who face what our grandmothers faced years ago are not worth helping," I would say that there are many reasons, that there is perhaps not a clear or definite answer(s) to this question.

However, one thing that comes immediately to mind is the greed that many people in Western countries exhibit. They've earnt a good living outside of Armenia, and they have the typical American mindset of "why should I help anyone else, I earned this money myself. Let them go and help themselves if they really want to!"

Meanwhile, other Armenians do not help Armenia because they have heard the stories of corruption and mismanagement and are hesitant to donate any money, fearing that it will just be pocketed by the influential people and will not go to the needy. If people feel that their efforts are being wasted and are not helping the Armenian people, they will understandably refrain from donating money to Armenia.

Another reason (and this can't be subjective) is the plain fact that many Armenians do not love their own country, and they especially do not love their own people. We are perhaps the most divided race on Earth (even more than the Italians).

For the Italians it is North against South. For the Armenians it is every city against another.

How many times have we heard an Armenian from Iraq say he doesn't like the Armenians from Iran or that the Hayastanstis are thieves? Or how many times have we
heard an Armenian from Iran say that the Beirutsis are cheap?

This is sad but true. I am not saying that all Armenians are this way, just that there is a rather large population of Armenians who feel this way.

However, fortunately, there are also many Armenians who DO love their country and their people, and have devoted their entire lives to helping Armenia and the Armenian people. These are the kinds of people who are keeping the dream alive!

Yet another reason that some Armenians don't help out their country is the fact that they don't want to go through hardship!

And why should they (I'm being sarcastic here) ??? After all, they can live in the United States or the UK, these wonderful and free (far from being free actually) western countries, in which they can own their own house and a BMW or Mercedes, or put a
10-inch exhaust pipe on their Honda.

They figure that they live in this so-called modern and technological society, so as long as they live the "good life" in the USA, they are free from responsibility or duty to help others.

The reality is that, more than anyone else, the spiurk has a DUTY to help Armenia and the Armenians.

And if they don't want to, that is their own business, we cannot force them to help....but they should not claim that they love their country and their people. That is load of rubbish!!!

The first thing that must happen is, the people who are able to really help out significantly should do so. And it's not just about sending money to Armenia. It is also about going there to lend a helping hand in rebuilding someone's home damaged in the Earthquake, or educating young children, or helping families to provide food for their children.

But even if one does not desire to be in Armenia physically, he/she can still help tremendously by at least raising awareness of the country and its plight and situation, as well as keeping alive the Armenian traditions, cultures and customs in foreign countries.

One step toward that objective is to avoid having our culture destroyed and to avoid allowing others to pigeonhole us into something we are not. We should, for example, completely omit the ridiculous term "Armenian-American." What a load of rubbish!

For example, I live in Spain (or rather, have lived)....but does that make me Armenian-Spaniard? I don't think so. I am still 100 percent Armenian. I was born in Iran, to Armenian parents, and I will go to the grave being Armenian.

Even the few Armenians in Spain have a lot better attitude and respect toward the Armenian culture than many of the ones living in the USA, UK, or other English speaking western countries.

Overall, I'm quite disappointed by the Spiurk (especially many living in the USA, who have displayed a sort of greed and selfishness that is mind-boggling).

Would you like to know why? Because now, thousands of Afghans who had left their country are now going back to help. They are returning by the thousands, to a country which is in an even worse situation and is much more unstable than Armenia.

Meanwhile, instead, thousands of Armenians are LEAVING their own country, and those who live outside it claim they love their country and their people but have no intention of ever going back and laugh at the thought of helping out those "corrupt" people in Armenia.

And why should they (sarcasm mode again)? After all, they couldn't have such a nice job in Armenia or drive a Mercedes Benz 500SL.....

Those Armenians who are in the "novelty" group must look at how the French, Israelis, and Afghans (among others) love their countries and feel ashamed that they don't love their own people or country.

Best wishes

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Here is letter #2 that responds to my question I asked on March 23rd. All the letters were good, but this one I thought was really good.

Hi Ara,

First I'd again like to say how much I enjoy especially your logs. They really put into words what I think a lot about every day.

Your recent log about the way that the Diaspora could help Armenia really affected me because I think about this very much.

I am 16, and "half" Armenian (which I hate saying), but this is a very important part of what makes me who I am. Apart from me and my brother who is13, no other of my 4 siblings, speaks or knows much about Armenia. I try my best to teach them, but as my dad became more and more busy with work, his part in this became gradually less and less. I have become very interested in Armenia not so much as my homeland, but more as a newly formed republic.

When I think about the Diaspora I become so angry, when I think just HOW MANY of us there are sitting around who are yes, proud, yes listen to Aram Asatryan (noo!), yes know who Ruben Matevosian is, and that Cher is part Armenian, but not that Armenia is home to 100's of mafia members who are destroying the economy daily. The Diaspora, to me, is such a wasted strength.

There are literally millions of Armenians around the world who would be more than willing to help. The problem, I feel is the fact that physically making money reach Armenia is a very difficult thing. I speak as someone who made my first trip to Armenia in 2001. I went with 20 people, and I noticed each person gradually becoming less and less pleased with what their Armenia was in reality. I once gave �50 of my money to the All Armenian Fund, to build the road in Artsakh, and on numerous occasions our group gave money to anyone who provided for us in any way. However, this is not the right way, and the difficult part is finding the right way to help.

When an Armenian thinks of setting up a business in his/her homeland, all they are faced with is difficulties, visa, tax, corruption and such like. My father is eager to help anyone, and was going to start a business there, however, we did not have the money for initial investment, and there is no structure which allows for smaller investments from individuals. Perhaps an annual contribution to an orphanage, to a dramatic theater, perhaps sponsoring a classroom with equipment.

I feel perhaps what is needed is a group of people such as yourselves to come together, set up a website (through the assistance of a Diasporan internet company perhaps) that allows for credit card/money transfers directly, and then monies are distributed by people like yourselves, and feedback given through various media, so the Diaspora actually knows its helping, rather than 4 years after donating seeing a half completed road and
wondering where the 7 million dollars meant to construct it actually went?

If this sort of system is not set up when I begin residing in Armenia (hopefully in 2004), It is something that I would definitely pursue as I feel it is one of many ways that the Diaspora collectively could become a major boost to Armenia's economy.

Other simple things such as the worldwide Armenian Public TV H1 could show simple commercials with telephone numbers for ways of donating money to Armenia, or perhaps charge a small subscription for the channel, so the government money could be used elsewhere (perhaps for more Mercedes?)

Thanks again, I hope you didn�t get too bored during my ramblings!


Well I don�t know if anyone was touch by this letter, but I sure was. This is from the mouth of a 16 year old, that seems to have the wisdom of a 60 year old. If you call that rambling, then ramble on, because what you said was like music to my ears.

First I want to say �half� Armenian or not, your spirit and soul is 100% Armenian. You represent the kind of people that are needed in Armenia today. If there is anything I can do to help realize your plan to move here in 2004, just ask.

Though there were many important things that were addressed in this letter, I think I will only touch on three of them. Let me talk about investments, corruption and donations.

Investment: It was stated that there is not a system in place for small investments. This is true and not true. The truth is that when someone comes to Armenia and goes to the government to look for investing, in most if not all cases they get hooked up with some company or person that presents a venture that requires tens of thousands of dollars (I�ve personally encountered this). In many cases, said investments are padded so money can be made by people not even connected to said venture (I�ve encountered this too). They also make it seem like it�s a deal that is too good to be true and worth taking a second mortgage out on your house (almost did that). So when the investor finally sees through the smoke (hopefully before putting their money in, which I only put a little in out of temporary stupidity), they are not only offended, but so turned off that they wont even consider investing at all in Armenia (been there, done that, but fortunately turned on and not off by I guess another spell of temporary stupidity).

I remember a friend of mine who is an economist, telling me after learning of a group of business people that were coming to look at investing here in Artsakh, that I must try to attract them to come see me for help to find investments, so they are not �poisoned� by the government officials they were planning on meeting. Unfortunately, I was not successful in attracting them (thought I knew their organizer), and would guess that they were either not serious and just visiting for a picture with the President, or were turned off, because none of them to date have invested in business here as far as I know.

The way I see investment needs to be done here so one is successful is that one must first do a small test investment that if it fails, won�t effect ones financial well being too badly. After learning and getting use to the system, one can make larger investments. In the first investment, I also recommend finding a local to partner with. I say this, as they will help you to learn the system better. I�ve done just this and for a $1,500 investment, I started a small company that makes sweats. I put up all capital, lending my local partner his needed capital for his 40% share. We have not seen a profit yet, but have only been in business for 3 months. The process of registering and licensing and so on, has been worth more than $1,500 to me and even if the business fails (which I don�t think it will), as the education I received will be of greater value to the next venture (which I�ve already started to lay the ground work for). Another nice part of my test business is that my local partner is also learning a lot about Western business practices and ethics.

Another option for investment, which I am planning on doing for those that don�t have the time to be here to run a business but want to invest $50 or more, is to start an investment corporation where one can purchase shares. I don�t want to do this yet, as I still have not graduated from �Artsakh Business 101� and would not want to take a risk with other peoples money without first receiving my �diploma�. You will be sure to know about this when I start it.

Corruption: Corruption is ripe but doesn�t exist for those that don�t play into it or use it as a tool to do business. For me, there is no corruption because I don�t pay bribes and have made it clear to the people in power that I will not tolerate it at all. In the four years I have been here, I�ve only encountered one unpleasant situation that comes to mind, which I quickly set straight, thus getting a reputation for having zero tolerance to such practices. Any business I have done has been strictly by the book and I have had no problems whatsoever as a result of not giving corrupt people ammunition to black male me. In short, work clean, stand your ground and you should have no problems.

Donations: If you ask any local, they will tell you that they just don�t help. They don�t want your donation, because they never see them and only make corrupt people more corrupt and powerful. I have also heard objections from locals to donations or aid, because it makes people beggars and lazy. According to an official at the Red Cross in Yerevan (which I think I even read someplace), more that 50% of all donations, aid and loans do not get to the place they were intended. If you want to make a donation, the best way is to first make sure the organization you are giving to is not tied in any way to the government or is not (I hate to say this), run by locals. If in doubt of organizations, find someone that is coming to Armenia to hand your gifts out to people they encounter that seem to be in need.

In closing, if we deal only in business investments and whenever possible, partner with the locals while doing so, we will not only take a bite out of poverty, but we will also put a major dent in corruption and lessen the need for donations.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Today was a really productive day. Construction on my house is moving forward. We started to lay the cement floor in my office/temporary formal dining room. It looks like in the next week, we will also have the concrete-slab roof put on it and half the living room. I�ve got to decide how I want the windows and doors made so I can get them started soon. Last time I went to Yerevan, I purchased the hinges for them and all that�s really left is choosing the welder to make them. The big question that I�m dealing with is if I want to put bars on or not. I say this, as when your away for a long time, stupid things can happen. I guess I could make them with removable bars, that when I�m in town, can take off and store.

I�m glad to hear that Vartan is going to be logging. It will be interesting to hear how our Armenian community is living in Russia. Welcome aboard Vartan.
It appears that the answers to my questions are in and after pondering what the best way to present them would be, I decided that over the next 4 days I will post each one in the order received. I will take the liberty to edit if need be. I will also add my comments in Italics, if I feel there is a need to add something. With that said, here is letter #1:

I really appreciate your logs. I can honestly say that both our visions of Armenia, Karabagh and the issue of Armenianness in or outside of Armenia are very similar. Sometimes I think that what you have written is something I've said out loud to someone who has in return said it to you. I am anxiously waiting for that day that I will meet you and finally have a chance of discussing these issues face to face. I am tentatively preparing to move to Armenia with my family next may. I can't wait.

To answer your question about why I help(ed) Armenians in Armenia. First reason is because I am human. Second is that I am a citizen of the world and I feel that it is my duty to help my fellow (wo)man. Third, I am of Armenian origin, thus attached to some set of values and cultural beliefs. These are basically the short answers to your question. Further to that, I have had the opportunity to meet people in Armenia, create relationships with them and put a name and face to these "brothers and sisters". To me they are now not only people that need our help, but they are Ashod, Anahid, Abel Levig, Alina and so on that are living in a situation that is intolerable. And as their friend, I will try and do my best to work with them to get out of this situation. I will teach them what they lack and give them the resources that they need and let them develop their community the way they think is best.

As for the class of people who find Armenia to be a "novelty" they unfortunately exist in Canada as well.

All the best Ara and keep up your spirits and keep pushing people to ask themselves these very important questions. There are many who read your logs out there and I am sure that you motivate a great number of them as you have motivated me.


Saturday, March 23, 2002

National Duty or National Novelty?

As a frequent reader of, I always wonder who else other than me reads it? Then I wonder other than me, what do said readers get out of reading Groong? I wonder how reading about economic developments; cultural events; history; human rights offenses; Presidential bodyguards beating to death a Diaspora Armenian and the legal system not working so justice is served; Armenia getting itself more into debt and having to give its factories to satisfy said debts; corruption; poverty and the likes, affects them?

I�ll tell you what reading Groong does for me. It makes me happy to read about culture, national accomplishments and history. It makes me steaming mad when I read about unpleasant issues. When I read about unpleasant issues, I�m not turned off though, I�m turned on. I�m turned on and determined to do something to counter them.

The way I see it is I�m ethnic Armenian and my identity is completely tied to being Armenian. Armenia is the base from where my culture comes and is best preserved. For that, it is my duty to myself to do what I can to protect, defend and serve Armenia, thus preserving my culture and identity.

Now I�m not sure as to how others see it, but if you put down on a piece of paper how many Armenians live on national soil and how many don�t, you can see that there are many, many more people that live outside of Armenia. Why is this important? Well if you put on that same piece of paper how many people live in poverty here and how many live comfortably outside, then you will see that there should be more than enough to go around so those who live comfortably outside could easily eradicate poverty on national soil, all for the price of maybe not going to dinner at a nice restaurant a couple times less a month (I�m figuring that the cost of two nice meals in the U.S. is about $50 and this represents the minimal food allocation a month per person here). Not to say that this is the answer, but this is like emergency room treatment that must be administered and then we need to snap out of our state of denial and collectively face the issues that got us to where we are today.

Here is another something to think about the next time you are sitting down for a meal. Before you take your first bite of food, think about your grandmother and/or ancestors that were affected by the genocide of 1915 and how they were facing starvation and death. Then in your head, wish that someone were there to help them so those family members who died of starvation had lived and had families of their own. Then think about how if you were around, you would have done everything to help them, including putting your own well being into jeopardy. Then ask yourself if you are doing all you can so people like your grandmother and/or ancestors who are in the same situation today in Armenia will not face starvation. After all this, if you are able to enjoy your meal, more power to you.

I have a question for everyone and ask that you write to me and answer, because I really am having a hard time to understand this. What has caused the change in attitude so that the people today, who are facing what your grandmother was facing when she was a child, are not worth doing something about. Then my next question is to those people that already do help out (this would be the people that have helped in any way, including a one time donation 10 years ago). I want to know why you help or helped out. I will post the answers in a later log, so we can all have a better understanding as to what we can do to better address this issue.

As for the national novelty in the title, that is in reference to those people that read and know about our present situation and do nothing. I have met a number of people like this in the U.S. who have the capabilities beyond my wildest imagination, but they find that Armenia is just a novelty and something to talk about at social gatherings. Those are the people that I feel the most sorry for, as to me that is an indication that the �ian� that is tacked on the end of their name (some have even dropped the �ian�) is just 3 letters that have no real meaning.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Tonight I attended a session with the Second ArmeniaDiaspora Conference Organizing Committee in my pajama�s. No one really took notice, as it was in an internet chat-room. When I�m in my pajama�s, I seem to think clearer. I wonder if anyone would take notice if wore pajama�s to the actual conference? I could wear a tie, if that would make a difference.

It was quite a productive chat and there were more than a dozen attendees. Jivan and Vahe did a great job of answering all our questions and they said that they will be doing this more often, the next time perhaps with the Foreign Minister.

There were quite a number of topics that were addressed, including the need for us to tell everyone that can attended to do so. So far exactly 138 people have completed the registered form and there are lots more who are planning on coming, but have not yet finished the registration process. What this means is that if your planning on coming, please REGISTER SOON, so we know how many people we can expect at the big reception and concert at Sartarabad!!!

This sounds like it�s going to be a really good conference and we should get a lot accomplished.

Friday, March 15, 2002

I went to Yerevan last weekend and came back to Artsakh on Tuesday. It was a great trip and I spent the whole time visiting friends and relatives.

I guess the highlight of this visit had to be the Sushi party we had a Madlene�s house on Monday. Yes, you heard it right, I said Sushi. My very creative mother had sent me a bunch of stuff (everything but the kitchen sink), including everything we needed to make Sushi rolls (all but the perishable goods). We found Avocado�s and really tasty smoked salmon at the market near Madlene�s house. All I can say is that it was very easy to make, thanks to the 5 in 1 Sushi miracle mold. Everyone was really enjoyed themselves.

My mother also sent me some videos and after dinner we watched Assignment Berlin, which is the story about the trial of Soghomon Tehlerian following his assassinating Tallat Pasha. It was interesting, but lacked what I thought were some very relevant historical facts. I guess in 94 minutes, you can only show so much and for that we should all applude the Producer-Director Hrayr Toukhanian for his devotion and persistency to make it.

The ride back to Martuni was long and I came home to find that work had moved forward in the area of construction on my house. Were now continuing cement work and today my contactor went to look to see where we can get some sand and gravel. It may sound strange, but it�s not like there is a depot that has it waiting for pick-up. You have to go to the abandoned territories and look around to see who forgot to take the sand and gravel with them when they fled.

Last night I went to a birthday party for someone in the village of Gishi. It was for uncle Albert, who turned 70 years old. He was very active in the movement for independence and unity of all Armenians. It was the first time we met and he had many interesting stories and advice to share with me. There were maybe 50 people there, including most of his 18 grandchildren, all of whom loved my digital camera.

Today I went to the village of Spitagashen, where I picked-up some furniture I ordered last year (a solid Oak double bed and some side tables). They are soooo beautiful and really well built. When I get them set-up I�ll take a picture and post it (that may not be for a couple of weeks, as the mattress has to come from Yerevan). The guy who made them also had a couple of solid Oak single beds, which he had built for someone in Stepanagert, but when it came time to deliver, the person who placed the order told him they no longer needed them. I bet it was because they were late with the order (mine was 5 months late). So I agreed to purchase them and all they have to do is make the sideboards longer so my guests that are taller than 5 feet can sleep without bumping their feet on the baseboard. The next thing I�ll order will be a dining room table and 12 armchairs that when you take off the top off the table, it turns into a pool table. Yes, not only will we be eating, but we will be playing. The office is now going to be the formal dining room/game room, since it may be some time that we get the real formal dining room finished.

I�m working on my plan for the downstairs bathroom, which I decided to make so not only will it cost much less than the other bathrooms to build, but will be really unique. I decided that it will have a fancy marble/granite floor and the walls and ceiling will be a combination of mirrors and opaque glass, which will be lit from behind by florescent light. It will also have a fish tank in the wall between the garage and the bathroom, as to let in natural light and the fish should help one relax while thinking. It should be really interesting when it�s finished.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Hi everyone. I�ve been out of touch with all my cyber friends as I was in Yerevan hanging with my logger friends eating SUSHI!!!! I�m really tired after a very long trip back, so I�ll be sure to log in the next couple of days about the great time I had in Yerevan and also answer all my e-mail�s and read Groong. Maybe Madlene or Raffi can log about last night, so as to not keep you in suspense about our really great evening we had together.

Oh Lena, before I forget. When I left Yerevan this morning at 7:30, we passed the Opera and the temperature read 3c. All of us laughed about that, as there was no way it could have been that cold. I immediately thought of you, as I know your morning walks take you by the Opera.

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Today, my �building contractor� and I went to Stepanagert for materials for my downstairs bathroom.

As we were nearing Aghdam (which is on the way to Stepanagert), he was telling me how every time he sees Aghdam, he can�t believe that we were able to win that battle and put the Turks out of harms way.

I reminded him that there was not much of a fight and that operation took a matter of days. I asked him why we succeeded? He said that at that time the Turks were in a panic and fled for their lives. The Azeris knew that their government had angered the Armenians with their attempt to cleanse Azerbaijan and Artsakh of all Armenians and for that, the Armenians were extremely potent fighters. It�s true that the Azeris had many tanks and other equipment that we did have, but they were not as motivated to fight and panicked.

He said before that, the Armenians of Martuni were also in a panic and were being told that the Turks were going to come from Aghdam, attack and everyone needs to be prepared to fight. He said all they had at the time were hunting rifles, rocks and steal spears made by the local machine shops from reinforcement rod.

From the news of an immanent attack and their David and Goliath situation, many people were moving their families and possessions out and off to Stepanagert or Yerevan. The only reason people ended up staying in the end was because of Monte Melkonian. He said that if it was not for Monte, we would have lost Martuni for sure. People didn�t stay because they felt safer that Monte was there, but because Monte would not let them leave.

Monte had two check-point set-up on the main road leaving the region and would not allow people to take their children out. He said that Monte knew that someone fighting on the frontline would fight much better if they knew that they were standing in between the Turks and their children. The fathers held the frontline not so much to defend this land, but to make sure their wife and children didn�t fall victim to the Turks.

The mother-in-law of one of those fighters from Martuni once told me that she use to ask her son-in-law during the very early days of the conflict, before we had an organized army, why he goes every night to the frontline to stand guard? She tried to encourage him to come home at night, as he had a wife and 5 children. He finally told her that he had to go and make sure the Turks didn�t get pass him and near his daughters. She said she never asked him again that and now when she visits his grave, she understands that he was a better father than she had ever imagined.

In Stepanagert a few months ago, I was in a shop that sells window glass and the owner was telling me a similar story.

He said that he could not believe that the Armenians have become such good fighters. In the past, Armenians have been merchants and peaceful people that in most cases head to the hills when it comes to a fight.

He said that in the case of Stepanagert, he believes we won because of a big mistake the Turks made and that was to not give the Armenians an escape route. Effectively, the Truks had surrounded us in a pit and were ready to kill every living thing they came in contact with. And believe me, if they could have, they would have.

He said that while Stepanagert was being bombed from Shushi, Askeran and any other place the Turks had control of, fighters were being born. He said that those people that he would have never expected to ever fire a gun were forced to eventually come out of their dark basements and fight. He said that many of them made great fighters as they were highly educated and had the advantage of skills that they could apply to their fighting technique. I guess it�s also motivating when bombs are constantly being dropped and you know your only choice is to kill or be killed. I would think that�s not a very difficult choice to make. People lost their fear of being in battle and only for that reason he believes we won. He said that we have to thank the Turks for bringing out what was lacking in us for the last 1000 years.

Well in my opinion, the Karabagh Armenians have overcome a huge hurdle that none of our ancestors have been able to do for the last 1000 year or maybe even longer. They have stood up for what is rightfully theirs and are holding their ground today. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but I believe that one day we will get to where we need to so we can really live happy and productive lives, making this whole struggle worth it.

I have a challenge to every Armenian living on foreign soil. Find within you what the Armenians of Karabagh have found. In today�s world, unfortunately, we all have to be fighters. As sad as that may seem, it�s true. I�m not saying fighters with guns, but fighters with purpose. I get so many messages from people telling me how they feel that everyday they live on foreign soil, they are loosing their identity as Armenians. They know they are Armenian, but as time goes on, they feel they are a little less Armenian. I encourage everyone to find something that you can get involved with that is Armenian. Something that you can be proud of. I also encourage everyone to feel ownership to this land that we call Armenia and Artsakh. It is your land and no one can tell you otherwise.

I wish you all the biggest success in becoming who you really are.