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Celine's Dispatches - FAR's Intern in Armenia - Gyumri, Synonym for Hope.

Crossing the Shirak region en route to Gyumri during the summer makes it hard to believe that winter is harsh here. Stretching to the horizon, bright and colorful flowers cover the hills. Here, this is called “Armenian carpet”. Yet, the beauty of the surrounding landscape does not hide the pain suffered by the individuals that I’ve met in Gyumri.

Since the earthquake, classes at the Octet Music School have been taking place in prefabs. The talented young artists continue to rehearse during winter, though the temperature drops down to – 30° C. Playing the violin with mittens or cold stiff fingers would discourage most of us. However these youngsters draw their strength and determination from these tough conditions. Giving up is not an option.

And the elderly from the soup kitchen are so thankful to see visitors that they each individually approached me to give thanks. Most of their children, for those who have any, have moved abroad on a quest for a better life. Old age is not an ugly thing as we tend to think in Western Societies. These elderly have beautiful faces and a lot to pass on. Every time you walk out from this soup kitchen, you know that something inside of you has changed.

Armenians are a strong and courageous people. Looking in their eyes, the proverbial doors to the soul, is the key unearthing their treasures and secrets. They have risen from the genocide, the earthquake and the Karabagh war. Now they are trying rise from the fall of the Soviet Union. And with dignity. It’s time to leave the past behind and look to the future.

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