Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


The following is a timeline I composed three years ago, reflectig my disappointment at President Obama for not honoring his campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The piece was published last week in Asbarez newspaper following the passage of the French Senate's bill: Criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide:

April 25, 2009 11:00 AM – I am checking my emails. The subject on one of the email reads: “Obama Betrays Armenians.” Since yesterday, I’ve received a half a dozen emails on the same subject. Armenians have rallied to continue their efforts to make U.S. congress officially recognize the long awaited acknowledgement of the “Genocide” So, I hear…

BEFORE THAT – same day 9:00 AM – I pick up the weekend issue of our local newspaper, the Glendale News-Press, and the front-page article with big bold letters says: “Obama’s words rebuked,” I read the whole article. “Armenians are disappointed… Obama danced around the language.” The Armenian communities from “sea to shining sea” are outraged and a firestorm is soon to be ignited. Was the promise a feel-good campaign rhetoric? I am thinking…

BEFORE THAT, the Obameter website, questions Pres. Obama’s integrity, having concluded that he had broken his promise on the Armenian Genocide – one of the 511 campaign promises that the website keeps track of. People are watching…

BEFORE THAT Mom calls and says, “It is April 24th, are you watching the TV? – President Obama is on.” just barely, I get to hear the last few sentences. He sympathizes with Armenian cause. “Nothing can bring back those who were lost in the “Meds Yeghern.” He uses the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern” which translates into “The Great Calamity” avoiding using the term “genocide” to describe the atrocities of Ottoman Turks to eradicate Armenians from their homelands. His statement falls short from his pledge. So, I hear…

BEFORE THAT – April 6, 2009 – during a press conference in Ankara, a journalist asks Pres. Obama if he is going to stand firm on his campaign promise. Obama answers: “My views are on the record and I have not changed views.” The reporter presses him about not using the term “genocide.” And he maneuvers around the topic without using the word “genocide.” I am anxious to see, on April 24th, how he is going to recognize the “Genocide” a promise he had made to the Armenian community during his presidential campaign. I am thinking…

BEFORE THAT – November 4, 2008 – I am watching on TV, the sea of crowd at Chicago’s Grant Park, welcoming the newly elected president Obama. I share tears of joy with Oprah, Jesse Jackson and the whole crowd. I am witnessing the unfolding of a new era in the American History – a ripple that will forge new relations and softens the socioeconomic conflicts at the International stage. And the world watches…

BEFORE THAT – January 19, 2008 – as a presidential candidate and as a senator, Obama, makes a promise to American-Armenian community and pledges that he would officially recognize the “Genocide.” Armenians are hopeful and passionately support Obama… So, I hear…

BEFORE THAT – March 7, 2006 – the ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, is recalled by President Bush’s Administration, back to Washington. He had referred to Armenian massacre of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey as “Genocide.” Armenians protest. They are asking John Evans to come back. So, I hear…

BEFORE THAT – April 24, 1995 – I am driving my kids, ages 21, 16, 10, to Montebello, California, where Armenians have erected a memorial monument for the Genocide. I want, us, to be part of the 80th anniversary commemoration service. So, I drive…

BEFORE THAT – April 24, 1965, Tehran. We are gathered, a crowd to the capacity, in the playground of St Mary’s, Armenian church and the connecting high school. I am 16, I hear the priest conducting a mass for the ravished souls of Armenians massacred 50 years ago in Turkey. So, I hear…

BEFORE THAT – August 22, 1939 – on the eve of his murderous attack against Poland, Hitler makes an address to his chief military commanders. He finishes his remarks by saying “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” 10 million people are wiped out by Nazis. And the world watches.

BEFORE THAT – March 15, 1921 – Soghomon Tehlirian, in broad daylight and in the presence of many witnesses assassinates Talat Pasha, the architect of the Armenian Genocide. It takes the jury slightly an hour to acquit Tehlirian. The trial, taking place in Germany, influences Rafael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer to coin the term “Genocide”

BEFORE THAT my ancestors living in Ottoman, Turkey, are slaughtered by Turkish Militia or are evacuated community by community and marched to their deaths in the deserts. And the world watches.

BEFORE THAT – on April 24, 1915, Talat Pasha orders the arrest and persecution of all the Armenian leaders, bankers, professors, doctors, lawyers and many business professionals, in Constantinople and masterminds the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians. And the world watches the first ethnic cleansing of the 20th century.

Here is the link to Asbarez newspaper:…-and-the-world-watches…/

Sunday, 29 January 2012

AROUND TOWN –Two Homeless guys Sleeping in the middle of Main street in Santa Monica

Picture taken on 1/29/12 11:30 a.m. It was a beautiful day
in Santa Monica.
My family and I were there for a day trip.
Santa Monica, a small coastal city of 84,000 people living within 8.3 square miles to the west of Los Angeles, has long struggled with a major homeless problem. 

The first homeless "census" ever done for Los Angeles County, in January 2005, estimated that about 2,000 of the people identified as homeless in the county were in Santa Monica—about 3 percent of all people that the study estimated to be homeless county-wide, and considerably more than might be expected on the basis of area or population alone.

In 2010 and 2011, the number of homeless people in Santa Monica hovered at about 740. That's a significant drop since 2007, when the counts first began and volunteers noted 999.

In 2011, Santa Monica participated in a countywide count, the largest in the country. The results of that survey were recently released: 51,340 people were without permanent homes, according to Guest.

City officials emphasize that tracking regional data is equally important to collecting local statistics. Twelve percent of the nation's homeless live in Los Angeles County, and Santa Monica, Skid Row and Venice are the most impacted.
 * * * * * * 

Following is a video of a homeless man in Santa Barbara and his pets. They work State Street every week for donations. The animals are pretty well fed and are mellow. They are a family.

The man who owns them rigged up a harness for his cat so she wouldn't have to walk so much (like the dog and himself). At some juncture the rat came along, and as no one wanted to eat anyone else, the rat started riding with the cat and, often, on the cat!

The dog will stand all day and let you talk to him and admire him for a few chin scratches.
The Mayor of Santa Barbara (not Santa Monica) filmed this clip and sent it out as a holiday card.
A great video . . . Click on the link below:

Saturday, 28 January 2012

REVOLUTION 2.0 – A Modern Days Revolution

The Power of the People is Greater Than the People in Power

Earlier this week on January 25th, tens of thousands of protesters reassembled in Tahrir Square to mark the first anniversary of the beginning of the Egyptian uprising.  After a year of incredible change for Egypt. Wael Ghonim, one of the key figures behind the uprising has put down his reflections in a book called, REVOLUTION 2.0: The Power of the People is Greater Than the People in Power.  The book recounts one of the most dramatic and galvanizing stories of the Arab Spring and his role in helping organize fellow Egyptians through savvy social marketing and undying faith that change was possible.  In a conversation with author Reza Aslan, Ghonim will look back at this historical year, as well as explore where Egypt stands today and why he is optimistic for the future. The lessons he draws have profound implications for all of us.

 Join ALOUD:  An Evening with Wael Ghonim is a special presentation taking place at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Monday February 6, at 8pm.

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles is an independent fund-raising organization that partners with the Los Angeles Public Library to support, supplement, and strengthen programs and technology that are not funded by the City.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Baby BOOM – A BABY born to Princess Marie & Prince Joachim of Denmark

Since my aunt Nelly to whom I was very close had married a Dane and had lived in Denmark for more than 65 years, I feel Denmark as another home and their news is close to my heart. (Read the news)

Huff Post – It's a girl for Princess Marie and Prince Joachim!The Danish royal couple welcomed a baby girl on Tuesday and presented her to the world on Friday.
The prince and princess presented Denmark's newest royal outside Copenhagen University Hospital, wrapping the 6.45-pound newborn in a pale pink blanket.
35-year-old Marie also looked lovely and certainly no worse for the wear, sporting a gray turtleneck, a navy jacket and straight-leg jeans.
This is Princess Marie and Prince Joachim's second child, after welcoming a son, Prince Henrik Carl Joachim Alain, in 2009.
Although she looked like any other infant at her public debut, the little princess is 10th in line to the throne in Denmark. Prince Joachim is the youngest son of Queen Margrethe II, who celebrated 40 years on the throne this year.
There's nothing that makes us squeal like an adorable royal family (see: Princess Mary and Prince Frederik of Denmark). Check out the newest royal and her happy parents below! 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

"Shahs of Sunset" – A new reality show about Iranian/American community in Los Angeles

It seems we're getting our own "SEX & THE CITY" produced in Beverly Hills, by Ryan Seacrest....

Born and raised in Atlanta, Ryan Seacrest has been the heart and soul of television and in radio for many years

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California's vibrant Iranian-American community is getting its own reality TV show -- its stars spending, squabbling and showing off in what looks like a cross between the gossipy "Real Housewives" series and splashy "Keeping up with the Kardashians".

"Shahs of Sunset", premiering on cable TV channel Bravo on March 11, follows six "passionate socialites" in their 30s who try to juggle their careers and social lives with family and tradition.

Four of those taking part in the show work in real estate in Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills and other pricey areas of Los Angeles. Most enjoy a lavish lifestyle where expensive cars, huge mansions, gold jewelry and shopping are a must, judging by a short promotional trailer for the new series.

Among the cast is one of the few openly gay men in southern California's Iranian-American community, Bravo said.

The series is thought to be one of the first on U.S. TV to document the lives of young Persians whose parents fled Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, or who settled in California as young children.

An estimated 500,000 Iranian-Americans live in the Los Angeles area -- the largest Persian community outside Tehran -- and some 20% of the population of Beverly Hills are of Iranian descent.

"From outings on Rodeo Drive to traditional Persian feasts at home, this series celebrates the unique lifestyle of a group of friends who have worked hard for what they have and are not afraid to flaunt it," Bravo said.

"Shah's of Sunset" is produced by Ryan Seacrest, host of "American Idol" and the producer of the popular "Keeping up with the Kardashians", about Armenian-American socialite sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney, and its spinoff series.

A scene from the trailer of "Shahs of Sunset"
The Iranian-American community is against making of the series.  They think it will harm their status. Cameron Yadidi, a prominent lawyer in Iranian community is trying to bring an injunction, a legal order, to restrain the show from being produced. Follow Yadidi on Facebook. 

In Everything there are two sides. Siamak from Radio Javan has other point of view. He says: Why are we getting upset at Ryan Seacrest and Bravo anyway? They do what they do best. They bring entertainment to television. And now that we are the entertainment, instead of knocking the people on the show down, we have an opportunity to take a look in the mirror. If you are unhappy with what you are watching, go out and do something in your life that is going to bring the community together first, and then collectively make a difference in our community. Go and be an example of our culture at work and school and nightclubs. Don't hate the people you are going to watch on TV. Recognize that this is just television and entertainment at it's best. If we were any different in people's eye than we are on TV, then we have nothing to worry about. But the sad truth is that most people will compare what they are going to see on TV and what they see at clubs or online media and it's going to be the same. You want them to think differently? What are you doing to break the stereotype that is about to be magnified on TV?

A petition:
Cameron Yadidi has launched a petition on facebook.  Here is what it says: 
The show is designed to racially discriminate against Iranian Americans living in the USA. Iranian Americans are hard working group of immigrants who have always strived to do their best for families and the country they live in (USA). This show clearly gives a wrong message about the hard working Iranian Americans and discredits them in many different ways, shapes, and forms. Also, this show does not truthfully show the life style of majority of Iranian American. This is not a "Reality Show". This is clearly a scripted show and is designed to racially profile Iranian Americans and attract hate, jealousy, and danger to the Iranian American community who has given a lot to the USA in the past 30 years.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Russia Buries Spy with full honors..

Date: Sunday, January 22, 2012 
Watch Vladimir Putin, at the funeral of the late Soviet master-spy Gevork Vartanyan who was an Armenian born and raised in Iran.  You may read more about his life in my previous posts. Gevork Vartanyan, was responsible for foiling Adolf Hitler’s plot to assassinate three Allied leaders—Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt—at the 1943 Tehran Conference.  It is said that Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill owe their lives to Vartanyan.  
Please click on the link bellow.

Putin was a former spy himself.

French Senate Passes a Bill Criminalizing Armenian Genocide Denial

Today is a happy day for us Armenians because the French Senate yesterday on Monday 1/23/12 passed the bill to criminalize any public denial of the Armenian Genocide.  This is a great occasion for us Armenians to celebrate. Despite threats and bullying from the Turkish state, the bill was passed by 127 votes against 86.

Thousands of French-Armenians gathered in front of the French Senate building in Paris to express support for the bill. The Armenian crowd on the other hand, was singing Armenian national and revolutionary songs and celebrating  

Turkish Protesters demonstrate over the Armenian issue outside the French embassy in Ankara in December 2011. (CNN news)

Friction over Armenia genocide issue
(CNN) – "Politicization of the understanding of justice and history through other people's past and damaging freedom of expression in a tactless manner are first and foremost a loss for France," the statement added, "Turkey is determined to take every step required against this unjust action, which disregards basic human values and public conscience."

The Turkish-Armenian controversy over the killings that took place last century has reverberated wherever Diaspora communities representing both groups exist. Armenian groups and many scholars argue that Turks committed genocide starting in 1915, when more than a million ethnic Armenians were massacred in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey officially denies that a genocide took place, saying hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians and Turkish Muslims died in intercommunal violence around the bloody battlefields of World War I.

Before the vote, Sen. Herve Marseille, one of the bill's supporters, argued that since France already recognizes the Ottoman-era killings as genocide, the same standard that applies to Holocaust denial should apply to the Armenian case.

"When we contest the Jewish genocide, we can be punished," Marseille said. "And up until now, when we contest the Armenian genocide, there is no punishment. So we can't have a legal punishment for one and not for the other. Everyone is equal in front of the law."

But Sen. Jacques Mézard, who opposed the legislation, said freedom of expression was at stake."It calls into question historical and scientific research. Tomorrow will there be a question of a Vendée genocide?" he asked, referring to a revolt against the French revolutionary government in 1793. "Will we put the Spanish and the United States in the stocks for the massacre of Native Americans? We must reject this text and consign it to history books."

After December's vote in the National Assembly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused France of committing its own "genocide" during its war against Algerian independence in the 1950s and 1960s. Erdogan announced that Turkey was reviewing its ties with France. Ankara recalled its ambassador to Paris for consultations, canceled bilateral visits and wouldn't cooperate with France in joint projects within the European Union.

The French Foreign Ministry shot back at Erdogan's comments, saying France "assumes with clarity and transparency its duty to remember the tragedies that have marked its history." And Sarkozy has said that his country doesn't need an OK from another nation to develop its policies.

The genocide debate is also a source of tension between Turkey and the United States. The White House, for example, annually beats back efforts in Congress to pass a resolution that would formally recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide.

The bill’s passage did not come as a surprise, as both the Left and the Right in France had expressed support for it.

France had adopted a bill officially recognizing the Armenian genocide in 2001.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A slice of history – Tehran Conference – 1943

"Tehran 43" movie an adaptation of Tehran conference in 1943

Teheran Conference. In November, 1943, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt met together in Teheran, Iran, to discuss military strategy to end the WWII

The Tehran Conference was to unite the Big Three on a military agenda set to win the War against Nazi Germany, already weakened by a major defeat at Stalingrad. It was in Tehran that preperations for D-Day ("Operation Overlord") were ultimately decided, and were to remain a Top Secret between the three leaders. This the most important military operation in modern history is depicted with great panache in Darryl F. Zanuck's 1962 film "The longest Day"

The Longest Day – John Wayne and many other famous actors of the time 
Read the following post: Learn more about the Tehran conference and how an Armenian Soviet agent "Gevork Vartanian" helped to thwart a Nazi plot to Assassinate Stalin in Tehran. (To learn more read the following Post)

Master Spy Gevork Vartanian dies at 87 – A member of Soviet intelligence.

The Armenian Weekly — Gevork Vartanian, the man largely responsible for foiling Adolf Hitler’s plot to assassinate three Allied leaders—Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt—at the 1943 Tehran Conference, died at the age of 87 in a Moscow hospital on Jan. 10. He will be buried in Armenia.
Gevork Vartanian 300x174 Master Spy Gevork Vartanian Dies at 87
Gevork Vartanian
Vartanian was the son of an Iranian-Armenian Soviet intelligence agent who operated in Tehran for over two decades under the guise of a successful merchant. The young Vartanian’s spy career started early, when in 1940, at the age of 16, he received his first assignment and the codename Amir. His wife, Gohar, was also a spy—recruited by Vartanian. She worked alongside him for three decades. His work in intelligence continued until the early 90s. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service revealed Vartanian’s identity only in 2000.
In the fall of 1943, at the age of 19, Vartanian prevented the Nazis from carrying out Operation Long Jump in Tehran. Approved by Hitler, and headed by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the plot aimed to assassinate Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill.
Soviet intelligence agent Nikolai Kuznetsov first uncovered the plan when he posed as an army officer from Nazi-occupied Ukraine, and extracted information from German SS Hans Ulrich von Ortel, known for his drinking.
Vartanian and his group of like-minded youth—all around his age—were known as the “light cavalry.” They were known to travel quick, and light, often on their bicycles.  Aside from Vartanian, the group was comprised of five Armenians, an Assyrian, and a Lezghin. Their task was to conduct surveillance work on Germans and possible Iranian agents. They were responsible for the arrests of around 400 Nazi agents.
On the eve of the Tehran Conference, Vartanian’s team located a group of six German radio operators who had parachuted in near the city of Qum, 40 miles south of Tehran. The “Light Cavalry” followed the Germans to Tehran, where they were in contact with the local German spy network, and maintained contact with Berlin. Vartanian and his team continued to monitor their communications, and it was revealed that the Germans were planning on sending in another group of operatives to carry out the assassination plot. The members of the first group of German operatives were arrested. According to Vartanian, they then allowed one of the German radio operators to contact Berlin with news of the foiled plan. The Germans decided against sending the second group in, and called off the operation.

The mission dubbed "Operation Long Jump",  was put together by SS security, who had learned through a code the place and the date of the summit. But the scheme fell apart when Vartanian and other Soviet agents based in Iran located Nazi commandos. 
In 1955, Vartanian graduated from the Institute of Foreign Languages in Yerevan. He was reportedly fluent in eight languages.
In 2003, Yuri Lvovich Kuznets published a book titled Tehran-43 or Operation Long Jump. The book drew from declassified documents and highlighted Vartanian’s part in the events. In 1981, the Soviet-French film “Tehran 43” was released, and featured French actor Alain Delon. However, much of Vartanian’s career remains a mystery, as most of his work remains classified.
Vartanian received the Gold Star medal of the “Hero of the Soviet Union” in 1984 for his intelligence work during World War II and the Cold War. He received three decorations after his 1943 success: the orders of the Great Patriotic War, the Battle Red Banner, and the Red Star. He was awarded the Order for Services to the Fatherland when he turned 80.

Movie – "Teheran 43" starts in 1980 in Paris. The memories of hero Andrei take the story back to 1943. The Germans planned to assassinate the three men. 37 years later, the German agent Max lives with Françoise, a young Parisian woman, who hides him. But another Nazi, Scherner, is hunting down Max who failed to carry out the planned assassinations. Max trusts Françoise, but he doesn't know that she works for Scherner. Another plot in the movie is the romance between Andrei and the French woman Marie in 1943, followed in 1980.

Sarkisian sends letter of condolence
A day after Vartanian’s death, President Serge Sarkisian sent a letter addressed to Vartanian’s widow, Gohar, family members, and friends. According to the official presidential website, Sarkisian remembered Vartanian as the “worthy son of the Armenian nation,” who had supported Armenia in times of war and strengthened the country’s foreign intelligence service.
“I cherish memories of my meetings and conversations with Gevork Vartanian,” wrote Sarkisian. “He was a great example of a commendable service to the Motherland, constantly open and well-wishing towards the people. Bright and good memory of Gevork Vartanian will remain in the hearts of those who had met with him even if only once. Rita Sargsyan also offers her condolences. We deeply mourn together with you and share your pain.”

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Our Traditions and Customs are Alive and Well

Here is my latest column published in Asbarez newspaper.  

In Tehran, when I was growing up, my father’s side of the family belonged to the Evangelical (ավէտարանական) church, which was founded by Protestant Missionaries from United States in the mid 1800s. The church was situated in the old part of Tehran on Ghavam-Saltaneh street. The few acres of its sprawling grounds included two schools and living quarters for the American missionaries.
Since American missionaries presided over that church, my father's family celebrated Christmas on December 25. My mother’s side belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church and they observed Christmas on January 6 as most Armenians do.
Usually I can recall things from the past quite well, however I cannot recall exactly how we celebrated on December 25 at my paternal grandmother’s home. But I do remember that the Evangelical church had a youth program where we learned Christmas Carols. My mother was not very keen about the program and didn’t want me to participate, because it was conducted in Farsi and our peers and instructors were proselytized Muslims. However, I loved these church activities and have many fond memories of our outings and all other programs.
In the days before December 25 at the youth program, we learned Christmas carols that were translated into Farsi.  We also learned carols in English.  Leading up to Christmas, the elders of the church drove us around in cars to visit different Christian homes so we could go caroling. Today, hearing Christmas Carols, takes my mind to the youth program. Without question singing Carols is a memory that I always will cherish it. I’m glad that I didn’t obey my mom and insisted to participate in the youth program.
In Tehran, the celebration of Christmas was not big. New Year’s Eve was the excuse for major festivities.  All the hoopla, the gift giving, the decorations, the “Holiday Tree – տօնաձառwere for celebrating the New Year, not Christmas. Santa came on New Year’s Eve and we opened our gifts on the New Year’s Day.
I sometimes think that it would have been so much better, if, here in the “West,” Santa would come for the New Year instead of Christmas.  Then all children from every religion could enjoy the charm of Santa Claus. In reality, what does Santa have to do with the birth of Jesus?
Back to my memories of Armenian Christmas in Tehran: On January 5 we had our Christmas dinner around the table at my maternal grandmother’s home. The traditional food included smoked fish, pilaf and koukou. We had the same menu for Easter too. I’m not sure how the dish became the traditional menu of Iranian-Armenians.  I think the koukou (a cake of greens & eggs) and the pilaf were adopted from Persian cuisine, and fish is a staple of Armenian tradition.  Red wine was always present on the table and the “holy-cracker նշխարք” was brought from church and was cracked and served in the wine. The tradition also dictated to burn incense (խունկ- Frankincense) Which I love the smell of it.  Another custom that has fazed-out was after Christmas and Easter for almost two weeks priests would visit the homes and bless them.
Christmas and Easter dinners have occupied an important part in our culture, however the observation of those holidays has been more as keeping the tradition than the religious aspect. At least that's what in our family has been.

During dinner our elders told us stories about how they celebrated the holy days in old times.  My Mom always recalls that her father insisted that for Christmas the dinner could be served after the sun set but Easter dinner had to be served while the sun was still up. My grandfather was born in a village and his family moved to Tabriz when he was young.  So the comment that my mother remembers from his father tells me that Armenians living in villages in Iran, also kept the tradition of having Christmas and Easter dinner.
The best part of the Christmas was when on January 6 we had the home ready for visitors.  It was a tradition that the women stayed at home and men went from home to home to visit and celebrate the advent of Christmas and the New Year. Our relatives and friends came for a short visit just to keep the tradition and to say Merry Christmas – they had a shot of brandy and had a chocolate and off they went to the next home.  Sometimes they brought their kids with them, and that’s how we stayed in touch with distant relatives.
My dad was a translator and worked with mostly Jewish and Muslim merchants.  On January 6th, all his clients came to visit us.  The house had such a festive spirit.  We were dressed in our best clothes and the house was decorated "to the T" and the food was overflowing. Dad’s clients brought us nice expensive gifts, such as huge vases, bowls, platters and trays of silver sterling or hand-painted miniatures in rich marquetry (khatam-kari) frames.  We kids received gold coins.  Usually Dad was not home because according to the tradition he had to visit other relatives but Mom received the visitors graciously.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to walk from my home to my Mom’s for “Jour-orhnek” dinner – Blessed-water – that’s what we call the Armenian Christmas.  To get to her home I had to cross small residential streets in Glendale. While walking, it was so fun to peek through the windows and see some dinner tables ready inside the homes. The mood was so festive. I noticed people arriving by car or on foot, with their hands full of gifts or dishes of food that they had prepared.  I could even smell the burning of the incense while passing by those homes. It is needless to say because it is an Armenian hallmark: women were coiffed beautifully and men were in their best suits. I was overjoyed to see how in these “Odar aperoom,” (on the foreign shores) we Armenians are thriving and the traditions are alive and well. I can see without question that our next generation will continue the customs that we have brought with us from the old countries.

The Costa Concordia Disaster...

The Capsized Costa Concordia Ship’s Missing Passenger Found Alive. 

On January 13, 2012, the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia sank partially by hitting a riff on the western coast of Italy in Tuscany. Of the 4,200 passengers and crew, at least eleven people were killed, including ten passengers and one crew member and 21 still missing. The situation is still ongoing. The ship is currently capsized off the coast and at high risk of falling into deeper waters and sinking.

A German woman presumed missing and still be trapped on board of Costa Concordia was found safe and sound on Thursday 1/18 in Germany – reports MSNBC. According to The Mirror, Gertrud Goergens walked into a police station in Germany to report her safety. Now, 21 people are still unaccounted for, including a Minnesota couple. 

"vigil of hope" was held Tuesday evening for Jerry and Barbara Heil in their town of White Bear Lake in Minnesota. According to CNN, a prayer service will be held Wednesday night at St. Pius X Catholic Church.
Five more bodies were pulled from the wreckage on Tuesday. The body of Sandor Feher, a 38-year-old Hungarian violinist who had been working as an entertainer on the ship, was pulled from the wreckage on Wednesday.
The Costa Concordia's surviving passengers from around the world have joined a class action lawsuit against the cruise line. A French couple is also collecting signatures for their suit against the tour operator.

Captain of the Costa Concordia, Francescino Schettino, currently under house arrest, was seen drinking and chatting with a young Moldovan woman only a couple of hours before the ship ran aground. Criminal charges including manslaughter and abandoning ship are expected to be filed by prosecutors. Schettino faces a possible 12 years in prison on the abandoning ship charge alone.

Italian rescue workers suspended operations early Wednesday after the ship shifted slightly on the rocks, creating concerns about the safety of divers and firefighters searching for the missing. The search was resumed on Thursday.