By Adrineh Der-Boghossian
YEREVAN—Irind, a village in Aragatzotn marz about 30 km. from the Turkish border, was founded in 1921 by men and women from Western Armenia. These individuals, 46 of whom came from Sassoun and 33 from Mush, fled the Armenian Genocide of 1915, a reminder of which can be found by the impressive monument on the town hall grounds.
Irind’s rich history includes famous people having lived there at some time or another. Individuals from educated classes moved to Irind because life was better in the village than in the city for artists, writers, and academics who wanted to focus on their work. Did you know, for example, that well-known Armenian poet, writer, and academic Avetik Isahakyan lived in Irind for five years? Khachik Dashtents, another Armenian writer, poet, and translator, who translated Shakespeare’s work from English to Armenian, was also a one-time Irind resident.
Another famous face around Irind was Andranik Margaryan, who was prime minister of Armenia from 2000 until his death in 2007. Although he never lived in Irind himself, his parents, originally from Sassoun, lived there. A larger-than-life statue commemorating Margaryan, who commissioned the building of roads and the installation of natural gas in the village, was built last year on the spot where the town hall once stood. The town hall was rebuilt and the grounds were prepared with flowers, shrubs, and trees planted by Armenia Tree Project (ATP). The official opening ceremony was held on June 12, 2010.
Apart from statues dedicated to people and historical events important to Irind, the village is also home to a 7th-century church—one of three reconstruction projects that received special attention and funding this year by the state. Work is already underway to preserve this piece of Armenian heritage. Though the Irind we know and love today was built by genocide survivors in the early 20th century, the existence of this church is proof that the village was inhabited many centuries ago.
This village of 985 people has received a total of 4,083 trees from ATP since 2007. For the first time this year, the cherry and apple trees are bearing fruit. As 73-year-old resident Heranush Hepoyan, originally from Sassoun, said, everyone in the village received trees from ATP and for that, “we say, thank you.”
ATP provided more than 3,200 fruit trees to all 286 families, and another 800 decorative trees for public sites in the village. The project was led by ATP’s Community Tree Planting Program, which has planted and rejuvenated more than 1 million trees at urban and rural sites all over Armenia.
Another resident, 56-year-old Murad Muradyan of Mush, expressed his appreciation for ATP’s work. He is also grateful for the natural spring water that flows from the mountains, which nourishes the trees and the residents. In fact, Irind is a source for natural water not only for its own residents, but also for residents of seven nearby villages.
Though natural gas was secured for the village a number of years ago, an increase in gas prices this year has meant that 90 percent of residents have resorted to using the age-old method of heating homes in the winter: cow dung, as evidenced by the neatly stacked piles on their properties.
Besides agriculture and animal husbandry, quite a few residents are skilled in beekeeping—there are about 500 beehives in the village. One such resident, 73-year-old Angin Manukyan, moved to Irind from Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg). Angin’s brother-in-law, having fought in the Winter War (a conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland) and in World War II, settled in St. Petersburg and invited his younger brother (Angin’s future husband) to join him.
Though having lived in Irind as a child, Angin moved to St. Petersburg when, many years later, her future husband came to their village looking for a wife. In the end, longing for their homeland prompted the couple and their nine children to return to Irind.
Angin’s 44-year-old son Khatchatur Manukyan has taken over the “family business” of beekeeping. But to say that Khatchatur is only a beekeeper wouldn’t be telling the whole truth—he is also a judo trainer and instructor, teaching judo to the village children.
Currently, three groups of 10-14 children each take judo classes every week. Other than judo, the 180 school-age children of the village also have the option of taking art classes. Mkrtich, a local painter, teaches 12 children in a lovely, clean studio in the newly built town hall. It’s evident that the village mayor, Aleksan Kotanyan, cares about the residents and the children. And this care and attention is directed not only toward the present, but also toward remembering the past.
Every year on April 24, the residents of Irind—the children and grandchildren of genocide survivors—light a huge fire on top of Begarlu Mountain (more a large hill covered in lush greenery than a mountain) to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. However, more than simply a commemoration, the fire, which can be seen from the other side of the border, lets those in Western Armenia know that they will not forget.
And like the memory of the Armenian Genocide, the residents of Irind have persevered over the years. They are thankful for what they have and they forget neither the genocide nor the kindness of strangers—these days, by way of donations of trees which enrich their lives and their community.
This project was sponsored by Luxury Properties Europe, a group of international registered real estate brokers that offer exclusive sales and rental properties in the most attractive and prestigious cities in Europe (for details, visit www.luxurypropertieseurope.com). As part of its Environmental Awareness Campaign, Luxury Properties Europe has donated a portion of its rental profits to this tree planting project in Armenia. “We decided to support ATP’s work in Irind in order to help the people of the village, and to offset the environmental impact of our business and our clients’ travel,” noted owner Davide D’Ambrosi.
Since 1994, Armenia Tree Project has planted and restored more than 3.5 million trees at over 800 sites around the country and created hundreds of jobs for impoverished Armenians in tree-regeneration programs. The organization’s three-tiered initiatives are tree planting, community development, and environmental education. For more information and to support ATP’s mission, visit www.armeniatree.org.
Adrineh Der-Boghossian is a volunteer with ATP.