The story of Eduard Pogosiants starts in Baku, Azerbaijan, a city that was once home to Armenians, Russians, and Jews alike, in addition to Azeris. Eduard was one of many who fled the country at the start of the anti-Armenian pogroms. He was a man who believed that hard work and independence could defy adversity. This philosophy guided him through a rough childhood, service in World War II, and later, the challenges of maintaining his Christian faith in Communist Baku, and then creating a successful life in Armenia, only to be uprooted shortly after to start anew in the United States at an elderly age.
In August 1989, Eduard Pogosiants and his wife of 57 years, Anna, began to seek a new life in Abovyan, Armenia. Their daughter, Lorina, had already relocated there with her husband and child only a few months before. Initially, the Pogosiants were hesitant to leave. Eduard’s companions at work, ethnic Azeris, had urged him to flee the country immediately; otherwise, they warned, death was imminent. The Sumgait pogrom of February 1988 shocked Eduard, and he finally realized he had no choice but to escape Azerbaijan.
Life in Armenia was tranquil. On the whole, people were friendly and approachable. However, there were instances of discrimination, which at times got in the way of simple activities such as grocery shopping. The Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan spoke a dialect that closely resembled a mixture of Armenian, Russian, and Azerbaijani, making it easier for the locals to detect where they were from. This did not, however, prevent many refugees from finding jobs. Eduard worked at the management sector of a construction company, a position he previously held in Baku. Life was stable, probably the most it had ever been for him. Shortly after, from Jan. 12-21, 1990, there were a series of violent anti-Armenian attacks in Baku, led by the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, which left hundreds dead and even more injured. Eduard knew for certain that he had made the right decision in leaving.
Eduard’s earlier years
The eldest of three sons, Eduard ran away from home at the tender age of 14 to fight in World War II. His relationship with his mother grew strained as she feared his actions would negatively influence his brothers. During the war, Eduard was in charge of driving the military trucks at the frontline of battle. His tour of duty took him to Russia, but he was soon injured and required a hospital stay. After recuperating, he returned to the war effort, this time in Iran, driving food trucks to Azerbaijan and on to the military front lines. Despite fighting for the Soviets, he received recognition for his service years later by the United States, and was awarded a World War II certificate by the state of Connecticut. Nevertheless, he never acquired any veteran benefits because the hospital he stayed in was bombed shortly after, and all of his military documents were destroyed. “[Eduard] became bitter about this. He never wanted to talk about it,” his daughter would tell the Weekly.
Following his time with the military, Eduard went back to Vechernya Shkola (“Night School” in Russian) in Baku to obtain his high school degree. Working simultaneously as a personal chauffeur to members of the local Communist party committee, it took him almost five years to graduate. He later graduated from the Azerbaijan Polytechnic Institute with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
According to Lorina, life under Communism presented its challenges. Eduard could never reveal that his aunt had secretly baptized him in his youth, for fear that he wouldn’t be allowed to work in the country again. “It was very hard for him because he wanted to go to church, but he could not risk losing his job and getting his license taken away,” said Lorina. She witnessed the anti-religious sentiment first-hand in the 1970’s: “There was a girl in my university who was thrown out because she wore a cross necklace and the Muslim history teacher was the head of the local Communist party.” Instances like these were seldom the exception, and only escalated throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Life in the US
In January 1995, 70-year-old Eduard and his wife followed their daughter, this time to the shores of America. He was not deterred by his age, nor the language barrier. He worked for seven years as a janitor at a local private school, where he was loved and well-respected by everyone. He sadly passed away on June 1, 2012. He is remembered as a caring father and grandfather, a devoted Christian, a faithful friend, a war hero, and a hands-on “man’s man” who could fix anything. “He was always active” says Lorina. “He was jarbig [clever] and restless.”
He was a proud Armenian who never lost sight of his roots and always gave back to his community. His involvement in the Armenian Church was extraordinary, through frequent attendance, membership in the Men’s Club, and unrelenting compassion toward his fellow parishioners. He found solace in the local Armenian and Jewish communities, as they reminded him of his youth in Baku.
When asked about the most important life lesson that she learned from her father, Lorina became teary-eyed. “He taught me hard work, independence, and [the importance of] self-reliance.” Eduard’s resilience and ability to adapt to new situations was an inspiration to his children. These are the qualities that Lorina says she will remember most about him, and she will live by his example for the rest of her life.
This piece was written in memoriam of Eduard Pogosiants, a dear family friend and avid churchgoer at St. George Armenian Apostolic Church in Hartford, Conn.