Georges Boghossian, who has been living in France for 30 years, has come to Armenia to send his son, 18-year-old Nareg, to military service. Yesterday, Nareg was drafted into the army and sent to the military unit in the southern Armenian town of Meghri, near the border with Iran. Speaking about this, Georges and his wife, Armine, conceal their anxiety because, they say, their pride is stronger.
During our conversation, both are smiling and speak about their move with pronounced modesty. They were married after the Nagorno-Karabakh War, in 1994. Armine is from Yerevan, while Georges came to Armenia in 1993 to fight in the war. "I had come to participate in one slice of the war," he says.
From One War to the Next
Georges Boghossian moved to France to work in 1984 from Lebanon, while the war was still ongoing. He says he participated in the defense of one of Beirut's Armenian neighborhoods, and in 1978, he was injured in his leg. In France, he initially worked in a textile factory as a labourer, then he himself began producing textiles. He came to Armenia for the first time in 1993. He describes the surprise of a Yerevan taxi driver who picked him up from the airport when he said he wanted to be taken to a military unit. "You've left France and come here?" the taxi driver said in astonishment. Georges smiled. He was taken to a military unit and then to the Erebuni Airport, where he waited 3 days for a helicopter, after which he was taken to the Yeghnikner guerrilla detachment.
Boghossian stayed at the military unit till the end of the war; however, he returned to France three times during that time. He said he was forced to go as he had a residence permit in France and couldn't be out of the country for more than 3 months; otherwise, he'd lose his residency. But going to France was also an occasion to bring assistance from there: transceiver station antennas, batteries. Asked if he wasn't afraid of going to Artsakh from France to participate in the war, Boghossian says: "I was already used to war in Beirut; I wasn't afraid."
Why Did Nareg Have to Serve in the Armenian Army?
Boghossian has two sons: Nareg, who is older, and Maron. "I always wanted Nareg to serve [in the military] in Armenia," he says. He is the only one in his family who doesn't have Republic of Armenia citizenship, for which he's getting his documents in order. Years ago he decided when Nareg turns 18, he'll move to Armenia. When he starts listing the reasons for this decision, his smile disappears. He says his grandfather survived the Armenian Genocide: at 8 years old, he managed to get to Syria from Adana, and then to Lebanon.
"My grandfather suffered a lot. He told me that he did two jobs: he painted shoes at a young age and went to study to become a dentist. This was in the 1920s, 30s. My grandfather became a dentist, received his PhD. He described what horrors he saw, that they slaughtered his father… This story had a huge effect on me when I was young. When the war began, I was convinced that only an Armenian can protect his borders; no one else can do it. And if we don't have a country, then we're not a nation — we're nothing," he said.
In France, he saw the assimilation of thousands of Armenians, saying it's hard for him to accept this fact. There are few families remaining in France today that speak Armenian. A lot of effort was required of him to keep his children Armenian. "You know, if I say, let my child not serve [in the army]; let another's child serve — that's deception; I am deceiving myself. Why should another's child serve and my child not serve? In that case, I would be a fake patriot," he says. As a father, he has concerns. "I'm sure [Nareg] will have some sad days, but he'll also see some sweet days. He can't see those sweet days in the city. One complements the other," he says.
Why is Armenia Not a Dream Homeland?
Since 2009, Boghossian has been coming to Armenia five times a year. The country, according to him, has developed, but it's not his dream homeland because there are still mistakes — mistakes of the leadership, which he hopes will be fixed.
"For example, I wanted to establish my work here, bring the machines [here]. I went to the customs office. I declared my intention, that instead of selling my factory, I want to bring it here. I asked how much money is needed and for a paper so that I know how many machines I have to bring and how much I have to pay. I was confronted with other things by asking these questions. There are laws that have to be corrected, reviewed, [for] the country to move forward, to develop. Let the state look at my remarks: am I right or not? Instead of giving you a figure, the state begins to deceive you. They say, bring it, we'll look at it later, [and] we'll let you know. They are always trying to bypass the law," he says.
Boghossian currently has no work in Armenia. He says, he'll wait for his son to return, then they'll decide together their future plans. Despite all this, he says he's very happy that he's in Armenia — especially now, when his son is a soldier. "There's a little anxiety, it's a fatherly feeling, but I'm very happy and proud," he says.
Photo credit: Hakob Boghossian