Thirty years ago, American-born George Jorjorian and his family went to Ainjar, Lebanon, where they stayed for a year. THe purpose of this extended stay was for George to be a teacher of mathematics at the Anjar Calouste Gubenkian School, on a volunteer basis and without any remuneration of any kind.
Those were the years when Armenia’s worldwide were heading heedlessly towards total assimilation with the various ethnic groups that they came into contact. It is quite possible that at that time the nationalistic and revolutionary seeds had begun to grow but were to blossom only years later, giving meaning and making common sense to the uncommon act of this individual.
People in the village of Ainjar very probably, and for good reason, suspected that Jorjorian had ulterior motives, and/or was part of an international conspiracy, or even a member of a clandestine spy agency; and as such erected a wall and kept their distance from him; a stance they deeply regretted later when they came to understand the nature of his mission.
A chance meeting thirty years later in Los Angeles and two encounters in Armenia moved me to seek out this man and have him explain his motives to me and to all those who questioned his reason to go to Ainjar.
Plain and simple, it was Love of the Armenian. It is something akin to patriotism. Obviously Ainjar is what it is, a village, not the Fatherland. But thank God, and thanks to the stakeholders of the village, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, it is alive and well, and that’s what keeps Ainjar an Armenian enclave, inhabited only by people of Armenian descent.
Let’s move to the explanations. A teacher by profession, which means George Jorjorian could not have amassed large fortunes, he had transferred some years ago a hundred thousand dollars to the Armenian Educational Foundation, with one purpose: to enable the foundation to use appropriations from that fund as scholarship gran’s for worthy, gifted students of the Ainjar Calouste Gulbenkian School who lacked the financial means to attend higher education.
With the image of his students forever etched in his mind, George felt compelled to help the children of this village whom he taught and with whom he bonded. A hundred thousand dollars is no mere pittance, but George was drive to help his students to the utmost of his abilities.
I located George Jorjorian with the help of a genuine friend of Asbarez, Nazareth Dakessian. I invited him to the editorial offices. I had been one of his students in his Ainjar days, and I wished to confirm my subsequent impressions of him. I had heard from the Zeitlian’s of Musa Ler residing Etchmiadzin, that Jorjorian attempted to assist talented, worthy, but needy high school and university students in Armenia, by granting them scholarships.
“We are an intelligent people as a whole,” he said, asking “how can we leave our fatherland in such a dire condition?” His Armenian had improved a great deal from the days when I, as a ninth grade student in the front row, had caught his attention with my yellowed teeth which elicited his chiding. “With these teeth,” he said, “you cannot even be a taxi driver!” I began to brush my teeth regularly, and perhaps that spared me from a fate worse than becoming a %u218taxi driver.’
Since 1994, except for a three-year hiatus, he has been going every year to Armenia–and Etchmiadzin is his base. From there he goes to villages, burghs, and visits schools, familiarizing himself with the students, their parents, taking account of their needs, and always extending a helping hand to the best of his ability. He has faith in his people; and his experiences in Armenia and Artsakh have strengthened the basis of his trust in them.
An episode from his Armenia-Artsakh experiences: He had spent a month in the heroic village of Krindag in Shushi. He had lived and interacted with the villagers, and when he had heard that because of flooding of a nearby river a child had drowned, he acceded to the request of the village elder to sponsor the building of a bridge over the river. He transferred the money to the village elder and returned to the States. On his next visit, the bridge had been built.
He has with him files of students that he has helped, among them Artur Oostian from Tbilisi. He met him in Georgia where he stayed in their house while on a visit there. Artur’s father had to sell his house to pay the college tuition of his son. Jorjorian helped the parents by assuming half that expense for two years.
Lala and Vartan are from Spitak; Vartan repairs telephones. Jorjorian stayed with them during his trip to Spitak.
In Gyumri, he helped with the tuition of the Harutunian children. Karnig Harutunian has completed the military academy is currently an officer in the army.
Jorjorian has decided to establish a substantial foundation in such a way that his efforts to assist the students in Armenia would not be a matter of chance but an ongoing aid to deserving students.
I am sitting across from him, mouth agape, as if to point to him unconsciously that, “I have taken good care of my teeth.” He is happy and doesn’t even notice my teeth. He speaks about his brother. He and his brother are third generation Armenian-Americans. They had held onto their Armenian identity of to the time when Armenia regained its independence, and now they have grown strong in their Armenian identity.