Lala Miskarian-Minasian’s “Syrian Diary”: A documental book devoted to the Arab springs that have not bloomed

Merited pedagogue, editor, professor and publicist Lala Miskarian-Minasian, who was hosted at the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, is one of the many Syrian-Armenians who have experienced the catastrophe of the Syrian war, undergone the years of hell, lived and relived those horrible days, buried familiar and unfamiliar people and dreamed of peace that, for years, had disappeared from that part of the Arab World into the seemingly ��?monstrous mouth’ of the war that was killing the blooming springs for the awakening of life every day.

My interview with Lala Miskaryan-Minasyan for Hayern Aysor features all the pro-national activities of the merited pedagogue and her life during the years of the war.

Karine Avagyan: Mrs. Miskaryan-Minasyan, please, tell us about your past. Where did you grow as a publicist, speaker, pedagogue, editor and professor?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: First of all, I am from Armenia. I was born in the Artchis village of Noyemberyan region to a family of pedagogues. I consider myself an Armenian from the Lori region of Armenia. I graduated from the Department of Philology at Yerevan State University. It was during my years at the university when I met my future husband, Byuzand Minasian. We got married, had our son in Yerevan and moved to Aleppo where my second son was born. I started my career at the Karen-Jeppe Armenian College. It was the smithy of my teaching career. I worked there until I turned 60, after which the College kept me for another five years. I have worked at the Mekhitarist Seminary. From 2011 to 2014, I have taught at the Sarkis Jemberjian School. I have also taught at the Cilicia College. I am also a professor of the Chair of Armenian Studies of Hamazkayin since its establishment.

Karine Avagyan: How did you solve the problem with the Western Armenian language? After all, you are from Armenia and received an education in Eastern Armenian. Wasn’t it hard for you to teach Armenian language and literature in Western Armenian?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: You know that students of the Department of Philology of Yerevan State University also learn grabar (classic) Armenian, and the foundations for that were laid quite well when I was a student. My knowledge of grabar helped me a lot. It was also easy for me to learn spoken Western Armenian because I was living with an Armenian family from Aleppo and would interact with Syrian-Armenians. Now I probably speak Western Armenian better than Eastern Armenian. I have been living in Aleppo since 1973. That is a long time.

Karine Avagyan: Philologists are mostly creative individuals, and you are also creative. During the years of the Syrian war, you started publishing your diaries in different newspapers and went on to integrate them in a book entitled “Syrian Diary”. How did you come up with the idea of integrating the events of those years in one book?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: The Syrian-Armenians were going through hell. People were being killed or wounded, buildings were collapsing and our beloved city of Aleppo was being destroyed in front of our eyes every day. We saw how children were given knives and forced to kill others. We saw hungry people. We lived in darkness and without homes. We lived without food and water…I started putting my thoughts about all this and sharing my experiences on paper in March 2011. They were published in different newspapers. Afterwards, I took my relatives’ advice and decided to write a book.

Karine Avagyan: You are at an age when you are wise. What do you think was the motive for the Syrian war?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: The war is not over yet. The war is destroying a marvelous country and an ancient spiritual center of the Armenians for oil and own interests. This is the work of the Turks and the barbarians who perpetrated the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Turkey plays a huge role. From the outset of the war, the Turks transferred 7-8 large and profitable companies from Aleppo to Turkey. I believe this was planned. Syria needs full and everlasting peace so that it can recover and look as splendid as it used to.

Karine Avagyan: Mrs. Minasian, as I was reading your diary, I noticed that you included an epigraph from the Bible, Armenian proverbs and the winged words of classic Armenian writers before every note, but I noticed that there were more reflections on the wise words of the Genius Armenians of Lori region…

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: I understood what you meant. I have touched upon Tumanyan more because his and Isahakyan’s philosophical thoughts are universal truths. The epigraphs are followed by the events included in my diary.

Karine Avagyan: As I was reading one of your notes, I set aside the following lines: “Today we woke up from a horrible explosion in the morning…The sleepy residents of the district were looking at each other from their balconies, and there was one question-where did the explosion take place? It was nearby. We still have to wait for news about the building that collapsed and how many people were killed. Meanwhile, it was dawn in a wonderfully blue sky…and the newly bloomed white jasmines are ��?smiling’ in my balcony…”

You saw life and death. What made you maintain your optimism and keep hoping to live?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: Yes! Those tender jasmines symbolized the peaceful mornings that will come, purity, light…Darkness can’t ��?reign’ for a long time; there will be a light from somewhere or in some period. Life and death are current in all times. Peace and wars have always been in struggle with each other. All mankind has always dreamed of living in peace. One must always have hope.

Karine Avagyan: You have received the Gevorg Melitine Literary Award for your book. Were you expecting it?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: I had no intention to present my book for award. I took my acquaintances’ advice and sent it to Beirut, but I didn’t think I would receive an award. It came as a surprise.

Karine Avagyan: Is this the only book you have written?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: No, I have other books as well. My first book, “Horizons of Hope” was released in 2007 and presents the memories of my years in Armenia. My second book was released in 2015 and is called “Land and Sky”. This book features short stories. After sending my book of diaries to Beirut, I continued to write, but not diaries. Here I have included my short stories. The first part of my new book is entitled “War”.

Karine Avagyan: Publicist, editor, lecturer, pedagogue, writer…Which sphere have you been more involved in?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: Pedagogy. I have dedicated most of my conscious life to pedagogy.

Karine Avagyan: You were born in the Tavush region of Armenia and left the Homeland many years ago. What does the Homeland mean to you?

Lala Miskarian-Minasian: I miss my hometown and my Homeland. They are an integral part of me. The Homeland means everything to me. It is my dream, my pain, my love and my joy. I think I have fulfilled my duty as an Armenian in Aleppo. I really want to serve my Homeland a little and live in the Homeland. If I am lucky to return to the Homeland, I prefer to live in my hometown.

Karine Avagyan: Dear compatriot, thank you for this interview and for your book of valuable diaries. Let us end the interview with the following lines from the epilogue of your book “Syrian Diary”: “We don’t want to believe that “our Aleppo” is being destroyed every day, that our history spanning millennia is being eliminated, that this community with the breath of numerous martyrs and Armenians saved by a miracle will be destroyed, just like the communities of Poland, India, New Nakhichevan, Crimea, Romania and several other once thriving communities…There was so much Armenianness that it was more than a hometown.”

Interview by Karine Avagyan

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