I came across a lovely piece in a rural newspaper about a conductor, Vartan Melkonian, who works with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Vartan grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, as a street kid, the orphaned child of refugees who escaped genocide – the planned destruction of their race by a ruthless empire. He spent the first eight years of his life in a refugee camp, the next few years on the streets.
‘I had never sat on a chair, I had never been into someone’s house. I didn’t know how to tie shoe laces,’ he relates. ‘People take moments of pleasure by looking at the sunset. For us, for me, it was the worst time of the day, there was nowhere to go. I had to find any alcove to sleep in.’
Vartan somehow hauled himself out of destitution, found a place to live, studied music, became a conductor and now gives lectures for the United Nations on the lives of street children.
That Vartan is alive at all is a minor miracle. His family fled their homes in Armenia in 1915 after Turkey launched a calculated massacre of its Armenian citizens. To this day, no-one knows how many died. Turkey, to this day, denies the holocaust took place.
Yet its present prime minister has the Islamist effrontery of accusing Israel of committing crimes ‘worse than Hitler.’
Forget about Erdogan, he’s not worth a wasted brain cell. Forget the other Islamist anti-semites. Think about the Armenians.
Next year, 2015, is the centenary of their genocide. Time to make sure the world knows what happened. Read Franz Werfel, The 40 Days of Musa Dagh’. Do what you can to bring Turkey to justice before the court of world opinion.
I’m thinking of changing my surname for the year to Lebrechtian in solidarity with the oppressed Armenians. Anyone care to join?
Read Vartan’s interview here.