Yeghvard, Armenia - After four years of summer campaigns, over eighty volunteers, thousands of hours of professional and volunteer work, the opening of Yeghvard village's Sourp Astvatzatzin Church took place on Saturday, August 20, 2011.
This small village, on the extreme eastern border of Armenia, in the Syunik region, had been blessed and honored with the grave of Toros Ishkhan, comrade-in-arms of David Beg. The 17th century church had been in dire condition, the interior destroyed, the roof pitted and the outlaying gravestones overturned and untended, during the 70 years of Soviet rule. After the collapse of that regime, the village needed to concentrate on rebuilding itself and not their beloved church.
Organization Terre et Culture (OTC) and Land and Culture Organization (LCO-USA) adopted this project because of its historical significance, vulnerable location, and extreme desire of the villagers and its mayor to once again have their church. The gratification and pleasure of the villagers during the reopening of this church was immeasurable.
The celebration lasted for many hours. Present were Board members from French Organization Terre et Culture (OTC), Kegham Kevonian, Dr. Aram Gazarian, Aram Keropvyan, Araxie Antreassian. American Land and Culture Organization (LCO-USA) was represented by Board members, Dr. Haig Manjikian, Nazareth Kevonian and Hilda Manjikian. Needless to say, many past volunteers and members of both organizations made the long journey to see the fruition of their work. The opening prayers for the church were performed by the clergy from the local town of Kapan.
Joining village mayor, Spartak Zakarian in celebration was the architect, Stepan Nalbandian, and various specialists in historical restoration who worked on this site. The project was overseen by Astghig Hacopian, head of the Armenian Monument Renovation Committee for the Syunik region.
Over five hundred people, from villages far and near, gathered in Yeghvard's Community Center Courtyard to add their joy to this event. Dance groups, theatrical presentations, recitations were presented for the villagers. Many of our volunteers and villagers broke into spontaneous dancing themselves during the performances. They could not reign in their excitement. A celebratory dinner was prepared for the guests and volunteers after the performances. Many toasts and speeches, as is the custom in Armenia, and much dancing and laughing was a fitting end to an unforgettable and moving experience.
After seventy years of Soviet neglect, two years under Azeri bombardment, twenty years of worry and four years of work, the village now feels complete. A dream realized.
For over 30 years, LCO has been one of the earliest volunteers groups in Armenia and Karabakh working to restore, renovate, and rejuvenate the historical monuments and sites of our nation. It has performed this mission through its summer campaigns, by volunteers of every age from the Diaspora and Armenia. To help our mission or join in our summer volunteer program, you may reach us at www.lcousa.org.