For many, Friday, Jan. 1, represented a long-overdue turn of the page from a year that lived up to no one’s expectations. From the beginning of 2020, news trickled into American airwaves and newsprint that a mysterious virus had secretly wreaked havoc throughout much of China and had begun spreading at uncontrolled levels through South Korea, Iran, Italy and Spain. Reports of overwhelmed hospitals, mass graves and widespread lockdowns also spread. And then the accounts started coming out of New York City. And Seattle. And a well-known pork processing plant in South Dakota. By March 11, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was declared to be a global pandemic. Locally, by March 13 — auspicious, indeed, as a Friday the 13th — school districts were closing, cities were declaring states of emergency and officials were openly discussing what would become the Safer at Home orders. Restaurants were limited to takeout or delivery. Personal care services, entertainment venues and bars closed. Nonessential retailers had to close. The NBA suspended its season.
Expressing disappointment, sadness and anger, members of Glendale’s Armenian community gathered downtown Monday after news of an accord in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the local demonstration eventually shutting down part of Central Avenue. The effusive mood typically shown by Glendale members of the Armenian diaspora at events outside the Armenian Consulate was replaced by somberness as the crowd processed information that had begun trickling out hours earlier. The throng had learned that the peace agreement signed by Armenia largely ceded land in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Azerbaijan that the latter’s army had retaken in the six-week war. The agreement, brokered by Russia, is largely seen as a victory for Azerbaijan, which aimed to reassert control of the region — home of Armenian-populated Artsakh — that has mostly functioned autonomously since 1994.
The well-known Mexican observance of Día de los Muertos proved this year to be a community-building medium in Glendale. The Glendale Latino Association typically sets up an altar for the Day of the Dead every year, tipping its cap to its members of Mexican heritage. However, the coronavirus pandemic this year means that access to the organization’s center is closed, so not many people could have seen the piece. Instead, current events — the war involving Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Armenian-populated Artsakh region that resumed in September — opened a door for the local organization to build bridges with Glendale’s prominent Armenian community. What resulted was a Día de los Muertos altar paying homage to Armenia and Artsakh, for all to see on Glendale’s Artsakh Avenue promenade. Jennie Quinonez-Skinner, president of the GLA, said the idea came from one of the group’s recent meetings.
It all started with the recollection of a quote. When Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, saw news reports in September that war involving his ancestral home of Armenia had resumed, he was drawn back to a famous statement by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” Dorian said in an interview, reciting Mead’s words. His recall of the remark prompted him to get on the phone, and a few calls later, Dorian said, he knew what he had to do. Armenia’s ministry of health reported that chief among the nation’s needs was a CT scanner, largely for use in surgeries on people with shrapnel wounds as a result of the fighting between Armenian forces in the breakaway state Artsakh against Azerbaijani forces aiming to reassert control of the region. So he got to work.
The Burbank City Council voted this week to condemn Azerbaijani aggression in the mostly Armenian region of Artsakh, a disputed area over which Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have clashed. Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, includes the Hadrut province, with which Burbank declared a friendship in 2014. Reported violence by Azerbaijani forces in Artsakh has been the focus of widespread protests and rallies recently, with the Armenian flag becoming a not-uncommon sight in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The panel’s unanimous vote also directed city staff members to send a letter of support from the council for a potential U.S. House of Representatives resolution, House Resolution 1165, that would condemn Azerbaijan’s military’s actions in Artsakh. The resolution’s authors include Reps. Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman, who represent Burbank.
When local members of the Armenian diaspora woke up on Thursday and began to scour the internet and social media for on-the-ground updates — any news, really — from the front lines of the reignited war between Azerbaijan and the Armenia-backed breakaway state Artsakh, they found pictures of the Holy Savior Cathedral. Continue reading “Glendale Armenians “Inspired by Other People’s Sacrifices””