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Who is Fresno lady who gave $1 million to assist Armenia?

Who is Fresno lady who gave $1 million to assist Armenia?

Persimmons have been drying within the kitchen and a bowl of cracked walnuts sat on the desk on this November day. Clara Margossian, 102, wore her favourite scarf tied round her head, knotted beneath her chin. The one she saves for firm.

In the home she had constructed on previous fig orchard land 40 years in the past, she requested her caretakers, Nunufar Khalatian and Margo Ellison, to fetch a field of the See’s sweet stored available for all events. But then she observed the ladies, each Armenian immigrants, checking their telephones, making an attempt to cover tears.

“What happened?” Margossian requested, going out of the blue nonetheless. “Is it the war?”

Six weeks earlier, as fighting escalated between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of antiquity and wonder within the Caucasus Mountains, Khalatian and Ellison had been too shocked to cover their feelings. They cried. They mentioned how a lot cash they have been going to ship to the Armenia Fund, a Los Angeles-based humanitarian reduction group. Khalatian despatched $1,000. Ellison got here up with $700. For each it was a sacrifice.

Margossian stated she wished to assist too. No one in her household had ever been identified for making a gift of cash. But Margossian, the final of her clan and with no dwelling kin, informed the church deacon accountable for her affairs to rearrange a $1-million donation.

Quickly it unfold all through the diaspora that such a present got here to Armenia from a Fresno lady greater than a century previous — a daughter of the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Malia Urdahl, 4, sits with 102-year-old Clara Margossian in her Fresno dwelling. Malia is the granddaughter of Nunufar Khalatian, considered one of Margossian’s caretakers.

(Nunufar Khalatian)

Ellison’s cousin in Armenia, dwelling from the entrance strains, a bullet in his knee, known as to ask if she knew who the girl may very well be.

She informed him it was her Clara, the girl she labored for. She held up her pill so he may converse to Margossian over video. He tearfully thanked her for serving to a homeland she had by no means seen. He stated that the cash introduced a particular hope coming from a survivor of Armenia’s best tragedy.

Knarik Clara Margossian’s life spans the sweeps of historical past that outline the Armenian expertise. She was born within the shadow of the genocide and now, in previous age, nightly watched YouTube updates of a warfare over lands her household fled.

Her mom was pregnant with Clara’s older brother when an estimated 1.5 million Armenians have been killed and expelled by Ottoman Turk troopers and police. Turkey continues to disclaim it was genocide.

Margossian’s older brother was born April 25, the day after the date acknowledged annually because the anniversary of the bloodbath. Her mother and father’ Turkish neighbors hid them. When the order went out that any Turkish households defending Armenians could be killed, her mother and father started strolling to Russia with a 3-day-old child. Clara and her youthful sister have been born in Russia. One by one, their surviving kin joined them.

The household of watchmakers prospered however remained cloistered and cautious of outsiders. Neither Clara nor her siblings ever married. In the 1940s, like many Armenian households earlier than them, they moved to Fresno, the primary middle of the Armenian diaspora in California. A household good friend informed them that in the event that they put aside a bit cash every month for investing, they’d be wealthy of their previous age. Margossian nonetheless consists of that man’s reminiscence in her prayers.

A family sits in an old, sepia-toned family portrait

Armenian immigrant Nunufar Khalatian, 59, holds an previous picture that options the household of 102-year-old Fresno resident Clara Margossian, a daughter of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Margossian is at far proper.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Armenian connection is written on the panorama of the Central Valley. The winter-gold grapevines on the outskirts of city, trays of raisins just lately harvested, have been first planted by Armenian settlers within the late 1800s. Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church continues to be the jewel of downtown, even now, flanked by a flashy automobile dealership. Across the road, Valley Lahvosh bakery makes Armenian cracker bread formed like hearts.

Many of the town’s household names finish in “i-a-n,” the traditional suffix that means “son of”. It is the setting of “The Human Comedy” by native son William Saroyan. His novel of extraordinary folks on the house entrance throughout World War II is taken into account an American antiwar basic.

Fresno turned a de facto dwelling entrance to the 2020 Azerbaijani-Armenian warfare. At the Armenian faculty, the eyes of a mom dropping her youngsters off have been purple and swollen from crying all evening. Almost on daily basis there was a “Pastries for Peace” or a kebab sale to boost cash for Armenia. As in bigger cities, people protested on street corners, fruitlessly demanding the United States intercede. In a rustic grappling with a momentous election, pandemic and civil unrest, their voices gained little traction.

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed oil-rich Azerbaijan with superior weapons, Armenians in Fresno and elsewhere quaked, fearing the top aim was destroying Armenia itself.

 The William Saroyan Monument and Dedicatory Plaque stands in Courthouse Park in downtown Fresno

A monument to William Saroyan stands in Courthouse Park in downtown Fresno. The Armenian American writer of “The Human Comedy” is a local son of Fresno.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In the evenings, Margossian often favored to observe her favourite present, “Poldark,” a PBS saga tracing generations of a household by wars. But now she watched real-time Armenian warfare protection. They all the time reported that Armenia was profitable, regardless of the percentages and despite the fact that Khalatian and Ellison acquired messages from dwelling telling of horrible losses.

On Nov. 9, the fact was introduced. Armenia’s forces have been damaged and dealing with sure defeat. The Armenian authorities accepted a Russia-brokered peace deal returning a lot of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Russian troopers will patrol the realm and implement new borders.

The day Margossian observed her caregivers crying was once they first noticed pictures of the Azerbaijani flag flying over Shusha, the hilltop metropolis Armenians name Shushi, and which each Armenians and Azeris treasure.

Khalatian didn’t immediately reply when Margossian requested: “Is it the war?”

“Clara-jan,” she stated, including an endearment typically utilized by Armenians. “Your money will help people who need medicine and places to live, even more now.”

Margossian appeared to know what that meant. Her eyes stuffed with tears.

“I want to give a message to the Armenian people,” stated Margossian, who’s deeply spiritual. “Tell them to keep faith in God and each other.”

Grief unfold by the neighborhood as Armenians realized the area they name Artsakh, dwelling to their oldest church buildings and monasteries, was misplaced. Ellison bought phrase that relations, two younger brothers on her father’s facet, had been killed 25 minutes earlier than the truce was introduced.

A shadow is cast against the Armenian Genocide Centennial Memorial on the campus of California State University Fresno

A shadow strikes throughout the Armenian Genocide Centennial Memorial on the campus of Cal State Fresno.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Varoujan Der Simonian, director of the Armenian Museum of Fresno, grew up in Lebanon and has lived in Fresno for 41 years. He requested himself why the lack of this blood-soaked land devastated him and others much more generations faraway from Armenia.

“I realized it’s because it’s inside me. It’s part of me,” he stated.

In the courtyard of the church downtown, he knelt in entrance of the eternity circle, an Armenian image of infinity that can be carved in numerous crosses all through Nagorno-Karabakh, a spot he’s visited many instances on agricultural missions.


A showcase for compelling storytelling from the Los Angeles Times.

“I had trouble coming here today,” he stated, trying on the image’s looping, unbroken strains. “This circle holds the love and creativity of the Armenian people. We will endure and continue to contribute to humanity.”

During the Soviet period, Turkish Azerbaijan and Armenia lived peacefully facet by facet. But Josef Stalin tried to erase spiritual and cultural identities by making Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian cultural touchstone, a part of Azerbaijan.

When the Soviet Union broke up, each international locations turned impartial. Nagorno-Karabakh, with its massive Armenian inhabitants, tried to interrupt away from Azerbaijan. Armenia invaded the disputed territory it considers a homeland however is internationally acknowledged as Azerbaijan, and drove 600,000 ethnic Turks from their properties.

A man places his hand over his heart in front of a large gravestone in a cemetery

Varoujan Der Simonian stands on the Grave of the Unknown Martyr in Ararat Cemetery in Fresno. The grave symbolizes the lives misplaced within the Armenian genocide whose names should not remembered and our bodies went unburied.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The warfare led to 1994, with 20,000 lifeless and Azerbaijanis vowing to sometime reclaim what they take into account their land. The Armenian commander in that warfare was Monte Melkonian, an Armenian American who grew up taking part in Little League baseball within the Central Valley.

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, 5,000 were killed in this war. Many of the lifeless have been civilians. Refugees are flooding into Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, whilst a pandemic continues to kill. The energy in a unstable area has tilted to Turkey and Russia.

At Margossian’s home, she watched on video as folks in Armenia rioted over their nation’s give up and Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh, a few of them burning their houses behind them.

Margossian requested if folks have been glad the warfare had ended. Khalatian reached for Margossian’s hand and gave it a comforting squeeze.

“I think the people whose children will make it home alive, on both sides,” she stated, “are happy that it’s over.”

A church building at night with streaks from car lights in the foreground

Traffic makes its approach down Ventura Avenue as nightfall settles behind the long-lasting Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in downtown Fresno.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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