Tag Archives: Love

A Love Story

Young Lovers during Armenian Repatriation
Images courtesy of Jeannot and Laura

Which do you believe is stronger – the love of one’s country or the love of one’s soul mate? One young lover was forced to choose between his country of birth, France, or the woman he loved. It was a decision that changed the lives of two young lovers forever.

Jeannot was born in the resort paradise of Nice, France; and Laura, in the Soviet Union. She was among the Soviet elite, the daughter of a much-decorated military officer who served heroically in Stalin’s Red Army. The strikingly handsome young Armenian-Frenchman would meet the poised and beautiful, very serious Laura at the Polytechnical Institute in Yerevan, Soviet Armenia.

Both were excellent students who blotted out their past lives to live in a fantasy world they would create together. Life can seduce those who dream the impossible, despite the fact that each nook was occupied by informants, and the terrifying truth that “Big Brother” is watching, listening and reading each written or spoken word.

Dictators cannot tolerate those who believe in liberty and freedom.

And, it would be unthinkable for the parents of repatriates to bless or sanction such a marriage between a repatriate and local. “Akbars”, the repatriates, wanted to return to the West, especially those who were born in France and/or the United States; and the “deneracities” knew that the repatriates hated the Soviets and denigrated anything and everything about the USSR. There would be no compromises.

And, in 1960, when Nikita Khrushchev had reached the zenith of his political power, he opened a small hole in the iron gates to allow Soviet citizens to crawl through. Some made it to the West. Others waited patiently.

Their patience eventually paid off.

How painful and distressing life became when unexpectedly Jeannot and his mother were granted exit visas. A dream come true. Back to France. Back to Nice.

But Jeannot was in love. He and Laura planned to get married. There would be complications, delays, and maybe a “nyet” by the Soviets.

“I will go,” said Jeannot’s mother who had been widowed several years earlier. Jeannot had never forgotten the world he had left behind when he was just a child. He, too, said that he would go home to France, but planned to return to marry the girl whom he adored loved. The parents would breathe a sigh of relief, while the two young lovers parted. However, they vowed never to forget each other. And they did not.

The Francis Gary Powers Spy Plane Incident and the Cuban Missile Crisis suddenly refueled the Cold War and the two young lovers were left on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. They would not see or hear from each other for years.

Jeannot eventually found his niche in the business world and managed to accumulate substantial wealth. Not surprising since he had a degree and was fluent in Russian, Armenian, French and the English languages. He married and the marriage fell apart. He knew he had left his heart and soul behind in the Soviet Union.

Laura also married. A professor who taught at the prestigious Moscow University seemed to have given her a life that most Soviets only dream about. She had completed a degree in metallurgy. Neither was ready for what was to happen next in their lives.

One day, Jeannot was asked by his CEO to go to Moscow and negotiate a contract. He eagerly accepted the assignment and the challenge to return to the land of the Soviets. Once the jet landed in Moscow, Jeannot contacted several of his former college classmates, making inquiries about Laura. Luck would have it that a friend knew she had an apartment in Moscow and even had the phone number

Jeannot wasted little time. He picked up the phone, dialed the number and heard a man’s voice.

“I’m an old friend of Laura’s and I would like to talk with her,” Jeannot remembers telling the person.

“What do you want?” the man asked.

“My name is Jeannot… we went to college together…may I speak to her?”

The man repeated Jeannot’s name and Laura overheard it. She rushed to the phone. There was a silence that cripples the senses in such incidents. Laura was the first to speak. “Is it really you?” she asked.

“Yes!” And then unexpectedly and wasting no time, Jeannot asked “Do you love me?”

“Jeannot… I am married,” she whispered back into the phone.

“I did not ask you that. I asked – `Do you love me?’”

“Jeannot, I have a daughter. A lovely daughter. Please…”

For the third, and he stressed would be the final time, Jeannot asked Laura again, “Do you love me?”

There was a long, nervous silence on both ends.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! I have always loved you. I have never stopped loving you…”

Jeannot and Laura were married shortly afterward. And they have been inseparable since Fate reunited them. In a world of chaos, unnecessary bloodshed, and extreme nationalism, it is a joy to acknowledge and share a story of hope…a story of everlasting love.

***

bookTom Mooradian was one of 151 Americans who traveled to Soviet Armenia to repatriate during the 1940’s. Thought to be a spy by the KGB, Tom miraculously survived 13 years behind the Iron Curtain winning the hearts of the Soviets through his basketball prowess.  Filled with political drama, romance, and intrigue, Tom’s autobiography, The Repatriate reads like a novel, and will have you guessing how Tom managed to return to America alive.
The Second Edition is now available on Kindle and in Paperback!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Tears of joy

Ararat-Eskijian
It would be my first of seven talks in California that I would give on The Cold War and my recently published book, “The Repatriate: Love Basketball and the KGB”. Our first stop was Mission Hills, a serene senior citizens community that has a notable museum, the Ararat Eskijian, on its spacious and plush site.

After describing some of the hardships that Soviets and Armenian American repatriates faced daily, the long bread lines, the night vigils at stores waiting for them to open in hopes of finding sugar or butter or any edible items in the morning to place on the table for their families, I spotted an elderly woman in the crowd with tears in her eyes. I continued with my talk, though I paused briefly to tell the woman that my story did have a happy ending – that I actually survived 13 years in the USSR. She smiled, but one could see torment on her face.

I was not there to arouse anger, or pity, or any other emotion…I was there to provide information about a group of 151 Armenian Armenians who in 1947 made history by returning to their ancestral lands, controlled by the Soviets at the time, to help rebuild a war-torn nation, a nation that was, incidentally, an ally to the USA during World War II.

“There was a lot of disinformation spread on both sides of the Atlantic,” I told the gathering. “The US was also eager to stop the repatriation of Armenians to a country with which it was now locked in an ideological war. I produced an article published in 1951 in a prominent Armenian publication that noted that the Soviets seized from Armenian Americans all their cars, refrigerators, stoves, and valuable possessions upon landing on Soviet soil. That was not true.

“But, after a month in the Soviet Union, living in fear of the secret police, and hungry, most repatriates would have gladly given up all of their possessions if the Soviets would have granted them exit visas.”

Shortly after my talk, the woman whose eyes betrayed her emotions, came up to me, hugged and kissed me on my cheeks – a typical Armenian greeting. She apologized for interrupting the talk, “You see, Mr. Mooradian, I was 11 at the time. My father had also decided to take us on that first ship, but my mother told him he could go but she and her two daughters would not leave America. We stayed here. I have heard many rumors and stories about what happened, but you have given me a first-hand account. I thank God that we stayed here. And I truly am sorry or what you and the others had to go through.”

***

bookTom Mooradian was one of 151 Americans who traveled to Soviet Armenia to repatriate during the 1940’s. Thought to be a spy by the KGB, Tom miraculously survived 13 years behind the Iron Curtain winning the hearts of the Soviets through his basketball prowess.  Filled with political drama, romance, and intrigue, Tom’s autobiography, The Repatriate reads like a novel, and will have you guessing how Tom managed to return to America alive.
The Second Edition is now available on Kindle and in Paperback!

 

Save

A Cup of Love

Papazian-raising cups

“When you become frustrated with our world and yearn for your world, drink from this cup, it will take away your problems and life will become beautiful.”

The voice belonged to Armen-Dei and his words still ring in my ears. His wrinkled, ageless face is as vivid in my memory as if he were still sitting on his bench in the garden behind the Pioneers Palace in Yerevan, Armenia.

Made of obsidian, Armen-Dei’s cup was actually filled with wine, and the wine was an invitation to friendship. He called it a “Cup of Love.” Although I hesitated at first, Armen-Dei smiled and said, “Our children are born with wine in their blood. That is why they are so beautiful.”

In the days to come Armen-Dei would convince me that I, too, should have wine in my blood. Our friendship would last more than a decade.

Armen-Dei would never, ever reveal his age, but he laughed as he drank from the cup…and ate the lavash bread with cheese.

“I am older than…” he would start and then break into laughter, “Do you know that we Armenians are descendants of Noah’s son, Shem. In fact, I am named for one of Noah’s grandson’s, Armen.

What could I do but humor him? And then he would remind me that Noah lived to be over 900 years old.

“That’s a fact. You read the Bible, don’t you?”

A Bible! In an atheistic country! A Soviet citizen could be prosecuted as “an enemy of the state” if he possessed a Bible. All the churches had been closed and the believers sent off to Siberia.

And, then Armen-Dei went on, “We are supposed to be a free people. Our constitution says that we have the right to free speech, to a free press, and are guaranteed a job. Is that not so?”

The Soviet Constitution did do that and more, I agreed.

Armen-Dei had survived in the ungodly world of the Soviet Union and lived in a world surrounded by children, orchards, vineyards, and the mountains of the Caucasus. In his courtyard, filled with laughing children during the summer months, he would tell of the times that were and the times that would be. He would retell the story of Noah and the Ark and God’s Covenant. He would offer me a cup of love.

“The hatred within us – all of us – is the progeny of stupidity,” he would tell me. “It is nurtured and it grows with the help of its twin, prejudice…this government we all must serve, one day, will collapse. One day…as all governments which deceive and exploit their people will do….”

Armen-Dei would stop and hand me the cup and say to me, “Drink.”

And I learned to do so.

In a country whose citizens were restricted from owning land and producing anything outside the collective farm, Armen-Dei had created an acre of organic tapestry where mulberry and cherry trees, a vineyard, tomatoes, cucumbers and corn would flourish.

Armen Dei must have been over 100-years-old when I first met him in that courtyard. I was but 20, alone in a strange country, a repatriate living in my ancestral homeland in Soviet Armenia. His eyes had seen the rise and fall of Czar Nicholas II, World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the rise and decay of Stalin. He had also watched a young Armenian Republic struggle for independence and on the right road to democracy when the Soviets armies marched in and destroyed freedom in the guise of building a “workers’ paradise”.

The transformation from a capitalistic to a socialistic system proved deadly. Untold suffering for all was not what the Soviet citizens and the working class had expected. But that is what they got. Miraculously shutting out the rest of the Soviet world, Armen-Dei built his world with a panoply, created of his own hands – a rose wall made of Armenia’s natural stone, tuff. Ironically, on the other side of the wall, stood a foreboding three-story Gothic building, the office of the KGB (nee NKVD).

“Today our people are again in chains. But someday we will – and you will – again be free. Look, look to the mountain. It was there, atop Mt. Ararat, you will find the answers. God made his covenant with Noah there. With all of us. Remember His message, “Whoever sheds the blood of man… by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God has God made man…”

A few years ago, I returned to free Armenia. I visited the courtyard near where I had spent part of my youth teaching youngsters to play basketball. And stood at the spot where I had first met Armen-Dei.   The trees are still standing, but the bench, the garden, and the vineyard were gone.

I stood there for awhile, dreaming of those days that were, and the desire to have just one more day with him, to tell him I’ll never forget. The sun glistened from some small objects in weeds. I strolled to the spot, and there I saw the pieces of the obsidian. His cup. I picked up the pieces, brushed them off and smiled. He has been here all these years. I glanced up at the towering mountain that stood in the West and for one brief moment I was sure that I saw him standing there on the deck of the Ark. I wanted to shout, “Come back…come back! Your orchards and your vineyard need you – I need you!” And I am certain that I heard his voice say, “Come, drink from the cup.”

***

bookTom Mooradian was one of 151 Americans who traveled to Soviet Armenia to repatriate during the 1940’s. Thought to be a spy by the KGB, Tom miraculously survived 13 years behind the Iron Curtain winning the hearts of the Soviets through his basketball prowess.  Filled with political drama, romance, and intrigue, Tom’s autobiography, The Repatriate reads like a novel, and will have you guessing how Tom managed to return to America alive.
The Second Edition is now available on Kindle and in Paperback!

 

Save