The Beautiful City of Gavar


Grisha Darbinyan, at age 85, lives in Burbank, California in a peaceful elderly community. Although the constant center of attention at family gatherings, Grisha also has made it a hobby to give back to his community and his people. Spending his days at the Armenian World War II Veterans Association in Glendale, California doing all he can to help. Compared to his life before, his current life is, in his own words “calm”. Back when he lived in the village of Gavar, Armenia, his life revolved around his education, his occupation, and most of all his love for his birthplace of Gavar. He said it was his birthplace; it was a very wonderful place, full of green trees, beautiful flowers, and the most wonderful place in the country. He expressed his love for his village by writing poems, dramas, stories, novels, songs, etc. about it. He had also served his country by fighting in the Second World War, saying that if any man did not serve for his country, he was a traitor.

My name is Grisha Darbinyan; I was born in one of Gavar’s mountain villages on November 12th 1923. I finished school and after finishing school, I went to war. The Second World War, and there I stayed for four years on the battlefield. I walked from the battlefields passing the Karapat Mountains of Armenia all the way to Ukraine. After the war I went again to Gavar to an Institute where I began learning how to care for animals, a veterinarian. So I went to continue my education there. I was very good at mathematics and at 14 years old I began to write poems and historical stories.

After graduating I again went back to the same institute and after that in 1943, there was a huge flood in Armenia, where during the flood all the buildings had filled with water, on the Navandian street in front of the statue of Navandian. My Institute was at the end of the street during the flood, and was moved to the Gyuxatuntesakan (Name of University) Institute building because our building was flooded with water. The entire building was ruined, and my diplomas were ruined by the water and lost, because of that I had no proof of completing the institute and had to stay there and begin all over again because I had no choice. I graduated that institute with my skills in animal care, but I got a job offer in Armenia under the united writers association. I left Gavar in 1941 when I came to Yerevan to learn, and after that I stayed there.

When I graduated from the Institute, it was very hard to find a veterinarian job in Armenia at the time. A man named Babayan who was the number one veterinarian helped me find a job, and liked me very much. They offered me a job for a veterinarian in the city but I refused it. Babayan asked me why I would give up this opportunity and I said I will not spend my life in a small village on the outskirts of the city, I will stay in Yerevan, and that is how I stayed there.

Gavar was my birthplace; it was a very wonderful place, our Gavar. It was full of green trees, beautiful flowers, and the most wonderful place in the country. It was proven that our mountains, even after all the ice melted everything stayed the same. Such as the mountains and the nature, it was just a beautiful green place. There were all kinds of different flowers, and lots of clear waterfalls. That is why I loved my birthplace so much. I was very attached to my birthplace, so attached that I wrote poems, dramas, stories, novels, songs, and more about Gavar’s beauty.

News traveled in different ways. In the 1930s there was radio, and after a short time, they started printing the first newspapers. It was known as the Bayzeti Newspaper, after the war, it would be printed 5 times a week. The editor of the newspaper was my best friend. If something would happen, the news would travel among the people of the village.

The village was very modernized and successful. The first school was started in 1830. My parents had come to Gavar from the old village of Bayazet, on the west side of Turkey. There were a lot of famous people. One was an atomic/nuclear bomb physicist; he was a two time hero for the Soviet Union. He had seven awards for being a top scientist/physicist. And his award for being a double hero, the double hero, is on display in the village. There was also famous movie director, Fronze Dovlatyan. His older brother, Vram Dovlatyan, was known in America. Vram was one of the 500 most famous scientific people in the world. In America they had his biography.

In the recent years many people have left the village of Gavar, a lot of them went to Artashat’s village of Vartashen, Shahumyan’s village known as Haxtanak is where many went also; they also went to the different villages of nearby Abovyan. A lot of people visited and passed through our village. Even Andranik Zoravor, a famous Armenian army leader, passed through with his army.

We didn’t have any different religions besides Christian because of course Armenians are Christian. The first church when the people of Gavar first arrived was in the center of Gavar in 1905. One of the main founders built the church with his own money. There were town events such as the Mayisyan Abstambutsyun (The May Event) which was held in front of the Dashnaks, (a group of people against the Armenian government) every year trying to get them to leave. This event was started in Gavar.

The Dashnaks were against everything that Gavar and its people stood for. So the people of Gavar eventually got them to leave. Besides the Dashnaks, the people were alike and were very calm and nice to each other. Nobody was against anybody and everyone knew everyone and treated others like family. Even at those times they were all good with each other, in those times many people around the country were against each other, but not in Gavar. One time there was a leader that came to our village and wanted to take a Gavar girl for marriage and also asked for food and supplies. All of which was against our ways in Gavar. Many people from other villages came to ours to ask for money, food, and supplies because we had them.

I would love to live there. After I came to the United States, two years later I went back to Armenia, and there they interviewed me on TV and asked if I would ever come back to live there, I said that I would live there only if the government would give me the same benefits that the American government gives me.

Interviewed By: Michael Arutunian