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'Armenia' ship arrives in Singapore

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  • 'Armenia' ship arrives in Singapore

    The Straits Times, Singapore
    June 12, 2011 Sunday

    'Armenia' ship arrives in Singapore

    Crew of eight on journey to visit countries where members of the
    Armenian diaspora have settled

    BY: Jennani Durai

    In May 2009, a group of eight Armenians set sail on a boat named
    Armenia with one intention: to visit every country where Armenians
    have historically had a presence.

    On Thursday afternoon, they made it to Singapore after stopping at
    more than 10 other countries, and docked at the One Degree 15 Marina
    Club at Sentosa Cove. Last night, they received a warm reception from
    the local Armenian community at the Armenian Apostolic Church of St
    Gregory the Illuminator along Hill Street, where a dinner was hosted
    in their honour. There are about 80 Armenians living here.

    The voyage is not an official government trip, but crew member Armen
    Nazaryan, 70, said that 10 per cent of the trip's expenses were paid
    for by the Armenian government. The rest of the money came from
    private businesses and individual donors.

    The head of the expedition is 76-year-old Zori Balayan, who is well
    known in his country as a journalist and novelist. He and Mr Nazaryan
    are the oldest crew members; the other six are in their 20s and 40s.

    Mr Balayan, who said he has been dreaming of such a voyage for 50
    years, said: 'I've been studying the Armenian diaspora for many years,
    and our intention was to visit all the countries that Armenians have
    spread out to.'

    The diaspora is mainly the result of the Armenian genocide in 1915,
    when rulers of the Ottoman Empire are said to have killed more than
    1.5 million of them, and tens of thousands fled the country. Of the 10
    million Armenians worldwide, only three million live in the small
    land-locked country in south-eastern Europe.

    The boat set off from France, sailed across the Mediterranean to the
    United States and South America.

    The expedition was temporarily derailed in December 2009, when the
    cook on board fell seriously ill. The crew flew back home, where the
    cook eventually died. 'That was definitely the lowest point of our
    journey,' said Mr Balayan.

    One year later, the crew picked up where they left off in South
    America, and continued to Easter Island, New Zealand and Australia.
    They stopped by Timor Leste and Surabaya in Indonesia before arriving
    here. They leave for south India today.

    Sisters Loretta and Jessie Sarkies, descendants of the Sarkies
    brothers who founded the Raffles Hotel, were among the 40-strong crowd
    who gathered to welcome the seafarers yesterday.

    'We are very proud that they've come. We were at the marina to welcome
    them and I felt so proud to see 'Armenia' at the side of the ship,'
    said Ms Jessie Sarkies, 64. Added elder sister Loretta, 70: 'We always
    try to meet Armenians who are visiting, to welcome them to Singapore.'

    The expedition is scheduled to end in Cyprus in August, but Mr Balayan
    is already planning another two voyages. 'One trip is not enough to
    cover all the countries where Armenians have had a presence,' he said.

    From: Baghdasarian