ARMENIAN SHARES STORY OF FAITH, HOPE, SURVIVAL
by Shelby Young ([email protected] 348-4806)

Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)
May 10, 2006, Wednesday

Singer will be performing at churches and civic groups

Now a beautiful, young woman, Olga Petrossian sings with beauty and
confidence -- her voice a testament to the power of hope and faith

Recently, she sang for members of Putnam Rotary Club on her first
return visit to Putnam County since last May.

But there was a time in her life - far from peaceful Teays Valley -
when Olga feared to make as much as a single sound.

She still recalls a horrifying night when she was only 4 years old
in Azerbaijan, a part of the former Soviet Union which is bounded
by Iran on the south, by the Caspian Sea on the east, by Russia's
Dagestan Republic on the north and by Armenia on the west.

During the late 1980s, ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region
of Azerbaijan had pressed for its unification with Armenia, leading
to a guerrilla war. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, a
large-scale conflict broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1992.

Even though they were Armenian by blood, the Petrossians had lived
in Azerbaijan and spoke only the native Azeri and Russian languages.

Olga remembers the terror in the night - the knock at the door. Azeri
extremists were going from house to house, searching out ethnic
Armenians for extermination.

Discovery would mean death, she told the Rotarians.

Her mother pleaded with the 4-year-old Olga: "Please don't cry. If
they know we're here, they'll kill us."

The family huddled in the darkness, scarcely daring to breathe.

Then, an Azeri neighbor spoke to the gunmen and rescued the family
from the prospect of imminent death.

"There's no one there," she told the soldiers. "They've all gone."

Shortly thereafter, Olga's family joined a flood of refugees crossing
the border into neighboring Armenia.

However, they soon realized they would never be accepted in Armenia.

So the family moved north to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad,
where Olga's grandparents had a home.

Her grandmother attended regularly the church services in a local
theater there, and in those circumstanced despair was transformed
into hope for the family.

Olga wanted to go to school at Bethel College in Indiana, but the
cost was far beyond the means of the $100 per month of family income.

Then a letter came, offering a $10,000 scholarship. But Olga would
have to match it for the $20,000 tuition.

And, in a story of spirit and faith triumphant over circumstances,
she succeeded.

Other families supported her with gifts totaling $8,000.

She paid the balance by work on campus and personal ministry in the
United States.

This spring, Olga finished her senior year at Bethel, completing a
major in vocal performance.

Sponsored in part by international author and motivational speaker
Chet Marshall of Hurricane, the pretty, young Armenian prodigy from
Volgograd plans to speak and sing at several church and civic groups
during her visit in the area.

Accompanied by her father on guitar, Olga performed a Russian song
during the noon luncheon meeting at Sleepy Hollow.

As for the future, Olga will be married in July.

She's open to all the possibilities that lie before her, she said.

"I just pray about it, and I don't worry too much."