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18.06.2011

40,000 Polish-Armenians with no community
There are less than 40,000 Armenians living in Poland.
There are nearly 30,000 Armenians living in the Polish capital of Warsaw, and what make them special are their activities, as well as mindset and lifestyles. 

Armenians have been living in Poland for over 600 years. Although it is surprising and painful at the same time, they haven’t formed a community in Poland for the last 200 years and only in the past couple of years did they open Armenian schools in the country. Unlike other countries, the Armenians of Poland have no Armenian Apostolic Church. 

It is hard to describe the Armenians’ status and activities in a word. They are unorganized, dispersed and detached. 
Polish-Armenians can be divided into three groups.

The first group of Armenians are those who have lived in Poland for 600 years and call themselves Poles of Armenian origin. Over time, they have assimilated, converted to the Catholic faith, speak exclusively Polish and only after Poland’s declaration of independence did they begin to study, examine their roots and identify their origin. 

The second group of Armenians are the Armenians who emigrated to Poland during the cold, dark years of the 1990s in Armenia. They speak Armenian, call themselves new Polish-Armenians and the Armenian missionaries. The two groups have not had anything in common for years. They have been separate and, unfortunately, have had a narrow range of general interests. 

There are tens of Polish-Armenian organizations that are the bearers of different ideologies and work on solving different issues. 

The main mission of the organizations founded by Poles of Armenian origin is the preservation of memories, that is, their homes, churches and cemeteries that they abandoned in Lvov. They are not too interested in Armenia. 

The new Polish-Armenians’ organizations are mainly involved with disseminating Armenian culture and try to connect Armenian children born in Poland to their Armenian roots. 

For years, the Armenians of the mentioned groups have lived side-by-side, but alienated and it is that alienation that hasn’t allowed them to form a full-fledged Armenian community in Poland. To fill the gap, last year Polish-Armenians established the Armenian Congress of Poland with the purpose of uniting all Polish-Armenians. The first session was held with the participation of Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan, who attached importance to the Polish-Armenians’ unity and consolidation. 

One can hear the sounds of Armenian church psalms in Warsaw. 

Margarita Yeremyan has been living in Warsaw since 1997. She teaches Armenian language toPolish students of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Warsaw University. In 2003, after years of persistent efforts, she managed to found the first Armenian Sunday School where Armenian children learn Armenian language, literature and history. There are currently tens of Armenian students enrolled at the school. 

“Those couple of hours of lessons help prevent the children from assimilation, as well as help them recognize their history, land and people,” says Yeremyan. 

Yeremyan also hosts weekly radio programs in Armenian as part of the “Armenian Radio Program” on www.radio.net and says those programs help the children not forget the language. 

The new Polish-Armenians consider 2010 a successful year. 

“The numerous requests and letters to Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II didn’t go unanswered. Currently, Warsaw-Armenians have a spiritual pastor, Father Tatchat, who serves liturgies and the first one was served in September last year. We currently celebrate all church holidays at the church. We organize baptisms, weddings, and this is of tremendous significance for Armenians who haven’t had a community. The church and the faith are the great force that bring Armenians in a foreign country together,” says Margarita Yeremyan. 

Due to the lack of an apostolic church in Warsaw, Father Tatchat serves the liturgies in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. However, the new Polish-Armenians have expressed the desire to serve liturgies and pray in the Orthodox Church before having their own church. The demand and the desire are clear and justified. The Polish-Armenians have the greatest demand for attending churches. 

One will rarely find a monument to Armenia and Armenians in Warsaw. The only khachkar (cross-stone) is located in the patio of the Armenian Embassy in Poland. 

For several years now, on April 24 and December 7, Armenians gather near the khachkar, pay tribute to the victims and sing songs composed by Komitas. 

Armenians living in Poland say they have almost no connection to Armenia. No Armenian choir, dance group or theater company has toured Poland. Even if they come, they only come by the Polish side’s initiative and since there is no organized community, Polish-Armenians are not notified about the events. Margarita Yeremyan remembers how they found out about Jivan Gasparyan’s participation in a festival dedicated to Armenian national instruments via the Internet. 

“The community is unorganized and doesn’t have funds to organize a solo concert for a singer or a group, but we Polish-Armenians long for Armenian song, music and poetry. To fill the gap, Polish-Armenians often leave for the Czech Republic or Germany to participate in any Armenian cultural event. The Polish-Armenians don’t have any dance group or theater in Warsaw either and we often feel powerless for not being able to present Armenia with its genuine colors and image to foreigners,” says Yeremyan. 

Yeremyan hopes that the Congress will help solve the issues facing the Polish-Armenians over time and says the important thing is to unite. 

There are also many illegal Armenians living in Poland. They are in a devastating state because they live in fear and anxiety. Most of them don’t even have an Armenian passport and use their Soviet Union passports.
 
The illegal Armenians mainly work in markets. Unlike Armenia, street trade is not banned in Poland. 

They don’t see a future in Poland, but don’t even picture life in Armenia. The hope to receive amnesty, official documents and live legally instead of living in fear and anxiety. 

“Azg” daily newspaper

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