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An Ethiopian Odyssey

Chapter 27 - Fit for a Queen

18th February 2005

The welcome from Silva and Jack Hagopian, Armenians living in Los Angeles had been so warm and touching. Chapter 27: Fit for a Queen, describes more links to Queen Elizabeth II, Armenia, Emperor Haile Selassie and Jerusalem. After Silva had shared her stories with me, we drove to Canoga Park, to meet her brother, Arakel, sister, Seta and brother in law Mardig Pogharian. It turned out that Mardig had also been a jeweller to the Ethiopian imperial family.
By now we’d arrived at Canoga Park. The road, and others surrounding it, were full of orange trees, reminders of the groves that once grew here. Seta and Mardig Pogharian’s ranch-style house was cosy, and we sat in the kitchen chatting. Arakel, Silva’s brother, reminisced about Ethiopia and fishing and how he missed game hunting in the bush. He had been a real ladies’ man and only settled down in late middle age. He and his wife now have a 16-year-old daughter.

As Silva had mentioned earlier, Mardig confirmed that he had made some pieces for Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen to give to Queen Elizabeth II. He showed me a photo of one of them, a beautiful silver replica of St George’s trapezium church, in Lalibela.

This was the church I’d stood beside, talking to Alan about Ethiopia’s image in the west – where Josef had come across and introduced himself. It had been a very special moment, as this was too. It was as if I was living in a dream – a dream that I could never have imagined, but it was all being played out for real on this earth. Magnificent, and so moving and humbling. It was all I could do to hold back my tears – all these caring guides, including my classmates and the Armenians: now so special to me, like real angels on earth.

Lunch was a mixture of shuro, a mild vegetable watt, wrapped in injera, like a lasagne. It was delicious. Ethiopia was still present in conversation and on the lunch menu. Seta showed me some photos of Crown Princess Medfrish Worq, the mother of Mary Asfaw Wossen, another classmate. The connections between the Armenians and the royal family still continued, which was wonderful to see.

Seta, Mardig, Arakel and Silva had travelled halfway round the world to be where they were, living quietly in a democratic society so that they and their future generations would never again have to experience genocide, the loss of family and their homes. Culture, an incredible spirit and good education were the things that had ensured the survival of the Armenians.

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