Extract from In the Country of Stones published by Another Place Press.
“While creating the world,
God poured earth and stones
through an immense sieve.
Soft soil fell on one side
and stones on the other,
exactly where Armenia is located today.”
– Armenian legend
I was seven years old when I first heard anything about Armenia. It was thanks to a seven-inch record played at home – Pour toi Arménie, the charity song written by Charles Aznavour to raise money for Armenians affected by the 1988 Spitak earthquake. Back then I couldn’t have known that over two decades later I would actually go there.
In 2013, my girlfriend and I received a postcard showing Mount Ararat, the snow-capped volcano that is a national symbol in Armenia. That postcard sparked a first hitchhiking trip through Armenia in September the same year. On that trip, my girlfriend and I discovered a fascinating place — a land of contrasts, laden with history. We had heard about the legendary Armenian hospitality, but we were still humbled by the level of openness and generosity we encountered. During those three weeks on the road we had the strange feeling that we had reunited with distant relatives, and we promised ourselves we would return. I therefore seized a volunteering opportunity at Spitak’s YMCA and came back in February and March 2014 to produce pictures for a guidebook presenting historically and culturally relevant sites in the re-emerging city of Spitak, which was destroyed during the 1988 earthquake, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Armenian independence.