We all experience unforgettable moments at some point in life, journalists all the more so. If you follow my column, you will probably recall how I
ruined Erdogan’s day;
and attended the signing of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols.
I have more stories of similar kind and I hope to write them all down one day. Today, though, Facebook has reminded me about a certain photograph, and a ten-year-old story has resurfaced in my memory. I like to recall it among friends and now I am ready to tell it to my readers.
Here is the photo:
The picture was made in 2008. It shows the commander of Camp Bondsteel, the US military base in Kosovo, handing over a keepsake to me. Right after the photo was taken, I seized the moment and asked the commander to send me to the Armenian peacekeepers, who were serving in the Greek brigade near the town of Ferizaj (previously called Urosevac).
The general immediately ordered his deputy to organize the visit, and just an hour later, the American Humvee was taking me to Ferizaj.
Apart from the driver, I was accompanied by a particularly talkative corporal. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand him because of the strange accent and intonation. I only managed to figure out that the corporal was from Texas and we had to make a stop in Ferizaj downtown.
At all other times I just smiled and laughed occasionally, when the corporal did the same at the times I spoke.
We parked next to the Ferizaj municipality minutes later, and as soon as we got out of the car, loud music began playing and a series of unexpected events took place.
Dozens of children with US and Kosovo flags started marching in the central square of Ferizaj. They were probably pupils from nearby schools and they greeted us loudly, and I was struck by a thought that we became a part in an important event. I only needed to figure out who those people were, what exactly was happening, and what role I was supposed to play in all that.
The parade ended and we were invited to the municipality. I was getting a bad feeling as we stepped on the staircase, and my gut guessed right: people with cameras and voice recorders were waiting in front of the mayor’s office. We entered the room and received a warm welcome from a grey-haired gentleman, the Mayor. “Davit,” I introduced myself quickly. We sat at the table: the mayor took the main seat, the corporal sat on his right and I found myself on his left.
In broken English, the mayor started talking and told there was a holiday in the city. If I recall correctly, it was a big celebration of either liberation or independence. The Mayor thanked the American people, as represented by the corporal and me, for helping the people of Kosovo in the last Yugoslavia war. It became obvious to me that we were an official delegation. It became even more obvious that the corporal was as surprised as me, to say the least. Events unfolded very quickly, we needed to save the day and provide a proper response to the mayor’s speech. Around four or five cameras turned to the corporal and he started speaking… Judging by the journalists’ faces, they understood the corporal’s accent no better than I did, and so they found a new target when the corporal was finished talking – me. Well, what would you have me do…
“On behalf of the people and the government of the United States, I congratulate you with this beautiful holiday and I wish to you and your children to always live in a peaceful country and never face war again. Let Ferizaj and Kosovo flourish and prosper!”
The journalists were happy with that, the mayor was satisfied, and the corporal was stunned, let’s put it that way. I think he assumed for a moment that I knew about the event and was actually sent by US authorities.
The situation was resolved, the cameras left the room, and we drank our coffee in quiet. The corporal was looking daggers at me the whole time, trying to figure out who I was… Finally, we said good-bye to the mayor and shook hands. I was preparing myself for an uncomfortable conversation, but then, as we exited the municipality building, I saw them – our boys, the Armenian peacekeepers.
They were working, checking IDs of idle onlookers walking near the municipality.
“Guys, are you Armenian?”
They looked at me in surprise. Someone was speaking Armenian in a small town in Kosovo…
“The two of us are, yes, and he is Greek.”
“Well, hello then! I was looking for you, guys! I’m a journalist, from Yerevan.”
“And we were waiting for you. Welcome, welcome, come with us.”
The corporal was still boring holes in me with his glare. And one of the Armenian peacekeepers said in a bold, proud voice,
“This is our guy, man! We will take him!”
Davit Alaverdyan is the Chief Editor of Mediamax.