Lucas Balian: “If I cross the ocean someday, my first stop will be Armenia”

Hayern Aysor’s correspondent sat down for an interview with member of Cordoba City Council Lucas Balian, who was recently elected to that post. During the interview, Balian talked about not only his political career, but also his roots, family and his willingness to help the Armenian community.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Balian, what will you be doing as a member of Cordoba City Council?

Lucas Balian: I am one of the city council’s 30 consultants who represent the 1.5 million people of Cordoba, which is the second largest city of Argentina. I have been a member of the Radical Civil Party and have been involved in radical politics for a decade.

My father, Alejandro Balian has been a member of the party since 1983, and I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps. I approach politics philosophically. I work with the purpose of helping the poor and changing the world based on my perspective. I started from my district, which is an Armenian-populated district. Being a member of the city council, I have participated in the implementation of different cultural programs and projects, as well as programs and projects for the improvement of schools and libraries and more.

I must say Argentina still hasn’t seen poverty reduction. For that purpose, we carry out the Cultural Park Project for children of different layers of society so that they can establish close ties together. The expenses are covered by the government. There will be computer rooms, playgrounds, libraries, cafes and movie theaters in the place allocated for the project. The classes will be conducted by renowned professors. The Cultural Park will be open for persons between the ages of 7 and 17. We will try to find the smartest child.

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Hayern Aysor: Are you the only Armenian member of the city council?

L. B.: I am currently the only Armenian member, but I am the third member in the past 35 years.

My father was the first one, followed by Rafael Simonian. When my father was elected as a consultant, he started actively advocating the Armenian Genocide. Through his efforts, every year the city council has declared April 24th as the Day of Sadness of the Armenians. Last year, the city council raised the Armenian flag in observance of the innocent Armenian martyrs and participated in different ceremonies. All citizens of Cordoba rose to their feet to organize the events at a high level.

We also reached the point where information about the Armenian Genocide is confirmed by the government and is included in all school textbooks.

We never hide the fact that we are of Armenian descent during all ceremonies. If there is anyone who doesn’t know about the Armenian Genocide, we tell that person about the great catastrophe.

Hayern Aysor: How protected are Armenians’ rights in Argentina? What positions do they hold in the country?

L. B.: It is safe to say that their rights are 100 percent protected. If Armenians can openly speak about their nation and their rights and demand a fair solution to the issue of the Armenian Genocide without facing political persecutions, then there is nothing more to say.

If we compare the Armenians with other nations, the Armenians of Argentina have a special advantage. For instance, the Frenchmen or Italians of Argentina don’t talk about their national belonging, but we Armenians take every opportunity to tell everyone that we are proud to be Armenian. We try to advance our national interests and strengthen our positions.

Generally speaking, Armenians have played a role in the history of Argentina for centuries. For instance, throughout the 200 years of its existence, the University of Cordoba, which is Argentina’s oldest university, has had three Armenian deans. There are many well-known Armenians in Argentina who have made their great contributions to the development and advancement of the country.

Hayern Aysor: Where are you originally from?

L. B.: My roots trace back to Western Armenia, particularly the Tomarza and Chomakhlu villages.

I am also one of the descendants of eyewitnesses of the Armenian Genocide. In 1915, my paternal grandfather, Boghos-Toros Balian and two other young Armenians escaped from an orphanage and hid in the cattle of a Turk. To save themselves from hunger, they milked a cow and drank the milk for days. Later, they escaped, and my grandfather joined his relatives in Cordoba at the age of 14.

The Turkish askyars took my paternal grandmother Vardanush’s eyes out with a spoon. She was 11 years old. They cut the neck of my grandmother’s sister with a knife, but she stayed alive and died in Cordoba at the age of 102.

As for me, I was born in Cordoba. In 2000, I received a license in political sciences from the Catholic University of Cordoba. I was conferred a master’s title from the National University of Public Administration, the National University of Policy Teaching, the National School of Management, as well as the School of Journalism of the Trejo and Sanabria College. I also have the diploma of a political journalist.

Currently, I am pursuing my studies to obtain a Master’s Degree from the Department of Security Policy at the Villa Maria National University. From 2004 to 2006, I was president of the Radical Youth Committee and an Associate Professor of the Department of Security at Villa Maria National University.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Balian, have you ever visited Armenia?

L. B. I still haven’t visited Armenia. Due to my job, my greatest journey has been to Brazil. When I cross the ocean someday, I will definitely take a trip to Armenia.

I always feel close to Armenia, regardless of the distance. I follow the social political and social events taking place in Armenia.

I believe Armenia has been able to survive the battles and struggles thanks to its infinite will to not lose hope and to not retreat.

My soul becomes filled with pride and rejoices when I see how the Armenian people manage to find the strength to live after all these hardships.

Hayern Aysor: Could you tell us about your family?

L. B.: I got married to a woman by the name of Solera. We have two daughters. My elder daughter’s name is Josefina, and my younger daughter’s name is Malena. I always tell my daughters about my origin and present the tragedies and victories that have gone down in the history of the Armenian people. One can always feel the ‘Armenianness’ in our family. We pray in Armenian as a family a couple of times a day.

My wife is non-Armenian, but she makes traditional Armenian dishes better than my mother (laughing-ed), and I prepare the humus. I must say that it works out well.

Hayern Aysor: In addition to being a member of Cordoba City Council, since 2014, you have also been a member of the board of directors of the Armenian community of Cordoba. What are you involved in?

L. B.: The establishment of the board of directors is of major significance for the Armenians of Argentina. The purpose of my membership to the board of directors is to take advantage of my opportunities and my circle of human contacts for the benefit of the Armenian community. I try to solve the issues and problems facing the Armenian community of Argentina along with the members of the board. I am always ready to extend a helping hand to my compatriots who address me. We all try to help each other and make our contributions to the advancement of community life. We carry out various programs in that direction.

Hayern Aysor: Indeed, it is safe to say that you carry out pro-national programs and programs that are aimed at preserving the Armenian identity. What are your new initiatives? What are your future plans?

L. B.: My dream is to build a park in Cordoba where people will visit and feel like they are in an Armenian environment. Turning this idea into a reality is one of my major plans. Preparations are underway. There is a story behind the creation of this park.

One day, an Armenian woman approached me and asked me to take advantage of my position and opportunities to create a place where visitors would be in touch with Armenian values and feel closer to Armenia. This immediately touched my heart. I realized that it could serve as a great impetus for preserving the identity of Armenians living abroad, particularly young Armenians.

The project is ready and will be called “Armenian Park”, which will occupy 700 square meters. The monuments dedicated to the innocent martyrs of the Armenian Genocide and to the Battle of Sardarapat will be erected, and a stage will be placed for ceremonies. In a word, one will feel the ‘air’ of Armenia and the Armenians there. The community and the municipal authorities of Cordoba will provide funding for project implementation. We hope to announce the opening of the “Armenian Park” by the end of this year.

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Hayern Aysor: Mr. Balian, thank you for this interview. May all your projects succeed and may you make more achievements for the strengthening of Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora relations! We will wait for you in Armenia.

L. B.: I am also thankful for this ‘meeting’. The time spent with you was very precious and unforgettable.

I thank the RA Ministry of Diaspora for finding me and taking steps to establish close ties with me. I am moved and appreciate the step that you took. Frankly, I didn’t know about the RA Ministry of Diaspora. I learned about it through the “Hayern Aysor” (Armenians Today) online newspaper. I am already convinced that this structure is of major significance for all Armenians abroad. May the Ministry of Diaspora always remember us Diaspora Armenians!

Interview by Gevorg Chichyan

Translation from Spanish to Armenian by Gagik Gasparyan

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