Article written by Birthright Armenia and Dilijan Community Center Volunteers
It was a rainy day in Dilijan. We, three interviewers, made our way to Norik Tamamyan’s house, skipping over muddy puddles and dodging bees. Mr. Tamamyan was born in Dilijan and has lived here for eighty one years, making him an ideal candidate for an interview aimed at understanding the local perspective of Dilijan.
“Barev dzez,” us three echo each other, walking into the first floor of his apartment building and seeing Mr. Tamamyan for the first time. He is in the middle of a transaction involving a loaf of bread and coffee. “Barev dzez!” he welcomes us, escorting us up what feels like 500 stairs and entering his home. His wife welcomes us with equal warmth, offering coffee, food, and fruit—as Armenians do.
Ruzan starts with the first hard hitting question: “tell us about yourself.” Mr. Tamamyan then begins his life story—a story that highlights the beauty of Dilijan, the heroism of his people, and above all, his undying love for his city.
Mr. Tamamyan was born on October 8, 1937 in Haghartsin village of Dilijan. In 1941 his father went to war, and in 1945 the rest of his family moved to Yerevan, but in 1948 his father returned from the war and brought his family back to Dilijan. He played sports until he was drafted, playing for Haghartsin’s basketball team. After serving for three years and three months, he joined his parents in Odessa, but unwilling to stay far from his birthplace, he went against his parents wishes and moved back to Dilijan.
After officially graduating from the army, Mr. Tamamyan says “I didn’t know what to do with my life.” His parents wanted him to pursue Chemistry, but he had no interest. He then confesses, “I failed my exam on purpose so I wouldn’t be accepted into the program. I got accepted into the sports program. I played for Armenia’s second league handball team, and I was a pro.” Mr. Tamamyan was clearly very proud not only of his city but of his athletic career as well.
In 1982 August 28 he was hired by the Dilijan State Medical College as a coach and worked there until September 1, 2014. Mr. Tamamyan speaks very fondly of this career. He brags that thirty-eight of his students went on to become teachers, and that “in fifty-one years of teaching, I never once got sick and missed work.” He has received many awards for his work and has always been lucky to coach large teams which he entered in many competitions. He says he was always satisfied with his work, and that he satisfied not only himself, but the Soviet Union as well.
In 2016 he moved to the US following his daughter but did not stay long—the Four-day War in Artsakh called him back. “I couldn’t leave my people,” he says. He thanks God for making it back again and makes sure to clarify that he has a Green Card, and thus the ability to live in the US, but cannot imagine living anywhere other than his sweet Dilijan.
When asked what he wants for the future of Dilijan, Mr. Tamamyan simply replies “for people to care about each other.” He says he realizes that the leaders of the country and the common folk cannot have the same quality of life, but he wishes everyone to have bread on their table.
What becomes increasingly clear is that Mr. Tamamyan is absolutely smitten with his “heroic people” and especially with his hometown of Dilijan, calling it a “second Switzerland.” He claims that the air, the water, and the landscape of Dilijan are unlike anywhere else, and having been to many nations, as a migrant and as a tourist, he feels he can justly vouch for his city.