Helmut Donat

Shirak region Governor Nazeli Baghdasaryan and Alexan Ter-Minasyan

Honoring Women’s Achievements in Gyumri


by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
BERLIN, May 26, 2022 –  “Trümmerfrauen” was the name given to those German women (“Frauen”) who, after World War II, rolled up their sleeves and helped remove rubble (“Trümmer”) from the streets of bombed out cities and towns. In Gyumri, Armenia, after a devastating earthquake in 1988 had left that city and others in the region in ruins, it was also mainly the women who took responsibility for starting the reconstruction process. On May 7, an exhibition opened in Gyumri, entitled “World of Women,” honoring their efforts in paintings by Armenian visual artist Lilit Bachach and works by German photographer Ralf Bäcker. As the flyer for the event reads, “Women in particular start small businesses, build, work, and so provide for the family as small entrepreneurs and skilled workers.” In the photos of Gyumri on display, it is above all women who are doing the work, in the past as in the present.

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Alexan Ter-Minasyan and Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin enjoy a glass of wine

Joining efforts in the exhibition, Bachach and Bäcker pay tribute to these women for their important contribution to social development and rebuilding the community. They show them in various modes of being, in everyday life, their activities and their emotions, as well as inner feelings. The artists “invite the viewer to journey into these women’s worlds and discover something of how they see, experience and represent them.” Working closely together, the artists communicate their feeling of respect for their subjects, as if to say, “I see you. I perceive you. You are important to me. I guard your story.” Bachach’s portraits are emotional, and the viewer strives to discover the personality of these impressive figures, at once feminine and powerful, strong and graceful.

A Historic Venue

The festive opening took place at Gallery25 in the Berlin Art Hotel, itself a site with an important history. Moderator Lusine Pakhanyan introduced Alexan Ter-Minasyan, who is the founder of Gallery25, and artist Lilit Bachach, who welcomed the guests. Ter-Minasyan is also the founder of the Berlin Art Hotel, which began functioning as a social pilot project in 1996. Eight years earlier, following the earthquake, the German Red Cross and the humanitarian organization Caritas intervened in Gyumri. Ter-Minasyan, who functioned as the local representative of the Red Cross, helped set up an outpatient clinic, “Berlin Center for Mother and Child,” processing donations sent from Germany to finance the project. To guarantee continued funds for the facility that provides medical care for mothers and children, he launched the idea of converting part of the building to a non-profit hotel, and using its income to run the center. That support continues to the present.
Ter-Minasyan’s contribution to rebuilding Gyumri is also cultural, and the Gallery25 has become an important meeting place for artists, hosting exhibitions, concerts and lectures. In 2018 he became Honorary Consul of Germany, and has continued to mediate and facilitate exchange between the two countries, culturally and personally.
The European Union’s ambassador to Armenia, Mrs. Andrea Wiktorin, and the Governor of Shirak region, HalleNazeli Baghdasaryan, then addressed words of welcome.

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Ambassador Wiktorin (3rd from left) and Governor Baghdasaryan (4th from left)

The European Union’s ambassador to Armenia, Mrs. Andrea Wiktorin, and the Governor of Shirak region, HalleNazeli Baghdasaryan, then addressed words of welcome.

A special treat was offered by Hasmik Mkrtchyan, a harp soloist who is a first-year student at the Gyumri Branch of the Yerevan State Conservatory. She performed a work by a 17th-century unknown composer (Partita, Ballet, Pastoral), a Sonata by F.J. Naderman and a Prelude and Variation by A. Glazunov. The instrument she played, a Venera Grand Concert Harp, is a recent gift from Ars Musica, a male chorus from Thuringia, the Rotary Club from Halle, which is Gyumri’s German sister city, and the Mirak-Weissbach Foundation.
The event concluded with an informal wine break, during which participants took time to visit the exhibition and socialize. It was a gathering that embodied the spirit of German-Armenian cooperation, from the venue to the exhibiting artists, from the diplomatic and political representatives to the beautiful new musical instrument.