The students and staff at UWC Red Cross would like to express our delight that UWC Dilijan in Armenia is holding its inauguration today, Saturday 11th October 2014. Tom Gresvig (one of the founding team of UWC RCN), Stig Moltumyr (Director of Finance at UWC RCN) and Pål Brynsrud (UWC RCN Council) shall be attending the opening ceremony as representatives of our College. It is particularly exciting that a UWC College has been established in Armenia given the historical partnership between Norway and Armenia. Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) – famous Norwegian explorer, author, statesman, Nobel Laureate – requested in 1921 in his capacity as High Commissioner for Refugees (appointed by the League of Nations) that the League validated the “Nansen Passport”, which gave the stateless people the right to enter different countries. Thanks to these passports 320,000 Armenians won the right to move freely to their preferred country. Nansen was also responsible for resettling 7,000 people in Armenia in 1925 – these refugees who had been displaced during the First World and ill-treated up until 1925 when Nansen drew up and implemented a plan for resettlement. The Armenian Genocide-Museum and Institute issued a medal “Fridtjof Nansen 150” on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen to honour and celebrate his commitment and support of the Armenian people.
We wish the first cohort of students and new members of staff (drawn from Armenia and across the world) all the very best for the academic year ahead.
Tom Gresvig, member of the founding team of UWC RCN and currently ‘our man in Armenia’, reports from the opening ceremony of UWC Dilijan.
Impressions from an Armenian Opening Ceremony
Where is Armenia? An embarrassing question to have to ask for someone who is invited to go the opening ceremony of the lastest United World College, UWC Dilijan College. Especially as we were to discover that it is the oldest Christian country in the world, and that there are more Armenians outside of Armenia than inside, some six million compared to little more than three million in the country itself. And that by the time Jesus was amongst us on Earth it was one of the bigger realms stretching from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and further on to the Caspian Sea. And that it has its own language, written and oral used, in daily use all over the world, as well as their own religion.
But before 1990 it was hidden to the unobservant outside world as part of the Soviet Union, only to emerge as an independent country again at the fall of the Soviet Empire. A Christian landlocked country surrounded by a Muslim world. A country that has seen war and holocausts, but now enjoys peace and wants to pursue prosperity and happiness. This history in fact in combination made it possible for enthusiasts from inside and outside of Armenia to realize their dream of opening a United World College, and to convince the UWC International Board that this College will be sound and sustainable. Armenians abroad, in Russia, the US, Lebanon and other places have been very successful business people, and they have combined to contribute to the development of Armenia, presently a poor country. They think education is the ideal vehicle, and have found a truly stunning place to realize their dream, the Dilijan Valley up in the Mountains from the capital city of Yerevan. From relatively barren land passing the big lake of Sevan one ducks into a long tunnel and emerge in this green Paradise Valley, as yet completely undeveloped with some 10.000 people living along the valley. The weather is surprisingly different, much cooler and more clouds and rain, and hence green.
In the course of eight years their plans are realized, and on Saturday the 11th of October 2014 some one thousand guests from far and near arrived in Dilijan to celebrate the opening of the UWC together with the Presidents of Armenia, Serbia (who happened to be in Yerevan for a football match) and of Nagorno Karabakh (a semi-independent part of modern Armenia). We were whisked away from the luxury Marriotts and Hyatt hotels of Yerevan by racing police escorts to arrive at the College in time for the great festivities. Students met us, and Stig and I handed over the Red Cross Nordic College gift to the new school, the big Nordic history book, the “Edda” by Snorri Sturlason. All guests brought books for the school library.
The Prince of Wales appeared on a huge screen congratulating the founders, and hoping for fruitful educational cooperation with his Scottish Dumfries House Trust, and the Head of the Armenian Church, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of all the Armenians blessed the school. The guests returned in the motorcades for the big Friends Party in Yerevan, and Stig and I agreed that this has been a most colorful weekend, and we wish the Founding Head of College John Puddefoot and his school every success and hope for fruitful cooperation also with the Nordic College and Region.
Here is an article from an Armenian newspaper about the new College.