Siranush Harutyunyan was an Armenian-American educator and benefactor that left a legacy of giving.
In her lifetime, Siranush left an impact on hundreds of Los Angeles children that today proudly speak Armenian because of her. Her students remember her fondly as a life-changing educator; they would approach her in stores, churches, community centers, to tell her how much she changed their world.
Siranush also left an impact on hundreds of village people that she helped get back on their feet because of generous donations of clothes, toys, school supplies, and house supplies when they needed it the most. She understood the power of making change on a small scale, on a local level, because she knew the potential of the children she was contributing to educate.
Siranush was born December 26, 1970 in Yerevan, Armenia. She was bright from a young age, loved to sing, dance, and play with her many sisters. She was beautiful, witty, and had a sharp sense of humor. She was deeply loved by all who knew her. She studied Biochemistry for which she received a Graduate diploma with honors. She and Dr. Karen Gabrielyan married in 1992, just before he went to serve in the First Artsakh War. They had two children, Robert and Shushan, and later moved to the United States. For almost a decade, besides her full-time profession, she was a Saturday school Armenian teacher, where she was an essential imparter of Armenian culture for Diasporan Armenians.
Her commitment towards Karen’s father’s birthplace, a hard-to-access village disconnected from the world, in the mountainous and forested region of Lori, in Northern Armenia, grew stronger. The village of Dzoragyugh, long forgotten by central authorities, without roads, lights, or natural gas, became central in her efforts to give back, with the firm belief that a better world lay ahead
for the rural communities of Armenia.
Slowly, everything started to fall into place. Siranush and Karen’s children pursued their own paths, studying medicine and law. The once isolated Dzoragyugh village, 1250 meters above sea level, started receiving visitors from the outside world when Siranush and Karen renovated the Gabrielyan’s paternal house and made a tasteful bed & breakfast connected to nature. Many dazzled and starry-eyed visitors from Armenia, Germany, Italy, France, Lithuania, the United States, and Russia couldn’t forget the beauty of their experience and asked for more. Siranush and Karen, emboldened upon realizing they weren’t the only ones to fall in love with the Armenian highland’s landscape, undertook additional restoration projects, acquiring dilapidated or abandoned terrains and planning to return the village to its former glory, simultaneously empowering the locals by making them a cornerstone in those projects.
The most important undertaking was Siranush’s commitment to ensure that village children were never short of support, especially in their education. She engaged her local community in Los Angeles, her friends and acquaintances, whose support for Siran’s vision and joint efforts reinvigorated Dzoragyugh.
Today, the village still lacks many amenities, but for more than a decade, every child in that village has had enough food and supplies to attend school, opening the path for them to continue their education in Vanadzor, Lori’s administrative center.
Another monumental contribution has been the ongoing restoration of one of the oldest buildings in the center of the dwelling; a stone house with typical old mullioned windows that open towards the landscape. This house, originally built by Karen’s grandfather, is being resuscitated; Siranush and Karen had planned to turn it into a Tea House. The village’s only social venue is now being carried to completion.
Siranush’s life was cut short before she could turn fifty, but the projects she undertook are being carried on by her loving husband and children. Siranush’s vision to make forgotten Dzoragyugh a place to visit in Northern Armenia is slowly becoming reality. The village, speckled with construction projects, a renovated kindergarten, a new technology room in the school, a B&B, renovated fences, and painted rooms, is getting a well-deserved revival.
Hundreds of children today carry Siranush’s spirit in them; they see the world as she did, as a great place where everything is possible, where everyone deserves a happy and dignified childhood.
They carry Siranush’s sparkle in their eyes.