Baroness Caroline Cox’s Speech at the 2018 ANCA-WR Gala

October 15, 2018

British House of Lords Member and recipient of ANCA-WR’s “Advocate for Justice” Award, Baroness Caroline Cox, delivered the following powerful remarks at the 2018 ANCA-WR Gala held on October 7 at the Beverly Hilton.

Watch her speech right here:


Pari Yeregoh and Shnorhagalutyun

In my few words, I wish to offer 3 brief tributes and messages of gratitude.

First to the courage of the valiant Armenian people, for holding frontlines of faith and freedom over the centuries, most recently in the war in Artsakh –where your people defended your historic land under apparently impossible odds. When I used to visit with my dear brother Zori Balayan, I used to witness your people having to defend your land with hunting rifles against tanks; and I used to court 400 Grad missiles a day raining down on Stepanakert. It was a land where so many gave their lives, including the hero, Monte Melkonian, whom it was my privilege to meet many times on the battlefield. My friends, non-Armenian people owe a debt of gratitude to the Armenian people for holding a frontline of faith and freedom for the rest of the world.

Secondly, a tribute to the spirit of Armenia. As I always say, you not only survive but you build beauty from the ashes of destruction. There is only time for one example: after the fierce battle for Lachin, allowing the opening of the Lachin corridor and access to Artsakh by road instead of reliance on helicopters having to fly under fire. I passed through Lachin soon after the battle. It had been completely destroyed. The first place to be rebuilt: the beautiful church which welcomes visitors entering the holy land of Artsakh. Secondly, the hospital, where I have a picture I will never forget: I was holding a new born baby while the view through the window behind me was of rubble – all buildings destroyed. New life emerging in the ruins. And, next – and only Armenians would do this: the third building to be restored was the Art Gallery – with beautiful paintings already on display: beauty in the ashes of destruction!

My third tribute: to an example of a different kind of beauty arising like a phoenix from the ashes of destruction: the inspirational Rehabilitation centre in Stepanakert. When the ceasefire was signed in 1994, we asked the Karabakh authorities their priority for aid, moving from the emergency medical supplies needed in war.  Their response: please, help for people with disabilities.  Disability was massively stigmatised in the former USSR with no provision of help. Your people wanted better. The only building they could provide was a bombed-out old school – there were no buildings in Stepanakert which were not bombed out…The hero of the peace, Vardan Tadevosyan, and his team of nurse specialists, have transformed that ruin into an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence, providing transformational treatment for 1,000 patients a year with a new Unit for children with autism – and outreach provision with Centres in regional hospitals for patients who cannot travel to Stepanakert.

This Centre has achieved international recognition as Centre of Excellence, with experts in Rehabilitation coming from abroad to visit it – 2 examples, last year, the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) sponsored a rehabilitation expert to visit from Japan; and next month, 2 professionals will be coming from Kirgizstan for training.

For me, the most exciting aspect of Vardan’s transformational work is to see the smiles on the faces of people who thought they would never smile again – such as the boy who was told by specialists in Yerevan and Moscow that he would never walk. When I used to try to speak to him in his wheelchair, I bent down to look up into his face – but he never smiled. On a subsequent visit, I walked past him: I didn’t recognise him: he was standing. He then accompanied us on one of our pilgrimages and never stopped smiling!

Vardan and his team have created this internationally recognised Centre in Karabakh and, we hope, they may be able to introduce the vision, philosophy and practice of care for people with disabilities into Myanmar (Burma) with another of HART’s inspirational partners, Dr. Sasa. whom I met studying medicine in Yerevan in his sixth language – that is another story for another day!

But Burma resembles the former Soviet Union in lack of respect and care for people with disabilities. If Vardan can help to bring help and healing for them, that would be transformational – and he would be a wonderful ambassador for the spirit of Armenia!

As I conclude, I want to thank you with all my heart for the support you are providing for Vardan’s amazing work for your people in Artsakh and reaching countless people in need far beyond.

One day, when I was congratulating Vardan on his phenomenal achievements, he simply replied:

‘You gave me the wings so I could fly’

Thank you, with all my heart, for giving him even stronger wings so he can fly even higher – indeed, soar like the eagles which soar over the beautiful mountains of your holy land of Artsakh.

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Dickran Khodanian
Email / Tel: (818) 500-1918
Armenian National Committee of America - Western Region
104 N Belmont St. Suite 200, Glendale, CA 91206 | | @anca_wr