- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 December 6, 2002 

Lost and Found: New television program will search for the missing

"Hello, my name is Alla Mkhitaryan. I am looking for my brother Vladimir born in 1959. Vladimir was married and had a daughter. In 1993 he left home and never returned."

This is a true story of true persons, like other stories told on camera each Friday at Charles Aznavour Square in Yerevan.

They tell stories in hope that after their appeal is broadcast on television people they are looking for will eventually show up.

Mkhitaryan's family has almost lost hope of finding her brother after 10 years of trying all means to find him.

Then, several months ago they learned of people in Armenia who probably could help them.

"Once I've heard by TV that people who are looking for someone gather at Charles Aznavour Square," Alla (pictured below right) says.

She went there and met Vilen Paturyan, a man preparing an unprecedented show in Armenia about people who have disappeared, and those who want to find them.

Each Friday at 2 p.m. Paturyan's crew come to the square, near Moscow Cinema and film people's stories. Paturyan (pictured below, right) shoots the "video letters" in which people introduce themselves, then say who they are looking for and show their photo.

Then Paturyan starts searching. He contacts ministries, NGOs, Embassies, and at least 10 archive departments of Armenia.

"In some cases it took two months to find out if a disappeared man left Armenia or not," he says.

So far around 1,500 have applied to Paturyan. At present he is looking for some 400 people.

"When people apply first of all I keep in touch with the Ministry of Interior to see if the man has a criminal file," Paturyan says. "If he does I stop searching. Because he can spend all his life hiding to avoid justice.

"In other cases the information is not enough to start searching. Sometimes people mention only the name of the person they are looking for. But the information they give should be as detailed as possible."

Paturyan says that searches are diverse: some look for distant relatives, others for relatives who disappeared during 1937 repression, others for army acquaintances.

There are many women who are searching for their husbands who left for Russia to earn money. Also there are many cases when orphans look for their true parents.

Paturyan recalls the case of a 22-year old man who, upon the death of his "mother", found his birth certificate and learned he'd been adopted.

He was shocked to know that he is not even Armenian but was brought to Armenia from a Baltic country. Now he says he wants to "know who am I. Who were my parents and why did they give me to my adopted mother."

Later this month Paturyan's talk show "Destinies" will appear on Armenian channel "Prometheus". People who are looking for someone will come to tell stories. Then the "video letters" will be shown.

The 40-minute program will appear twice a month, but Paturyan hopes it will become weekly.

"Everything depends if our program will find sponsors or not," he says.

Paturyan together with Vardan Petrosyan (pictured with Paturyan), producer and director of the show, do the searching themselves, paying for international calls, transport, etc.

Petrosyan, a popular producer of several commercial shows says: "Paturyan asked me if I wanted to be a producer of the show. I agreed, because for me as director this show will be something new. Besides the idea itself is very interesting"

At present at least five people have been found thanks to their joint efforts. Paturyan says their names will be known during the first show.

Meanwhile around 30 "video letters" - for people supposedly in Russia -- were sent to "Wait for Me", a similar program of Moscow's ORT channels. ORT's program was launched some five years ago. Now it is one of Russia's top rated shows.

"There are about 250,000 people that are in line to appear on 'Wait for me'. The staff of the program is around 600 people," Parturyan says. "Here the work is only Vardan and me."

Paturyan believes that "Destinies" will be as popular as the Russian program. The creator of the program says that he has cherished the idea of the program since after the earthquake in Armenia.

In 1988 the cameraman and journalist Paturyan was shown on a television program for leading a volunteer group that found 400 children and returned them to their families.

He says he wants to continue his work and to help people, knowing that in Armenia destiny parts many people from each other.


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