BARI, ITALY — On January 5, 2024, at the Palazzo di Città (headquarters of the Municipality of Bari), Prof. Carlo Coppola, the president of the “Hrand Nazariantz” Study Center—Italian by birth and Armenian by choice—was honored with the “pro manibus” Gratitude Medal. The award was presented by the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia, Tsovinar Hambardzumyan, on behalf of the President of the Republic, Vahagn Khachaturyan.
The Armenian ambassador had a confidential meeting with Prof. Eugenio Di Sciascio, the deputy mayor (Rector Emeritus of the Polytechnic of Bari). The meeting was attended by the Chief of Staff of the Mayor of Bari, Hon. Vito Leccese, Dr. Giuseppe Cascella, President of the Culture Commission. The Armenian side was represented by Dr. Dario Rupen Timurian, Head of the Armenian Community of Bari, Prof. Coppola, and Dr. Siranush Quaranta.
The meeting also served as an opportunity to further strengthen relations between Armenia and the City of Bari. Among the topics addressed were the intensification of cooperation in cultural and educational fields, high technology—which is highly developed in Puglia—tourism, and transportation.
The parties also discussed the significant opportunities arising from the increasing economic exchange between Armenia and Italy. Following the private meeting, the deputy mayor of Bari congratulated the ambassador and the representatives of the Armenian community of Bari for their courtesy and the high quality of the conversation, full of diverse and concrete ideas. The ceremony continued in the City Council Hall, welcoming the community, friends, and supporters of the Armenian Cause who filled the hall.
In her speech Ambassador Hambardzumyan underlined the strength of the bond between Armenia and the City of Bari, citing the village of “Nor Arax” near Bari (which one hundred years ago welcomed many Armenian refugees fleeing the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire), the life and work of the great Armenian poet from Bari Hrand Nazariantz and the presence, on the Emperor Augustus seafront, of the “khachkar” created by the Armenian architect Ashot Grigoryan and donated by the Armenian community to the city, symbolizing the historical bond between the two peoples dating back to the 9th century.
“I’m happy to be back in this city. The Armenian Khachkar, the Nor Arax village, the small but qualified community of my compatriots make me feel like a piece of Armenia in this wonderful and iconic city. This city captured my heart and I wanted to spend my holidays right here. I am very honored to have presented this medal of Gratitude to Carlo Coppola, ‘Italian by birth and Armenian by adoption’, on behalf of the President of the Republic. A man who was able to profoundly grasp the essence of our people and who allowed himself to be captured by the dreams of the Armenian poet Hrant Naziarants who, right here in Bari, together with the other refugees, founded the Village of Nor Arax. A historian who has always been able to deal with even the most painful aspects such as the genocide and ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan with professionalism and great sensitivity,” said the Ambassador.
Carlo Coppola on the occasion of the awarding of the Medal of Gratitude described the technical, legislative and moral significance of the Medal received.
“I am honored to receive this Medal which on July 21st the President of the Republic of Armenia Vahagn Khachaturyan wanted to award me, in a completely unexpected and surprising way for me, a medal which is awarded for a great personal contribution, many years of dedication and fruitful work in the development of state, economic, social, scientific and technical spheres, public activities, healthcare, education and culture.
As many know, the work of the Armenian and Bari poet Hrand Nazariantz instilled in me the love for this people, apparently so distant.
This Love was increased by one of his noblest spiritual heirs, Rupen Timurian and finally by my wife Tamar and my children Nicholas and Armen whom we educate in Sacred Devotion to both languages and cultures and Homelands.
I thank His Excellency the President of the Republic of Armenia for bestowing on me the honor of this Medal, His Excellency Tsovinar Hambardzumyan, Ambassador Extraordinary Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia in Italy, who presented my name.
I thank the Mayor of my city, the municipal administration, councilor Giuseppe Cascella, organizer of this meeting, who has shown sympathy and closeness to the Republic of Armenia since its foundation in 1991.
I dedicate a thought to the Armenian Community of Puglia and Bari, the ancient one and the contemporary one, small, but strong in resilience, which welcomed me into its ranks, among them the prof. Arthur Timurian, Dean Rupen Timurian and Mrs. Nicoletta Timurian, their sister My friend Siranush Quaranta, mother Araxi and brother Tito, they are present today in this hall.
Allow me to give a special thank you to Dr. Dario Rupen Timurian, promoter of this today event. He combines Italian and Armenian skills as an honest and far-sighted entrepreneur.
I would like to dedicate a final thought to the Servant of God Father Francesco di Vittorio da Rutigliano, a fellow citizen of our metropolitan city, who on 23 January 1920 fell as a martyr in defense of 20 Armenian orphans, of the values of the Faith and of the universal ones of brotherhood, equality and freedom so strenuously professed by the Armenian and Italian people. In the 1920s, the Italian port city of Bari became an island of salvation for a few dozen survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Armenian refugees founded the village of “Nor Arax” here. The surviving compatriots were brought to Italy by the writer, public figure Hrand Nazariantz, who left his native Istanbul in the spring of 1913 and with the help of the writer Yenovk Armen,’’ said Carlo Coppola.
During the ceremony, the Armenian community of Bari presented two plaques as a gift: one dedicated to Mayor Antonio Decaro, highlighting his commitment “to actions of peace and dialogue between the peoples who have always inhabited the city territory,” while the other was presented to Giuseppe Cascella “for his sensitivity shown towards the Armenian people during his presidency of the Council Culture Commission.”