Datev Soulian was born in Syria, in the seaside city of Kessab, where his first exposure to AGBU was the summer camp. Later he moved to Lebanon where he attended the Armenian Theological Seminary, then the Hamazkayin Higher Institute for Armenian Studies where he received his bachelor’s degree. From there he lived in Armenia for four years, where he pursued his master’s degree in Armenian history and worked as a tour guide in Yerevan. Soon he found himself in the UAE as the administrator of the Armenian Community, as well as the principal of the Ohanessian Armenian Weekly School, working with AGBU Central Board Member Dr. Yervant Zorian. His next stop was Barcelona, to be with his wife. In 2015, he became the chairman of the Armenian Cultural Association of Barcelona (ACAB), which now serves as a bridge to AGBU, AGBU Europe, and AGBU Armenia. While he continues to travel worldwide for work in international trade, Soulian nurtures the relationship between ACAB and AGBU.
We are showing the young professionals and the volunteers that they are winning something, rather than giving something. You’re not winning euros, but you are winning new friends, ideas and knowledge. That is the power of giving back.
How would you describe the relationship with ACAB and AGBU? We organize a variety of joint programs and events, many sponsored by AGBU and promoted under its logo. And in my role managing this partnership, I participated in AGBU Goriz in 2013 and 2015. AGBU Goriz, a multi-national leadership program involving Armenians and non-Armenians, followed by the AGBU Euro Summit 2015. In 2019, I represented the Armenian community of Spain at the AGBU General Assembly in Paris. In 2014, we had the chance to host the 20th Euro Armenian Games in Barcelona, which attracted around 600 participants from Europe.These opportunities were possible thanks to the AGBU global network of chapters and Young Professional groups. AGBU has the reach, the resources and the name recognition to enhance the contributions of Armenian Spaniards from their unique perspective.
What about local community events and activities? Our Weekly Armenian School is the centerpiece of our local activities, which offers cultural experiences, literature, history and geography, language, dance and chess classes every Saturday at the Casa Armenia building which we expanded from the original 75 sq. meters to 230. So we are definitely making our mark. We also organized the AGBU Europe Summit and AGBU Garbis Papazian Award Ceremony in 2015, the Christmas Eve for the Armenian community and non-Armenians in 2016, and in 2018, the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Artsakh Liberation Movement, attended by the ambassador. But the adversaries became aware and tried to cancel the event. They even published an article in Azerbaijan about ACAB, which for us was a positive thing. That same year, the ex and current governors of Catalonia posted a tweet about the 100th anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia. Now, every May 28th, we host an Armenian cultural day open to all. We are growing exponentially in all directions.
How have you made a difference since the COVID-19 pandemic hit? It was March 10th when the Spanish media started to talk about COVID cases in Spain. That same day, ACAB contacted one of its members, who is a family doctor and she was ready to give a PowerPoint presentation in Armenian explaining how people can protect themselves and their loved ones. But the day before, the Spanish government announced the state of emergency so we made a video and shared it on social media. We even reached Armenians in Italy. And they started to call that doctor here in Spain. After that, we remained in contact with the Armenian Embassy, the Armenian Church, and other Armenian organizations to keep updated on the situation in every city where Armenians are living. We inform each other about who needs food, masks, or other services.
What have you learned about the power of giving back? We are showing the young professionals and the volunteers that they are winning something, rather than giving something. You’re not winning euros, but you are winning new friends, ideas and knowledge. That is the power of giving back.
Banner Illustration by Luis Tinoco