He knew how to make the best of any situation, even if it didn’t go as expected. He was always looking for the next horizon.
Written for AGBU Impact Magazine 2022 by Laura L. Constantine.
Born in Cairo, Egypt in 1922 to Diran and Khorot Shirinian, Varoujan Shirinian learned engraving at a young age from his master-craftsman father. Later, he decided to expand his horizons by attending an Italian art school to study sculpting. Yet with a strong aptitude for mathematics and chemistry, the young Shirinian set his career sights even higher with dreams of becoming an engineer. At the time, he thought Soviet Armenia was his ticket to success.
In 1948, he immigrated to the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic as part of a mass repatriation effort among diaspora Armenians. Like many repatriates, his ambitions were soon dashed. Instead, he suffered through the harsh conditions of post-World War II Armenia, which compelled him to revert to his trade as an engraver-sculptor. He worked at a large factory called Hye-Elektro until a new opportunity presented itself: to emigrate to the U.S.
In 1971, Shirinian and his wife, whose family had repatriated to Armenia from France, managed to arrive in the U.S. with their daughter Anahid, a teenager. Today, she goes by the name Dr. Anne Shirinian Orlando.
Spending her high school and university years in the U.S., Dr. Shirinian was able to realize her father’s dream, becoming an engineer and scientist in her own right. Then came another full circle event: she returned to newly independent Armenia as a volunteer in the spheres of education and environmental sciences, promoting regenerative agricultural practices, such as biogas, wastewater reuse and recycling, and water quality measurement. Now in retirement, her goal is replacing widespread and destructive mining operations in the country with alternatives such as sustainable agricultural practices and production, land conservation, and better management of water resources.
Her father continued to work as a craftsman and artist in the U.S. until he succumbed to cancer in 2012. In 2020, Dr. Shirinian made a substantive gift to the AGBU Global Relief Fund in his memory, saying, “In times of crisis and loss, I recall how my father knew adversity and disappointment in life but never became bitter. He knew how to make the best of any situation, even if it didn’t go as expected. He was always looking for the next horizon. I chose AGBU because it gives that same hope to other Armenians whose dreams have been derailed by external forces.”
She requested that her gifts support AGBU’s emergency relief efforts in Syria and Lebanon, after the massive explosion in Beirut in August 2020, as well as humanitarian assistance in Armenia and Artsakh to help the many innocent Armenian civilians devastated by the 44-day Artsakh War of 2020.
This article was featured in the 2022 release of AGBU Impact Magazine. For more information on the AGBU donations, click here.