May 17, 2005
Olga Petrosyan remembers the terror in the night -- the knock at the door; the Azeri extremists searching out ethnic Armenians for extermination. Her mother begged 4-year-old Olga, "Please don't cry. If they know we're here, they'll kill us."
As the family huddled in the darkness, an Azeri neighbor spoke to the soldiers and saved the family from almost certain death: "There's no one there," she said. "They've all gone."
Olga's family joined a flood of refugees crossing the border into neighboring Armenia. Even though they were Armenian by blood, they had lived in Azerbaijan and spoke only the native Azeri and Russian languages.
They realized they would never be accepted in Armenia. So the family moved north to Volgograd where grandparents had a home.
Grandmother attended regularly the church services in a local theater, and the Christian witness changed despair into hope for the family.
Olga wanted to go to school at Bethel College in Indiana, but the cost was far beyond the means of the $100-per-month of family income.
Then a letter came offering a $10,000 scholarship. But Olga would have to match it for the $20,000 tuition.
She did it. And therein lies a story of spirit and faith triumphant over circumstances.
Other families supported her with gifts totaling $8,000, and she paid the balance by work on campus and personal ministry in the United States.
Next fall 20-year-old Olga begins her senior year at Bethel, to complete a major in vocal performance.
What's after college? "I don't know," she told Putnam Rotarians today in impeccable English. "I just pray about it, and I don't worry too much." And always, somehow, a door opens.
In addition to her testimonial, Olga entertained with songs in English and Russian, providing her own flawless accompaniment with a twelve-string guitar.
Is she available for other dates? "Sorry," says host Chet Marshall. "She's already booked solid."