Antonio Montalto

                                                                                                                                                      

 Antonino Montalto was born in November 13, 1952 in Palermo.  He has led medical-aid projects after the earthquake of December 7, 1988 until 1991, and from 1993 until 2004. The projects, that concerned mainly the mother-infant sector, have been implemented in Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh (1998-2003). Both in Armenia and in Nagorno Karabagh, the healthcare projects were aimed at reconstruction, furnishing and, specifically, at replenishment with medical equipment. A particular attention was paid to the requalification of the medical personnel through both theoretical and practical projects which have been implemented both by foreign specialists and by organizing experience in Italian and English hospitals.From 2004 up to now implements projects dealing with tourism aimed at promotion of recognition of Armenia in Europe. He has implemented guide-preparation projects within the frames of the Armenian-Italian Cultural Center.In Yerevan and in Gyumri he is occupied with restoration of buildings of historic-cultural value, and with cultural activities for the sake of valorization and preservation of the Armenian historic-cultural heritage in Armenia and Turkey.Presently a pilot Center is under construction aimed at promotion of craftsmanship in the Shirak region with the objective of preservation of crafts important for restoration. He is the Honorary Consul for Italy in Gyumri from 2001.

     I came to Armenia in 1989, after the destructive earthquake of 1988, in the frames of humanitarian projects. From then up to now my beautiful adventure has started in Armenia. I was appointed a coordinator of a social-sanitary project by Italy, and the chief of the project in Spitak. For a long period we were carrying out humanitarian aid programms, as far as the situation created here by that time, that is energetic crysis, unhopeful social-economic conditions of people, has forced the necesity to go on this kind of activity. Taking into the consideration the continuing crysis in Armenia and the fact that in health sector the old and the children are the most vulnerable groups, along with first aid programs we tried to direct our activities to mother and child sector, meaning - the restoration and building of maternities, fulfilling not only with new tecnologies, but specialists, too. For the latter, we have created an exchange opportunities with Euopean specialists which helped to raise the level of health care services. 

     I should mention that humanitarian, first aid programs are necessary in emergency periods, but they should not last long. Realizing it quite well, we stopped all the projects of the type, have changed our idealogy and don’t supplement financed programs. We do think that the most important guarantee of society development is the social-orientated business. We have chosen a type of business, as the integrated tourism is, because we do think, that Armenia is very rich in culturalhistorical values, that give every possibility to develop it. For example, in Yerevan we have two small boutique hotels, which are business projects in themselves and our financial sources. It is by them that cultural and other projects are carried out.

     “Family Care” NGO was founded in 1989, after the earthquake, first to carry out humanitarian aid programs, later changing its idealogy, it’s now self-sufficient organization. All our business and support projects are supported by this foundation, we have a wide activity in Gyumri, but the activity there we cannot compare with Yerevan, because to make investments in Gyumri is not profitable from the point of view of business approach. But it is really necessary for social development, which justifies non-profitable business activities. Perhaps, in some years it would be ok. This is the difference between social-orientated business and just business. But, at the same time our activity in Gyumri represents in a more centralized way the complete model of our work idealogy.

     There we have a boutique hotel, which represents somehow business side, we have a cultural center, which is directed to the development of aestethic education. Here cultural projects are going on, the Artistic Handicraft Center is functioning, through which we try to develop handicraft arts. We have free ceramic classes, where young talented people can get trainings and then become our collaborators with a salary for their job.

      I would like to mention that the cultural center was first acting in Spitak, later it was transfered to Gyumri.

     Lately, our cultural center has organized a very nice exhibition to demonstrate our ceramic works. Studying Armenians activities in ceramic-handicraft sector in Turkey in 15-16CC, we have tried to revive somehow their arts and crafts of that period. This was organized in the frames of commemoration of 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide. A lot of guests were present, among them from RA Government, Gyumri authorities. We have an objective to organize the exhibition in Yerevan, too.

      At the same time the inauguration of “Friends of Gyumri” foundation took place.

    “Friends of Gyumri” foundation was founded in2014 together with our French-Armenian friends. The activity is directed to the restoration and presentation of cultural-historical values by the restoration of Gyumri’s historic center, which is an important base for the tourism development of Gyumri. We already have a contract with Gyumri municipality to concede us a building. During the inauguration of the Foundation the first stone was put. There should be the Center for Projection, Archivation and Restoration for Gyumri historic Center, which will room an office with the possibility to organize discussions, meetings with foreign architects. The second floor will house Gyurjieff center to organize conferences and seminars.

     Why Armenia?  It is very difficult to explain by words. When one gets married choosing the only person amongst the million of women, it is impossible to explain why, the important is the quality of life and that each one has the right to be happy. I can only say, that I was lucky to come to Armenia, as here I got more than I gave. I could see high human and family values here. Of course, it doesn’t mean that I am not aware of problems, but I do try to have a positive approach and have my envolvment in their solution. -Which is your favourite place in Armenia and the most tasteful Armenian dish ? -The most I like in Armenia is its history, with a lot of difficulties, that could never keep Armenian people away from being together, and the symbol of their union has been the preservation of religion and culture. It makes me admire Armenian people. Nowadays the world has the lack of Armenian values system, especially in this period of globalization. Armenia with its antiquity and history also reminds me my motherland – Italy, which is one of the reasons more to love it.