Rien Vartan Long
visits his ancestral homeland (and I go along for the ride!)
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MARCH 11 - MARCH 23, 2006
© Lori Bailey Cunningham
Elizabeth Krekorian, from Palu, Armenia (now occupied by Turkey)
Toros Vartanian of Kharpert, Armenia (now occupied by Turkey)
Rien Vartan Long at age 2 wearing #88, the number on the jersey he wore for Washington State Univ.
Rien with his son Gavon Leo Long on the beach in Washington state


The beginning of this story is hard to determine. Is it in 1914, when my grandparents, Toros Vartanian and Elizabeth Krekorian, were sent to America to escape the impending massacre of their people in the Armenian genocide? Or perhaps it began with the birth of my son (Toros and Elizabeth's great-grandson), Rien Vartan Long in 1981. Either story provides a starting point that shares the following narrative in which Rien Vartan visits the home of his ancestors... and takes his family along for the ride.

In April of 2005, my cousin Sondra Minasian Stenius emailed me and asked if I'd like to do a Habitat for Humanity project in Armenia with her. She knew I'd be interested as we are both Armenian and proud of our cultural heritage. While the idea sounded good, I responded by saying that I'd like to go someday when my sons Rien and Devan could join me, as they had expressed an interest in visiting Armenia to see the ancestral home of their great grandparents.

Just hours later, out of the blue and completely unrelated to the email from my cousin, I received an email from Peter Musurlian, an Armenian documentary filmmaker in Glendale, California. He asked if Rien and I would be interested in participating in a documentary about Rien's Armenian roots and his personal journey to the NFL, a story which would culminate in taking Rien, myself and other family members to visit Armenia. (Read more about the documentary here)

You can imagine my response to such a “coincidental” request. My obvious answer was “yes.”

Arbi and Peter's stories began when they met at a meeting of the Glendale chapter of the Kotayk Beer Club (actually it was at the Burbank ANC). Arbi grew up in Houston, Texas and was a big fan of the Houston Oilers until they moved to Nashville, Tennessee and became the Titans. He maintained his fan status and one day, while reviewing the personal player pages on the Titan website, he came across the page for my son, Rien Long.

In his bio, Rien said that he'd like to visit Armenia someday. Also mentioned was his first tattoo which consists of the Armenian flag and the 7th letter of the Armenian alphabet “eh” which means “God Exists.”

This information planted a seed in Arbi's mind. Why not create a documentary on Rien for the Armenian community, which loves to celebrate the success of it's tribal members? He shared the idea with Peter and together they nurtured the project with fundraising, marketing and planning, all of which culminated in an amazing trip to the motherland for Rien, myself, my mother Jo Vartanian Bailey and cousin Sondra. Unfortunately Rien's father, David Cunningham and younger brother Devan were unable to join us because Devan was training for the NFL draft.

So, after a year of planning, our group embarked on a “Long” journey to Armenia on March 11, 2006. To read more and see photos from our trip, click here.

The debut for the documentary will be on June 18, 2006 at the Alex Theater in Glendale, California (2nd capital of Armenia). For more information, contact:
Peter Musurlian / Global Opportunity Productions
(800) 500-1234 / email:

The Long Journey to Armenia ©2006 Lori Bailey Cunningham

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Family Photos

Wife of Manouk Vartanian, who died during the Armenia genocide
The Vartanian Family (before JO (Gladys) and Byron were born.
Toros Vartanian, Isabel Krekorian (back) Elizabeth Krekorian, Manouk Vartanian
Rien and son Gavon at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida
Rien's brother Devan with Gavon Rien, Gavon and Devan (who could not make the trip to Armenia because he was training for the NFL draft in April, 2006)  
JO and brother Artie Vartanian JO (Lori's mom) and Lori (Rien's mom)  
Rien, Lori, Gavon, David (Rien's dad) and JO David, Lori, Devan and Rien  
Devan, David and Rien Rien, #99 for the Titans "Boppa" (Rien & Devan's grandpa) with Devan
Rien, #88 for the Washington State Cougars David, Devan and Lori at Devan's last college game for Univ of Oregon  

The Long Journey to Armenia ©2006 Lori Bailey Cunningham

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