Yervand Markarian

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A few Armenians would have such colorful biography as Yervand Markarian.

He was born in 1920 to an Armenian family in the Chinese city of Harbin. The city was located near the border of the newly formed Soviet Union, and during that time was home to expatriate white Russians who were fleeing the Bolsheviks. Some Armenians who had fled persecution in Turkey also found refuge in the city.

During the WW2 Markarian was fighting against the Nazis serving in the French army and later on ended up in French Indochina, modern-day Vietnam, fighting communist insurgents for the French Foreign Legion.

After the war, he worked as a policeman in the French concession of Shanghai, and then joined his father-in-law running two Russian restaurants.

The restaurants thrived, but survived only briefly after the communists took power in 1949. The new regime was not good for business. Officials were visiting the restaurants constantly to ensure that none of the married customers were having romantic liaisons. They were questioning the customers and increasing the taxes depending on the answers.

Branded as capitalists, some of Markarian's business acquaintances committed suicide. Others like him eked out a living until they were able to leave. In 1951, he settled with five family members in Brazil.

Unable to speak Portuguese, he faced new hardships. But Markarian finally found work in the Ford Motor Company's Brazilian operation. Later on he took his family to the United States, were he also worked for Ford.

Markarian had built a successful business on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard. He recreated his Shanghai restaurant called Kavkaz. It soon became popular with film stars and directors.

Amongst celebrity patrons who visited the restaurant were Roman Polanski, Dan Duryea, Simone Signore, Peter Ustinov the actor Omar Sharif, oil magnate Armand Hammer, and singer Barbra Streisand.

Markarian wrote a book called Kavkaz, named after his popular restaurants, where he tells the story of his life. The book was published by himself.


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