SOAR - Marseille Chapter

Marseille joined the SOAR family in November 2015. Armenians in France are ethnic Armenians living within the modern republic of France. Like much of the Armenian Diaspora, most Armenians immigrated to France after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. After the end of the First World War, many survivors, including orphans, lived in the French-occupied part of the Ottoman Empire, Cilicia, and the future French Mandate territories of Syria and Lebanon. When French troops retreated in 1921 behind the present-day Turkish-Syrian border, most Cilician Armenians fled and resettled in refugee camps in Alexandria, Aleppo, Ainjar, and Beirut. From there, entire families fled to France. The Armenian refugees and orphans crammed into Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon, arrived by the boatloads to Marseille and journeyed to the mines and factories around Marseille, Valence, Grenoble, Lyon, and Paris. There, a quarter of a million Armenians settled into tight little communities of between 2,000 and 4,000 people. The foundations of the Armenian community in France had been set. Today, Armenian classes are organized in many localities with full bilingual kindergartens and primary schools near Paris and Marseille attended by several thousand children and youths.


Araz Topalian

Araz is an interior architect, furniture, and product designer. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and graduated from Tarouhi Hovagimian AGBU School. He obtained a master’s degree in interior architecture in 2018.

In 2007 he joined the AGBU Scout Marching Band playing the trumpet until 2021. During his university studies from 2013 to 2019, he was a member of ACUSA (Armenian Church University Students’ Association) organizing and participating in events. Araz travelled to Egypt on an event presenting ACUSA and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Meanwhile, he was pursuing Music and trumpet studies at the Lebanese national conservatory and playing with different bands in Lebanon.

Araz is currently relocating to Marseille, France. He is fluent in French, English, Arabic and Armenian.

Isabelle Bagnoly

Isabelle was born in Alsace. At 13 years old, Isabelle became a Christian which was the beginning of her lifelong journey of service for people. She pursued studies in Strasbourg and has been a practicing midwife since 1991. Isabelle is also a writer for Portes Ouvertes which gives her the opportunity to correspond with people around the world who are persecuted, widowed and oppressed because of their faith. She also plays guitar, sings, writes music and is fluent in French, English and Spanish.