Claris Koglin spotlight
Most of us have trouble with a second language. Imagine knowing five languages! That’s how many Claris knows, although she admits, in varying degrees of proficiency. And imagine having different alphabets to deal with, which is the case with several of the five languages that she knows – Armenian, Arabic, Farsi, German, and English.
Claris was born in Tehran to Armenian parents. Her grandparents had fled Armenia when it was taken over by Russia after the Revolution in 1917. She left Iran in 1978 a year or so before the Islamic Revolution and has never been back. The Iran she knew is not the country that is familiar to us today. She describes going to the University of Tehran in the 1960’s, wearing a miniskirt, in classes that included both men and women. This is the same university, featured inReading Lolita in Tehran, that by the early 1980’s had separate entrances for men and women, requiring strict adherence to the Islamic restrictions on women regarding dress, makeup and behavior. Claris’s family all escaped safely. One cousin eventually went back and told her, “it is not the same country. It’s best to keep your memories of the way it used to be.”
Claris married a German man while in Tehran, and they moved to the Persian Gulf area of Iran, with a climate similar to Florida. They left when her husband Bernie was transferred to Germany, where they stayed for a little more than a year. They were then transferred to Philadelphia and moved to Florida 14 years ago. She remembers Iran as it used to be, a good friend of the United States. She recalls seeing signs in memory of President Kennedy in downtown Tehran after his assassination.
Today her only connection with Iran is the many friends that she still keeps in contact with, friends from all over the world. She follows the news there avidly and reads histories of the countries she has lived in.
Her home reflects her dual nationality. There are beautiful Persian rugs on the floor and on the walls, and watercolors that she painted of Middle Eastern subjects, as well as scenes of charming, Victorian Cape May, near her home in Philadelphia. She has been very involved with the Heathrow Women’s Club over the years, serving as president twice in the late 1990’s and as chairperson of the Ways and Means Committee, which she describes as more difficult than being president. Today she is active in bridge, canasta, and book club groups, and with her family in the area, including two grandchildren.
-- Stephanie Strauss