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14th Jan 2024

Arthur Gouroulian holds back tears speaking about refugee childhood

Anna Martin

Arthur Gourounlian.

We all know Arthur Gouroulian as the smiling man on ‘Dancing With The Stars’

Yet his journey to who we know now was anything but simple as he explained on the ‘Tommy Tiernan Show’.

Following the usual format of the show, Tommy had no idea Arthur would be a guest.

When he walked out the host admitted he recognised him but knew little about his life.

So the father of one proceeded to open up about his childhood and how he fled his home country of Armenia after war broke out with Azerbaijan in 1992 when he was just 12 years old.

“In October 1993, we were escaping Armenia because of the war,” Arthur began. “We had to escape Armenia to save my life. My mom decided to pack everything, and it was a big journey to start

“I was only like 12 when it started. I’ve seen horror in my life, and my family said, that’s it, we have to leave this country; you can’t survive here. You will be dead.” 

The professional dancer remembered one particularly chilling moment recalling that, “There was an accident that happened. I was in a music school doing guitar, and one day I just came out with my friends and I saw my friends walking before me, and I said, ‘Oh, I think I forgot something; let me just go back.’

“As I was saying that, I saw a friend of mine, it was a kidnapping. It was a blue van. They picked him up, put him in a van and left.”

Explaining why something like that would happen Arthur said, “Basically, what was happening at the time, they were getting all the boys to go to the war.

“And I panicked. I went back to the school, the music school. I saw it with my own eyes. I don’t know what’s happened to my friend.”

When he went home and told his mother what had happened, she made the tough decision to leave Armenia for the sake of her son.

Arthur Gourounlian.
Credit: RTÉ

The family including his parents, sister, aunt and cousin travelled from Russia to Cologne and then to Brussels where they eventually claimed asylum.

Arthur’s honesty stuck with viewers and many took to social media to praise him for his honesty.

“Anyone else just want to hug Arthur? What an incredible man!” tweeted on person, while another added, “Blown away by Arthur Gourounlian story and courage to create a better life for himself.”