Some stories are hard for a reporter to shake. They stir persistent emotions and often rage. The war in Ukraine would be an obvious source. But when Hamamdjian is asked to share a story that has gripped her, she chooses another.
Hamamdjian went to Ireland for Pope Francis’s visit in 2018 and covered a story on an Irish priest who had been transferred from Dublin to Guelph, Ont., in the early 1970s, after a woman complained that he had touched her sons. She then found a man in London, Ont., who remembered that priest.
“He said, ‘This priest would tell the story of a boy who had disobeyed his father, who was a bank manager, and he went into really specific details,’” including the fact the boy had been locked in an air-tight room.
Her voice thickens. “The interview aired, and then I find out there was another man in London, Ont., who had watched the piece, whose father was a bank manager, and who broke down in tears because the story triggered his memory. And in that moment, he realized why he had been claustrophobic all these years — because that priest had assaulted him in the bathroom of a church in Guelph, Ont.
“To this day, he and I are still in touch. He had the courage, the bravery to sit down for an interview after that — and every time I’ve had moments where I’ve second-guessed myself or questioned my career path — I think of him. And that is the one story that has made it all worth it.”
‘A great time to experiment’
Born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1982, spending most of her first four years in Alexandria, Hamamdjian, her older brother and parents moved to Los Angeles and lived in Beverly Hills. Many of their friends, who had also been raised speaking French in Egypt, had moved to Montreal. Two years on, they moved to Laval-des-Rapides.
After Collège Regina Assumpta, she made “a big mistake” in trying science at Dawson College. Her English teacher told her she was a good writer, and that helped reset her view of herself and what she might want to do.
Suddenly, 9/11 shattered everyone’s serenity, and Hamamdjian knew — she wanted to be a journalist.