“Antranigian story defines horrors in Keghi”

By Tom Vartabedian

Mendon, MA --- “From Hell to Heaven” is not your ordinary book because it was actually written by a man who experienced the genocide first-hand and lived long enough to compile his own memoirs.

The work eventually wound up in the hands of a grandson who saw its way into publication, much like finding an oasis in the middle of an arid desert.

It tells the story of Armenag Bedigian-Antranigian, a young man who, for almost two years, suffered the horrors of the Armenian Genocide in the Keghi region of Erzurum.

In the process, he witnessed the loss of all members of his family and miraculously survived by hiding in the mountains and gorges of Keghi while serving as a slave for Kurdish families.

“I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of individuals that finally resulted in this publication,” said Hagop Antranigian, his grandson. “Although there are numerous documentations on the Genocide, not so much has been recorded about the volunteer corps.”

In late 1916, Antranigian finally managed his escape to the Russian side of the war front and reached Erzurum. In 1917, he joined the Armenian Volunteer forces for the defense of Erzurum.  As a foot soldier, he served under General Antranig and participated in the military campaigns of Zangezur, Nakhichevan and Khoy in Northern Iran.

He spent a year in Tiflis as a refugee before reaching Constantinople in late 1919 and immigrating to the United States three years later.

“This book is a valuable eyewitness account by a mature and literate young man about life in the Armenian village of Keghi, the complicity of Kurds in the Armenian Genocide, movement of the Armenian Volunteer Corps, and plight of Armenian refugees from Erzurum to Tiflis,” said the grandson. “It’s a remarkable story that can be shared by all products of genocide.”

The memoir was compiled in the early 1940s in handwritten Armenian. In 2000, it was translated into English by Vatche Ghazarian of Mayreni Publishing, but remained unpublished until now. The Armenian text also remains unpublished.

The 250-page work details Armenag Antranigian’s childhood and expatriation, his wedding, calamity, his escape from Dersim, role in the Armenian Volunteer Corps and finally his migration from Constantinople to America, ultimately settling in Portland, Maine, where he gained employment as a shoe worker.

In his introduction, he tells readers:

“Despite my determination to do so for years, I have not been able to write about the horrible days of deportation.  However, they are fresh in my mind and heart. Although I have no intention on reopening my wounds, I may, perhaps, relieve my agony in retelling my story.”

Armenag Antranigian goes on to mention the loss of his home, land and people --- the death of his mother, brothers, sister-in-law, her children and his very own wife, village and nation.

“You will learn about the agony and pain of someone who, hungry and thirsty, wandered the mountains barefooted and naked, miserable and helpless,” he writes. “Even a beggar is free to wander the earth while we, as Armenians, were forced to hide like reptiles to avoid death.”

He goes on to add, quite poignantly, “A nation without a state is a nation without God. Had we a state of our own, the crimes and massacres may have been prevented.

“I regret not my youth. I regret my lost happiness,” he concludes.

Others contributing to the book were: Dr. Vazken Ghougassian (general editor), Iris Papazian (copy editor), Mary Gulumian (technical support), Khajag Zeitlian (cover designer), Osep Tokat,  Professor Robert Hewsen and George Aghjayan (historians).

For Hagop Antranigian, the journey of locating his grandfather’s memoirs and getting them published was a 15-year mission of persistence.

“I’ve done a lot of reflection and feel very blessed to be a vital part of my Armenian Church and community,” he admits. “The avenues and branches that are continuously being uncovered through the information my grandfather left me are truly amazing.”

Prelacy’s NE Conference Rallies Around Genocide Centennial

By Tom Vartabedian

Worcester, MA --- "Your church. Your nation. Engage!"

Such words served as a backdrop and motivational tool for delegates attending the Prelacy’s New England Conference Feb. 21.

Close to 50 guests representing eight churches turned out at Holy Trinity Church representing trustee boards and NRA circles, getting a grasp on each other’s needs and abilities.

His Grace Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan opened the day with prayer and commended the group  for making the trip, despite winter’s fury. More snow had been predicted that afternoon.

Focal point of discussion was the centennial observances in New York City and Washington, DC, along with the imminent visit by His Holiness Catholicos Aram 1 in May.

One by one, delegates stood up to review plans inside their own church communities. Concerts. Rallies. Theater productions and concerts. Marches and flag-raising ceremonies. Visits to schools, libraries and historical societies. The list went on. It almost seemed like one community was trying to outdo the other in a compelling sort of way.

All signposts pointed to NYC April 26 for what appears to be an eclectic observance of unified proportions, resulting in a joint memorial service and march to Times Square --- rain or shine.

A serious smile broke out on Serpazan’s Choloyan’s face as the delegation of guests outlined their agendas.

"In order to gain any notice in the outside world, we need thousands, not hundreds, of people," he emphasized. "The papers and TV stations will not pay attention to our cause if the crowd does not meet their expectations. It’s incumbent upon all our communities to get involved with this mission."

Directly behind Serpazan was a large poster which grabbed everyone’s attention of exercises taking place in DC with the catchphrase: "Your church. Your nation. Engage!" His Holiness referred to that idiom a number of times throughout the day.

"What stands out emphatically is the diversity of these activities in our different cities,” said Chairman Steve Hagopian. "It seems like every venue is being covered. A milestone like this will never be repeated and we must make every effort to meet its potential."

Providence relayed plans of hosting the AYF Olympics this year and engaging the youth in a timely fashion sometime over Labor Day weekend. The importance of recruiting the younger generation for Times Square couldn’t have been more emphatically defined.

Applause rang out at the news of 10 busses being donated by Good Samaritan Aram Garabedian of Cranston, RI. At last report, four of them have been filled and Rhode Island has no doubt the other six will be occupied before the date.

Many communities throughout the state will be raising the Tricolor and reading proclamations to mark the occasion, including the state’s capitol in Providence.

In North Andover, the church has bonded with the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Merrimack Valley in securing buses for New York City and postponing its normal observance into September with the staging of Judith Boyajian’s "Women of Ararat."

In addition, members of the Genocide Education Committee will visit up to 15 schools and colleges to elucidate students on human rights, visit service clubs and produce shows for community television.

Tamar Knarian presented an in-depth report of Vehapar’s visit to Watertown and Greater Boston, outlining a rigid agenda that serves to inspire.

Likewise, John Daghlian did the same for events circumventing Washington, DC, May 6 to 9, with a Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine at Immaculate Conception, a cultural bonanza and joint presence of both Catholicosi, culminating with a banquet Saturday night.

It is urged that reservations be made on-line and tickets to different venues be purchased in advance, due to the demand.

Hagopian brought the conference to a close discussing the Hollywood production "Men of Granite," which features his dad Andy and three other Armenians winning a state basketball championship in 1940 in Granite City. The film is scheduled for release in November.

A heap of gratitude goes out to the Women’s Guild for the scrumptious breakfast and lunch prepared for guests in what proved a perfect gesture of hospitality.


“A Bishop’s long and winding road” 

by Tom Vartabedian

The weather was nasty but that did not prevent Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian from fulfilling his mission to St. Gregory Church in North Andover.

It was the 45th anniversary of this small congregation, located in the heart of Merrimack Valley, and he had his favorite companion seated in the passenger seat next to him.

God has always been his co-pilot and chief navigator on these sojourns, whether it’s been half-way across the country or somewhere relatively close.

The snow was flying, remnants of a nor’easter that had battered the region. The three lanes which covered this highway from Vermont into Massachusetts had suddenly merged into two and ultimately one lane as traffic inched its way along.

For one brief second, the Bishop squelched his headlights and watched Mother Nature’s beauty work its magic. The snowflakes that hovered over his car on this evening appeared like tiny crystals from the sky, caught in the radiance of other vehicles.

A week or two before, the Vicar General had fallen on black ice, only to get back up and go about his business. The mission goes on at all costs.

It’s been this way over the past 43 years since he was ordained, adding greater impetus over the past decade as Vicar General. Extensive travel is part of his itinerary, complementing the likes of his Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan Chololyan.

Both have been an impeccable voice of the Armenian community over these decades, whether it’s been a church anniversary, AYF Olympics or a simply homily. The words often speak for themselves and add credence to the moment.

Hours later, the Bishop arrived at his destination. Instead of a respite at the hotel he was staying, off he went to the new home of pastor Stephan Baljian for a blessing. They have known each other since the cleric’s boyhood years when a life of clergyhood was more than just a lark.

You may also call him a “blue-collared” bishop for the manner in which he caters to his flock. At a typical NRA convention, don’t count on beating him to the hotel gym unless you arrive there at 6:30.

The customary liturgical garb is exchanged for workout attire as he starts his day with exercise.

When you’re on the road, the dinners and luncheons can become gregarious to one’s health. The Bishop uses this moment for spiritual guidance, catching the unsuspecting visitor off balance.

Come spring, he’ll stage another incognito and ride his bike to the Prelacy quarters on East 39th Street, pumping through traffic as if it were standing still.

North Andover was blessed this day by his presence. As usual, the children steal the show at these affairs. The smile on Serpazan’s face stretches from ear to ear as the younger generation serves to entertain.

A piece of artwork. A poem, song or recitation, confirming our nation’s proud heritage. There is no greater reward for this Bishop than the future of his church --- our church.

And so it was on this day. An anniversary marking the 45th year. While some of us were being recognized for our work as Sunday School instructors, up to the podium we went. As words were being uttered and accolades rendered, there beneath the seat of our Bishop looked like what appeared to be a dollar bill. It must have fallen from his pocket.

Upon closer scrutiny, it turned out to be a crisp $100 bill, landing perfectly on its front. Did he place it there purposely? And for what reason? When it was brought to his attention, the Bishop could only smile with a statement of his own.

“Does this church not have a cigar night?” he inquired. “And are you not raffling off a Mercedes this year? I believe tickets are $100 so count me in.”

Maybe it had something to do with the Prelacy’s Eagle Award some years back or the “eagle eye” of a newspaper reporter that earned me a living. The Bishop wanted the ticket to go in my name because I was the first to find his bill. Unthinkable!

If you recall two years ago, when the NRA Convention took place in Washington, who won the raffle? And what did the Vicar General do with the money. Back it went to the church where it originated.

It’s often the path we choose which gets us there. And the road to prosperity is always glistened with halos when you’re this Bishop.

An Armenian American in Dzaghgazor

By Anais Bayrakdarian

“ – and there will be a morning service, three meals, snacks, free-time – “
“So it’s like Camp Datev?”
“No,” Der Aram Stepanian clarified, turning to look me straight in the eye, “It’s nothing like Datev.”
At that statement I clutched my bag a little tighter, the anxiety that had slowly been ebbing away at the idea of something familiar rushing back full force.
It wasn’t that I’d never traveled without my family before, nor never been to any other camp; I’d just never traveled alone to the Middle East, nor helped out at a camp for children with difficult backgrounds. A conversation with my mother flashed through my mind as the intercom crackled, announcing our plane’s descent: “Be extremely careful, and use common sense. Try to avoid fruits and dairy, wash your hands as often as possible, don’t drink  from the tap, and don’t swim in any lakes—You’re going to a third world country, Anais.”
Third world country. At the time, stereotypical images of starving children and ragged orphans had bombarded my mind before being replaced by the hazy images of my last trip to Armenia almost ten years ago—images of dirt, dust and poverty… And it was those images again that now replayed themselves in my head and only added to the growing pit of dread churning about my stomach. The fact was, I was nervous—and scared. There I was. On my own. A seventeen-year-old female in a country ruled by tradition and national pride, about to go to a camp where children younger than I had experienced such adversity and hardship in their short lives, and only equipped with my broken Armenian and a (now slowly dwindling) desire to learn more about my heritage! But as it turned out, that was all I needed.
My experience at the camp in Dzaghgazor was like none other. While a few of my qualms about going had been about the comfort and cleanliness of the camp building, the major root of my concerns had involved the children, these fifty 10–14-year-old camp participants. What if we couldn’t communicate? Did I need to treat them in any special or particular way? What if they didn’t like me?
I realized no sooner had the first day begun that any reservations I had were unfounded and absurd-- The unbridled love and warm welcome I received was a wonderful assurance of that. As soon as I was introduced as an American visiting from the United States, cries of “Hello!” and “How are you?” accompanied by wide, toothy grins could be heard ringing throughout the camp not only on the first day, but for the entire duration of the program!
In time I will probably forget the precise activities we all partook in, the different types of well-prepared meals we were served, and the specific details of the modest rooms we were assigned… but never will I forget the children and the warmth and kindness they seemed to exude. In one day, fifty perfect strangers had all quite literally become the best of friends, and I had the fortune to have been included.
I was told before the commencement of the program that my role at the camp was to be that of an English teacher—I was to teach the camp participants words and phrases in English. It was I, however, who received the invaluable lessons that week. These 10–14-year-olds taught me not only Armenian, but the true meanings of kindness, friendship, and love.
No one was ever left out. If one was sitting alone, it wasn’t long before another came and sat next to him or invited him to join a game. Whenever a group of kids were given a snack or prize, they always offered to share it with those who had not received anything. Imagine- these are children who barely have anything, yet are eagerly giving away what is theirs! On more than one occasion was I offered a bracelet or piece of candy, and despite my polite refusal, was told repeatedly and insistently to take it!
Der Aram was right when he told me that this camp was nothing like I’d ever experienced. The sense of community, fellowship, and love I was shown and surrounded by is unparalleled by any other camp experience I’ve had. Even as I sit here almost a week later in my large, air-conditioned room, surrounded by amenities I’m sure those at the camp have only heard of, I still long for Dzaghgazor and those who played a part in making such a rewarding and enlightening week possible.


Քաթրին Աշտոնը Ս. Ամենափրկչեան Վանքում


Հանրային կապի գրասենեակ, Ազգային առաջնորդարան, Նոր Ջուղա.- Երկուշաբթի՝ 2014 թւականի մարտի 10-ին, երեկոյեան ժամը 4։30-ին, Եւրոմիութեան արտաքին քաղաքականութեան եւ անվտանգութեան հարցերով գերագոյն յանձնակատար Քաթրին Աշտոնը ժամանեց Նոր Ջուղայի  ս. Ամենափրկչեան վանք։ Ս.Ա. վանքում Քաթրին Աշտոնին եւ նրան ընկերակցող պատւիրակութեանը՝ Սպահանի հայոց թեմի առաջնորդ գերշ. Տ. Բաբգէն եպս. Չարեանի գլխաւորութեամբ, դիմաւորեցին Շահինշահրի համայնքի հոգեւոր տեսուչ հոգշ. Տ. Անանիա վրդ. Գուճանեանը, Պատգամաւորական ժողովի, Թեմական, Կրօնական եւ այլ մարմինների ատենապետերը եւ ներկայացուցիչները։



Պատւիրակութեան անդամները նախ այցելեցին որմանկարներով զարդարւած, 350-ամեայ վաղեմութիւն ունեցող ս. Ամենափրկչեան վանքի «Ս. Յովսէփ Արեմաթացի»  եկեղեցի, որտեղ Վանքի «Կոմիտաս» երգչախումբը խմբավարութեամբ պրն. Արմէն Ամիրխանեանի հանդէս եկաւ ս. Պատարագից «Մարմին տէրունական», «Քրիստոս ի մէջ մեր յայտնեցաւ»եւ «Սուրբ, սուրբ» երգերով եւ իր ելոյթն աւարտեց «Կիլիկիա» երգով։ Տկն. Քաթրին Աշտոնը եւ պատւիրակութեան անդամները հիացմունքով ունկնդրեցին ս. Պատարագից երգւած կտորները, ապա հմայւած դիտեցին եկեղեցու գունազարդ որմանկարները, որոնք ներկայացնում են Հին ու Նոր կտակարանների ամբողջ պատմութիւնը, եկեղեցու խորհուրդները, ս. Գրիգոր Լուսաւորչի չարչարանքները եւ մանաւանդ Դրախտ-Դժոխք սքանչելի պատկերը։



Այնուհետեւ պատւիրակութեան անդամները բարձրացան Վանքի Ծաղկեայ դահլիճ, ուր առաջնորդ Սրբազանը բարի գալստեան խօսք արտայայտելով հիւրին եւ պատւիրակութեան միւս անդամներին, անդրադարձաւ իրանահայութեան կեանքին ու նրանց ունեցած առաւելութիւններին ու իրաւունքներին։ Բացատրեց թէ ինչպիսի կազմակերպ համայնքներ են, եւ որ ինչպիսի ակտիւ կեանք են վարում հոգեւոր, ազգային ու մշակութային ոլորտներում։ Նա մատնանշեց կառավարութեան հետ սերտ յարաբերութեանը եւ ներկայացրեց Իրանը որպէս համագոյակցութեան երկիր եւ նշեց, որ 400 տարիներից ի վեր հայերը, որպէս քրիստոնեաներ, իսլամ եղբայրների ու քոյրերի հետ ապրել են յարգանքով եւ սիրով։ Սրբազան Հայրը շնորհակալութիւն յայտնեց Եւրոմիութեան խորհրդարանին Հայոց ցեղասպանութիւնը ճանաչելու կապակցութեամբ, միաժամանակ անդրադարձաւ Շւէյցարիայի դատարանի կողմից դատապարտւած թուրք գործիչ Դողու Փերինչէքի արդարացման վճռին, յիշեցնելով, որ մէկ ամիս առաջ Մեծի տանն Կիլիկիոյ Ն.Ս.Օ.Տ.Տ. Արամ Ա Կաթողիկոսը, մի նամակով բողոքարկել է Շւէյցարիայի դատարանին՝ ընթերցելով Վեհափառ Հայրապետի նամակից մի հատւած։



Սրբազան Հայրն իր խօսքի շարունակութեան մէջ կարեւորութեամբ ընդգծեց, որ Իրանի պետութիւնը միշտ զօրակցել է մեզ՝ մեր եկեղեցիների ու մշակութային կոթողների պահպանման գործում, մինչդեռ սրանից մի քանի տարի առաջ հարեւան Ադրբեջանում ազերիներն  աւերեցին Հին Ջուղայի պատմական արժէք ներկայացնող խաչքարերը, որն ինքնին մշակութային ցեղասպանութիւն է։ Թեմակալ Առաջնորդն աւարտելով իր արտայայտութիւնները՝ յոյս յայտնեց, որ Եւրոխորհրդարանը կը բարձրաձայնի այս մասին, կը ճանաչի մարդկային իրաւունքները եւ կը դատապարտի նման արարքները, որպէսզի այլեւս չթոյլատրւեն նման ցեղասպանութիւնների շարունակութիւնը այլուր։

Սրբազան Հօր խօսքերից յետոյ արտայայտւեց Տկն․ Քաթրին Աշտոնը, վստահեցնելով, որ անպայման հետեւելու եւ պաշտպանելու է մարդկային իրաւունքները եւ ներկայացւած խնդիրները։



Պաշտօնական հանդիպման աւարտին առաջնորդ Սրբազան Հայրը յանուն ազգային իշխանութեան յուշանւէրներ յանձնեց Քաթրին Աշտոնին։ Ապա պատւիրակութեան անդամներն այցելեցին ս. Ամենափրկչեան վանքի «Խաչատուր Կեսարացի» անւան թանգարանը, որտեղ առաջնորդ Սրբազան Հայրը Հայոց ցեղասպանութեան տաղաւարի առջեւ երկար բացատրութիւններ տալով իրագործւած ոճրի վերաբերեալ, քարտէզի վրայ ցոյց տւեց այն վայրերը, որտեղ իրագործւել են Հայոց ցեղասպանութիւնը, ինչպէս նաեւ Դեր-Զորից բերւած նահատակների աճիւնների բեկորները, այնուհետեւ շրջելով թանգարանում՝ ներկայացրեց 10-րդ դարից մինչեւ 18-րդ դարի ձեռագրերը, եկեղեցական սպասները, իւղաներկ պատկերներն ու զանազան այլ արժէքաւոր ցուցանմուշները։ Սրբազան Հայրը յատկապէս անդրադարձաւ անգլիական տպամեքենային, որը ս. Ամենափրկչեան վանքում աշխատած երրորդ տպամեքենան է եղել, նաեւ խօսեց Խաչատուր վրդ. Կեսարացու մասին, ով՝ իր եւ իր գործակիցների ջանքերով, ս. Ամենափրկչեան վանքում հիմնադրել է Իրանի եւ Միջին Արեւելքի առաջին տպարանը։



Վերջում յարգելի հիւրը գրառում կատարեց թանգարանի յուշամատեանում, այնուհետեւ թանգարանի մուտքի առջեւ պատւիրակութեան անդամներն առաջնորդ Սրբազան Հօր եւ ազգային մարմինների հետ հաւաքական լուսանկարւելուց յետոյ, հրաժեշտ տւեցին։

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