By Steve Elmasian
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—On Sat., Feb. 23, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) of Providence celebrated the organization’s 123rd anniversary before a packed house in the Aramian Auditorium at Sts. Vartanantz Church.
The flags were presented by the AYF and Homenetmen scouts, as Shant Eghian sang “Anmar Mnah” (Without End), with Unger Raffi Rachdouni accompanying him on the piano. The emcee, Unger Margaret Stepanian, began the evening by asking Arch Priest Gomidas Baghsarian to provide the opening prayer. Unger Stepanian then provided a brief history of the ARF in the Providence community, which has carried the torch for well over a century—since 1893. If this event was any indication of our future, we are here to stay for a very long time.
Current Providence ARF Chairman Unger Hagop Donoyan gave the opening remarks and welcomed the guests. Unger George Aghjayan of the Worcester “Aram” Gomideh and Unger Khajag Megerdichian of the Boston “Sardarabad” Gomideh gave the ARF message in English and Armenian, respectively. A traditional luleh kebab dinner was prepared and served by the ungers and youth, and was delicious as always. Comments were given by Unger John Mkrtschjan and Unger Sarkis Tarpinian, both active members of the Providence “Kristapor” Gomideh.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of ARF lapel pins by the spouses and children of deceased ungers to the seven new members who recently took their oaths. These new members, most of whom have gone through the ranks of the Providence AYF and Homenetmen Chapters, are: Unger Andrew Bagdasarian, Unger Sevan Donoian, Unger Dalita Getzoyan, Unger Raffi Rachdouni, Unger Alex Saakov, Unger Garo Tashian, and Unger Levon Zobian.
They sing in the church choir and serve on the altar. They are like many others who call the community center/church complex and its buildings their second home. Their roots are in Bulgaria and Hayasdan, in Springfield, Mass., and Palu, historic Armenia. They are from Sweden and Baku, Azerbaijan, from the old neighborhood of Smith Hill where the settlers first arrived, and from Syria and Lebanon. The guests reflected the same backgrounds: third- and fourth-generation Armenians, or those that came from war-torn Beirut, or new arrivals from Syria and Armenia. This is the strength of the Armenian community in Providence.
Der Gomidas concluded the program with his remarks and a closing prayer. The other strength of this community lies in the camaraderie and fellowship between the ARF and her sister organizations (the ARS, AYF, Hamazkayin, and Homenetmen) and the church, always working hand in hand for the betterment of our people and our nation. This has been the credo in Providence, as Der Gomidas always points out when he speaks, especially at events such as this. And, as the two guest speakers both noted in their deliveries, the real strength of this community comes from the consistent and steadfast support of its hamagirs (supporters).
The Arev Armenian Folk Ensemble provided entertainment with the singing of nationalistic songs that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. It was like time had stood still, and this community went back 80 years.
A portion of the proceeds will be sent to the Syrian-Armenian community, which is in a daily struggle to survive.
To make a donation, mail your check to Providence ARF, 7 Armenia St., Providence, RI 02909.
In the words of our late Unger John Varadian, in whose honor these new members have taken their oaths—”Good Show.”
Steve Elmasian is the vice chairman of the Providence ARF.