‘Azadamard’ Gomideh Commemorates Federation’s 120th Anniversary

Names Weekly Columnist Betty Apigian-Kessel ‘Hamagir of the Year’

Members and supporters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) braved metro Detroit’s first serious snowstorm of the winter season to attend the ARF “Azadmard” Gomideh’s commemoration of the Federation’s 120th anniversary. The event was held Sun., Dec. 12 at 1:30 p.m. at the Armenian Community Center in Dearborn, Mich.

Hagop Der Khatchadourian (photo by Georgi-Ann Oshagan)

Gomideh chair Georgi-Ann Oshagan welcomed all attendees and thanked them for making the effort to attend the event in spite of the weather. She observed that the ARF was founded 120 years ago after a lengthy meeting called by its three founders beginning in the autumn of 1890.

“Kristapor Mikaelian, Simon Zavarian, and Stepan Zorian came together with other like-minded individuals to pursue the political and economic freedom of Armenia,” Oshagan noted. “The Federation’s pursuits are the same today as they were then.”

Guests at the event were ARF Bureau member and keynote speaker Ung.Hagop Der Khatchadourian of Montreal; Rev. Fr. Daron and Yn. Sossi Stepanian of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church; Fr. Abraham and Yn. Shakeh Ohannessian of the Armenian Diocese; ARS Eastern USA Regional Board of Directors member Ani Attar; ADL Eastern District Committee chair Edmund Azadian; ADL Detroit Chapter chair Hagop Alexanian; Detroit HMEM president Shant Jamgotchian, Detroit Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Chapter chair Hermine Manoogian; and St. Sarkis Board of Trustees member Sebouh Sarkissian.

After a complimentary dinner, Der Khatchadourian presented an overview of the ARF’s work over the past 120 years. “This is a day of accountability for the ARF,” he said. “It is a period of reflection on accomplishments and critical junctures over the period of our history.”

Der Khactadourian observed the organization’s important work and noted that two critical accomplishments over its history were the ARF’s key part in establishing the Armenian Diaspora and its important role in realizing the eventual independence of Armenia and Karabagh.

Betty Apigian-Kessel (Georgi-Ann Oshagan)

Following his address, Oshagan explained the “Azadamard” Gomideh’s decision to name a “Hamagir of the Year” to honor at the 120th anniversary commemoration of the ARF, and why Armenian Weekly columnist Betty Apigian-Kessel was selected.

“In her Armenian Weekly columns about the ARF of the past and present, Betty Apigian-Kessel writes about the organization with love, honor, and respect,” Oshagan noted. “She gives her readers a peak at our communities as they existed in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and shares her impressions of the ARF and its affiliated organizations of that time.”

“Betty’s words convey an acknowledgement that while things have changed over time for our communities and that we cannot return to the past, the ARF’s spirit and dedication to its ideals has remained steady and unchanged.”

During the entire event, Apigian-Kessel had a framed black-and-white photo of her parents, Mamigon Apigian and Takouhi Charverdian Apigian, standing on the dinner table, and during her acceptance of the honor, spoke of how influential her parents were in building the “Armenian warrior” she would grow into in time.

During an emotional speech, Apigian-Kessel recalled being the youngest of four children born in Pontiac, Mich. in 1938. She proudly recounted how she helped form the Pontiac AYF Junior Chapter as a 10-year-old and repeated her organizational skills in forming the ARS “Ani” Junior Chapter of Pontiac as a 19-year-old.

The strong and sustaining thread running through her life story was her father’s unshakable devotion to the ARF and her mother’s equally strong support for the ARF and her membership in the ARS. Apigian-Kessel acknowledged that the lessons she learned in her parents’ home had guided her throughout her life and led her to the honor she had received.

The anniversary celebration concluded with a traditional cake-lighting ceremony, with donations collected for the Armenian Cultural Association of America to benefit its educational programs.

1 Comment

  1.  I would like to comment on a staement made in the article. The reporter mentions that one of the ARF’s accomplishements was the ” ARF’s key part in establishing the diaspora”. I believe that it would be more accurate to say the ARF played a major role in organizing the diaspora into functioning communities. The diaspora was established by the challenges facing our nation during the pre-genocide years from the Hamidian masacres until the start of WW I  and the post genocide period of recovery into the 1920’s. It’s a subtle , but significant diiference.
          In my view, this is a subject and contribution that has been understated. I view the ARF, aside from operating as a nationlaist “loyal oppostion’ party in the Republic, has been a superb community organizing operation for 100 years. Most of the Armenian communities in America began with small groups of men and women(sometimes early on just bachelor men) from common geographic area in western Armenia who brought their faith and heritage to these new enclaves. Frequently, they were organized as a local ARF gomideh building a community infrastructure. My own grandfathers, in different communities participated in the same model…. opened “agoomps”, built churches to practice our faith and provided educational opportunitedies.
          This was an incredible accomplishment as the ARF transitioned in the 1920’s into organizers of this new reality… the diaspora. As American-Armenians, we enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices of the previous generations. Just as the ARF supported local villagers against Turkish oppression, they successfuly transitioned into a new need of the Armenian people… transforming the population of the diaspora into a functioning community… capable of sustaining itself and contributing to the needs of other Armenians. This accomplishment is deserving of our grateful respect.

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