LOWELL, Mass.—A mother’s hands weaving the history of her people.Such is the theme of an elaborate genocide memorial approved by city officials during a meeting with organizers from the Merrimack Valley Armenian community.
Plans for the structure were announced during the 97th anniversary commemoration in front of City Hall; the monument will be situated there, to the right of a flagpole that flies the Armenian tricolor every April 24th.
The estimated cost for the project runs $25,000, which will be collected through an aggressive fundraising campaign.
The announcement followed six months of plenary work by a pan-Armenian committee headed by activist Armen Jeknavorian with members of various church and civic organizations. Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian is also lending insight as honorary chairman.
A three-dimensional motif featuring a mother’s hands protruding from the khatchkar (Armenian cross-stone) serves as an immediate eye-catcher. At the base are the Armenian words “Ee Heeshadag” (or “In Remembrance”). The stone measures six feet in height and three feet in width.
“The delicacy of the crochet integrated into the cross-stone symbolizes the steadfast richness of the Armenian heritage that has sustained our ancient people for centuries,” said Hejinian. “Knot by knot, the Armenian people everywhere weave their hopes and dream as they grow and prosper. This expression of ‘weaving’ echoes the Armenian national anthem.”
The theme of weaving a lace cloth into stone appears connected to Lowell’s history, known for its prominent textile industry.
“Lowell accepted immigrants from throughout the world to work the mills,” added Hejinian. “It is here in which a community of Armenians was established and flourished from the late 19th century. Just as this genocide is imprinted in the collective memory of every Armenian, this cross-stone is the permanent reminder that the ultimate crime against humanity will never be forgotten or repeated.”
The project was conceived under Mayor James Milinazzo, who lobbied for a piece of prime land abutting City Hall. He has since been replaced by Mayor Patrick Murphy, who remains just as enamored of such an endeavor.
The Armenian memorial will share company with markers from other nationality groups inside an area known as Monument Park, which attracts some 100,000 folks each July during an ethnic folk festival. Its visibility would be profound.
“It’ll certainly create an attractive yet meaningful presence,” said Murphy. “We have a very sizable Armenian presence in the city and this is a tribute to them. Armenians have overcome extreme adversity. Together, we’ll all share in the human experience—that being peace and harmony throughout the world.”
Armenians began settling in Lowell before the 1900’s as immigrants came searching for honest work and a safe haven in which to raise their families, practice their religion, and educate their children.
“The Armenian community became an asset to the growth of Lowell’s economic and social fabric through their industrious spirit, strong family values, and their devotion to a free society, healthy religious values, and strong civic pride,” added Murphy.
The Merrimack Valley currently houses three genocide survivors and each was invited to serve as an honorary member of the committee. Their names grace all formal correspondence and will be mentioned in conjunction with every nuance of the project, which is expected to be dedicated next April.
They are Nellie Nazarian, Thomas Magarian, and Ojen Fantazian.
“Through their sacrifice and vision, generations have prospered here and made our heritage and culture one to be admired,” said Jeknavorian. “It’s a meaningful gesture of gratitude for all they’ve done to preserve and advance our history.”