‘Tears of Joy’ Mark Genocide Memorial Dedication

BOSTON, Mass.—A persistent and nagging rain failed to dampen the spirits of nearly 1,000 attendees who turned out May 22 at Rose Kennedy Greenway for the much-anticipated dedication of Armenian Heritage Park.

A scene from the dedication (photo by Michael Casey)

The event marked a decade-long $6 million project that captured the hearts and minds of Armenians from coast-to-coast.

For those with a grim outlook, they felt the storm was just another burden shouldered by Armenians throughout its long and turbulent history.

Others felt the raindrops represented “holy water” and were tears of joy shed by the 1.5 million martyrs over such an imposing memorial park and monument.

Even Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, whose inspiration helped guide the project, shed a tear in his closing remarks after being overcome with emotion.

“I think people worried about this being a memorial and that was never our intent,” said Koutoujian, an honorary co-chairman. “We had to drive the issue home and explain that this is something we are all here to embrace. It’s not just an Armenian heritage park. It’s about all our experiences.”

People sat on rain-soaked chairs toting umbrellas while others stood unprotected from the rain. A canopied stage shielded speakers and other VIPs. A barrage of cameras also withstood the elements.

“This park will stand in tribute to these Armenian immigrants and many other immigrant communities who escaped tragedy and misfortune to find safety on our shores,” said James Kalustian, the foundation’s president. “This park commemorates those who lost their lives in the genocide against the Armenian people and all other genocides that followed.”

Visitors may relax on benches in the shade of trees by historic Faneuil Hall, walk the Labyrinth (a circular winding path paved in granite and set in lawn), take delight as children splash in a single jet of water at its center, or marvel at the 12-sided abstract geometric sculpture, a split dodecahedron resting on a 16-foot diameter reflecting pool.

The Labyrinth celebrates the journey of life, symbol of an eternity etched within its granite center. Annually, the sculpture will reconfigure to commemorate lives lost during the 1915-23 genocide and all other massacres that have marked the immigrant experience.

“The quest for human dignity comes through when you talk to the proponents of this project,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Their yearning for recognition and acknowledgement, along with the fact it was a gift to the Commonwealth, makes it a very moving opportunity.”

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called the Armenians “a resilient population who has made tremendous strides since the genocidal years.”

“They’ve contributed immensely to the wellbeing and enhancement of Greater Boston,” he pointed out. “We’ve offered hope and refuge to immigrants seeking to create a new life in America. This memorial park is a tribute to their proud heritage.”

U.S. Congressman Ed Markey, a proponent for genocide recognition as one of state’s most venerable legislators, urged his colleagues to pass recognition.

“As we approach the centennial in 2015, it’s time for our country to stand among other nations of the world in bringing credence to the Armenian Genocide,” he said. “Human rights are something we must embrace in our daily lives.”

A scheduled appearance by Armenia President Serge Sarkiain was cancelled during the final hour. His place was taken by Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, Tatoul Markarian, Armenia’s ambassador to the United States, and Hranush Hakobyan, minister of the diaspora, each of whom delivered stirring messages.

A dinner the night before drew 450 patrons, thanks to the generosity of such benefactors as Carolyn Mugar, James Kalustian, Noubar and Anna Afeyan, and the Nishan Atinizian family.

Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian, honorary co-chairman, served as mistress of ceremonies. Afeyan spoke of the resurgence of economic conditions in Armenia. Prayers were offered by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan.

Entertainment was provided by Knarik Nerkararyan, Sevag Khatchadourian, and Levon Hovsepian.

Three awards were presented by the Armenian Embassy for dedicated service in the diaspora to James Kalustian, for his work as foundation president and other efforts; Dr. Herand Markarian, for his many years as a devoted playwright; and Noubar Berberian, whose work in Armenian media remains noteworthy. Markarian’s play “Silence” just wrapped up a successful tour off-Broadway.

Billed as a gift to the City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, representatives from 37 churches and organizations all contributed to the fruition of this project.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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