Retirement for most people is lying on a hammock with a cold drink and watching the world pass by unabashed.
Not George Aghjayan. If anything, he’s bringing the world to his forefront. Not just any world, either. The world of his ancestors: Historic Armenia!
The fact he retired June 30 from a software company in structured finance was simply a formality. It only gives him more time to explore western civilization and delve deeper into the land of his ancestors.
And he can’t get enough of it!
“I’ve retired solely to devote more time and energy to my Armenian projects,” he told an Armenian Independence Day audience in Lowell recently.
“I have a number of demographic studies in the works and hope to continue traveling frequently to Western Armenia. The trips have created inroads. I use them as research opportunities.”
The ARF activist is particularly interested in documenting the cultural state of our heritage. He uses the trips to gather vital information, exploring some of the more remote sites in Turkey. It’s a mission that knows no boundaries, only footwork.
“I also see the impact that traveling to Western Armenia has upon those who come with us, particular young adults,” he adds. “There is no replacement for seeing, feeling, and understanding the geography of the land where our people were born and raised.”
As to the financial burdens, Aghjayan pays his own expenses. It’s an investment to what he calls historical enrichment.
His primary touring companion is former Armenian Weekly Editor Khatchig Mouradian, a close friend. The two have literally tilled the soil and dug up remains of victims. Articles written on their experiences have captivated readers in the Armenian Weekly, as well as other publications throughout the diaspora.
With his knowledge of the Turkish language, Mouradian has served as a wonderful resource with his numerous trips to Turkey. The two travelers tend to inspire one another with their devotion.
“Khatchig urges me to continue traveling there,” Aghjayan points out. “His continued presence has made these trips possible. I would not have returned without his encouragement. We’ve brought others with us as well—people that can amplify the message. For me, it’s been particularly gratifying to have my wife and one of my daughters on four of these trips.”
Aghjayan lives in Westminster, Mass., with his wife and three children.
These ventures also serve a vital purpose for Islamized Armenians, wherever they may dwell.
“They must see that our attachment to the land has not diminished, even 100 years after the rupture created by the Armenian Genocide,” Aghjayan insists. “I think of meeting Asiya in Chunkush and, particularly, the half-Armenian village mukhtar in my grandmother’s village of Uzunova in Palu.”
The most difficult moments are seeing his heritage violated by destruction, be it churches in arrears or sanctuaries in upheaval, graves freshly unearthed for non-existent treasure or precious monuments desecrated.
“We unexpectedly came across the skull of an Armenian vartabed that was thrust aside,” he somberly reports. “It was my first and last visit to the Dudan gorge in Chunkush where 10,000 Armenians had been killed. The stench of death in the air was so palatable I could only remain for a few moments. Today, it’s the utter shock of seeing a new school built on the edge of that precipice.”
Aghjayan began his working career as an actuary in the insurance industry, completing the requirements for Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries in 1996. For the past 12 years, he was responsible for commercial mortgaged-backed securities for a software company.
He’s a veteran member of the ARF and has performed yeoman’s work for the ANCA. His allegiance to the Worcester AYF has remained exemplary, not to mention his membership activity with the Worcester Gomideh. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Worcester.
His first visit to Western Armenia was in 1996. He spent three weeks traveling the length and breadth of the country with his aunts and uncles. The trip was emotionally, physically, and psychologically draining, he says.
Aghjayan didn’t return there for 15 years. In 2011, he went twice—once for the reopening of Sourp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir and again to present a paper at a conference on the social and economic history of the province there. Since then he’s been returning two to three times a year, with his last trip this past August.
And now with retirement, time is no objective. His bags are always packed.