On March 7, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern USA, under the auspices of Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern), and the ARS Inc., held a cultural program to commemorate the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. The program, held at Waterside Restaurant in New Jersey, was the third and final event in a three-day-long commemoration and celebration of survival. ARS members from throughout the U.S. Eastern Region and Canada participated in the sold-out event.
The evening’s emcee, ARS “Mayr” Chapter member Anahid Ugurlayan, welcomed the attendees and stressed the importance of continuing the quest for justice while ensuring that Armenian organizations remain strong, both by attracting new members and working with sister and non-sister organizations. She introduced critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Hooshere, who sang the national anthems of the U.S. and Armenia, as well as the ARS anthem. Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, vicar general of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern), delivered the invocation.
Vicki Marashlian, the chairperson of the ARS Central Executive Board, then spoke of the tenacity that Armenian women exhibited in the wake of the genocide and of their role in the now-105-year-old ARS to not only keep the Armenian community together but to help others in need throughout the world. Sevan Kolejian, vice-chairperson of the ARS Eastern USA, spoke of the myriad of ARS programs throughout the world, especially its recent relief efforts in Syria.
Kolejian dedicated the evening to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the genocide and to the ARS members who reached out and helped our nation to survive during its darkest time.
The evening, she said, was dedicated to the memory of our Ungerouhis who, in addition to providing shelter, food, and basic necessities, built Armenian-language schools and community centers and nurtured our diasporan communities. This evening, she continued, is the time to renew our promise to do more and continue our founding members’ legacy and work. Be ready to overcome day-to-day challenges, she added, so that our communities continue to prosper.
His Excellency Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, the permanent representative of Armenia to the United Nations, praised the work of the ARS, particularly its steadfast advocacy at the United Nations as an NGO on the roster in consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council. He wished the ARS continued success in all of its endeavors.
Following the dinner, the cultural program began with renowned poetess Vehanoush Tekian, who recited a poem she wrote to honor Daniel Varoujan, one of the many writers who died during the genocide. Prior to her moving recitation, Tekian spoke of Daniel Varoujan’s life and enormous talent, which was tragically cut short at the age of 31. Her recitation was followed by violinist Nune Melikian, who performed breathtaking renditions of works by Bach, Paganini, and Gomidas Vartabed.
The evening’s keynote speech was delivered by Matthew Karanian. An attorney and legal scholar, Karanian is also an avid photographer. His latest book, Historic Armenia After 100 Years, shines a light on our monuments and churches and the “hidden Armenians” in Turkey who have survived despite persecution. He spoke of his family’s survival and how the harrowing story inspired him to travel to Western Armenia.
Following Karanian’s presentation, Hooshere and her accompanist, Peter Douskalis, gave a stirring rendition of “Adanayi Godoradzuh” and “Tu Im Hayreni.” Hooshere’s performance was followed by Zivart Balikjian’s recitation of Kevork Emin’s, “Sassountzineri Bareh.” There is no doubt that he would have been as moved as the entire audience was by Balikjian’s powerful tribute.
The cultural program ended with a performance by artist Kevork Mourad and cellist Eddie Pogossian. Mourad, a critically acclaimed artist, combines visual art with his love for music through spontaneous painting. As Julliard student Eddie Pogossian performed works by Gomidas Vartabed, Kevork Mourad created beautiful drawings inspired by the music. The fusion of technology, art, and music was a delight for all to see.
The evening ended with closing remarks by Talin Daghlian, chairperson of the ARS Eastern United States, who thanked guests for attending the program from as far away as the Western U.S., Canada, and Brazil. She reminded attendees that the will of Armenian women to survive despite enormous adversity continues today. The gifts for the artists, she explained, consisted of handiwork by Armenian women in Syria, created by candlelight as electricity is scarce amid the ongoing and devastating Syrian war.
Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in New Jersey delivered the benediction.
The ARS Eastern USA is grateful to all attendees for their support and to those who worked tirelessly to make the three-day Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorative events a reality.