WOBURN, Mass.—Last month Armenian communities around the world commemorated the 99th anniversary of the battle of Bash Aparan. On May 21, 1918, an Ottoman Turkish division attacked Armenian forces at Bash Aparan, with the intent of pushing towards Yerevan. After three days of fierce combat, the Armenians, led by General Drastamat Kanayan, known as General Dro, began to repel the Turkish regiments, and they retreated on May 29, 1918. The victory at Bash Aparan, along with Armenian success at Saradarabad and Karakilisa, was instrumental in leading to the formation of the First Republic of Armenia.
As the 100th anniversary of the battle approaches, General Dro’s family is cooperating with Armenia Tree Project (ATP) to create a living memorial to Dro and his victory at Bash Aparan. There is a park in the town of Aparan, Armenia at the site of the battle where a visitor will find General Dro’s final resting place as well as a monument to the victorious battle of Bash Aparan.
ATP has begun to beautify and improve the Aparan site, planting trees and shrubs and developing walking paths. This project will culminate in May 2018 with a ceremonial tree planting at the park with Dro’s family and friends.
General Dro’s grandson Philip Kanayan states, “Any monument to our grandfather should be a living memorial. General Dro was not a man who wore medals. He lived a life of service to the Armenian nation, and in that vein the Armenia Tree Project promotes those ideals of giving back to the Armenian Nation.”
General Dro’s daughter Olga Proudian of Watertown, Mass. describes her father not as a war hero, but a man who was always true to his ideas and himself. “He was always positive about the future of Armenia,” she said. “He assumed we would have an independent Armenia, and he believed we should give it priority. His mission was always an independent Armenia. He would not allow the world to not have an Armenia.”
In 2000, Olga and other family members accompanied Dro’s remains to Armenia, where they were re-interred near the Bash Aparan memorial. It was an emotional experience for Olga. She felt a tug on her sleeve. An elderly man, recognizing her as Dro’s daughter, wanted to show her a small house nearby. He explained that his father and Dro had fought the Turks together from that house in 1918.
Tatul Sonentz-Papazian first met Dro in Cairo in the early 1950s, when both men attended the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) World Congress there. Tatul remembers Dro as a great diplomat, strategist and tactician, but also much more: “Not only did General Dro play a key role in formation of the First Republic, he re-kindled the Hai Tahd fighting spirit. Thanks to his work in Armenia and the Diaspora, the spirit of Hai Tahd lives on in youth around the world.”
General Dro’s grandson and namesake, Dro Kanayan of Massachusetts, says that planting trees in his grandfather’s honor is appropriate because he had a strong connection to the land. He grew up on a farm in Igdir, and at times fed his army from the harvest of his father’s farm: “Dro understood the importance of what the land can provide for the people. Armenia Tree Project provides resources for our people to survive and prosper by living off the land, which follows Dro’s ideals to continue helping our nation.”
Since 1994, ATP has used trees to help Armenians improve their standard of living and help protect the global environment. ATP’s work is guided by its core principles: promoting self-sufficiency, aiding those with the fewest resources and conserving the indigenous ecosystem.
“ATP is proud to participate in this project. We’re honored to help remember the historic victory at Bash Aparan. Planting trees for the future is a fitting tribute to the bravery and sacrifices of General Dro and his troops,” said ATP Executive Director Jeanmarie Papelian.
ATP and the Kanayan family will hold fundraising and promotional events on the east and west coasts in the coming year. If you would like to support this project, or participate in the May 2018 planting in Armenia, please contact ATP at [email protected]