CHICAGO (A.W.)—On the afternoon of March 22, the Armenians of Chicagoland and nearby regions of the Midwest joined together to celebrate the opening of the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Armenia in Chicago and the installation of Oscar S. Tatosian as the Honorary Consul.
The historic event commenced with a ribbon cutting ceremony and blessings officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America; assisted by the Very Reverend Father Ghevont Pentezian (Archimandrite) of the Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church, Glenview, Ill.; and flanked by clergymen from various Armenian churches, including Reverend Jeremy Tovmassian, Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church of Greater Chicagoland, at the newly established Consulate Office, located at 120 W. Kinzie Street.
A reception, replete with Armenian hospitality, followed at the city’s notable Union League Club. Approximately 400 people were present to welcome not only the newly appointed honorary consul, the clergy, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Grigor Hovhannissian, Patricia Maza-Pittsford, Consul General of El Salvador and Dean of the Chicago Consular Corps, Halle M. Butvin, Director of Special Projects for the Smithsonian Institute, and Walter G. Vartan, retired Brigadier General of the U.S. Airforce, but to also usher in a new era for the Armenians of the Midwest states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
The elegant hall that accommodated the guests was adorned with beautiful flower arrangements that hinted of spring and graceful buffet tables filled with Armenian and American cuisine. As the national anthems were sung, the Armenian by Haroutiun Kendimian and the American by Takaoki Onishi, near Armenia’s Coat of Arms and the flags of the two countries, one could almost touch the joy and pride emanating throughout the hall.
Sevan Meneshian of Saints Joachim and Anne Armenian Apostolic Church, Palos Heights, Ill., said, “What an exciting and proud time to be Armenian!” while Rita Sarrafian of the Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church, Glenview, said, “This is a stately occasion that happens once in a lifetime. Imagine, not only did we, as a people and nation, rise from the ashes, but here we stand today.”
Ralph and Debbie Der Asadourian of Saint James Armenian Apostolic Church, Evanston, Illinois, remarked, “This a proud and significant moment for Armenia and our local community, especially for Oscar,” while Dr. Berj Gueikian of the Armenian Evangelical Church of Greater Chicagoland said, “For this small Armenian community, this was a very good thing, and Oscar was the right choice for this position. People like him and will be willing to help him in any way they can.”
Robert Kaprelian of Chicago’s Saint Gregory Armenian Church stated, “This is a momentous occasion for the Armenians of Chicago. Oscar is a very devoted and exemplary person to be the first Armenian Honorary Consul in Chicago and the Midwest. The event was well organized, the hall elegantly decorated, the speakers interesting, and the musical program beautiful and inspirational.”
As people strolled about or chatted with one another, I began thinking about the history of the Armenians in Chicago. It was nearly 140 ago that a small number of Armenians first began immigrating to this area of the country, some in search of a better life, some for higher education. Along the way, they established communities that, over the years, have grown strong and vibrant. On that March day, another page was added to the history of the Armenians in Chicago and the Midwest.