DETROIT—Susan Kadian-Gopigian was born and raised in Delray – a sprawling “neighborhood” of European immigrants with a large Armenian community. It was the new home for Armenians who survived the Ottoman Turkish massacres, which forced thousands to perish in a death march into the burning sands of Syria’s Der Zor desert and silenced the voices of more than 1.5 million Armenians.
Her 2019 release Armenian Proverbs and Expressions is a 207-page hardcover masterpiece. When asked what motivated her to dedicate a lifetime to producing a collection of Armenian folklore and culture, she smiled and answered, “my love for being an Armenian. My love for Armenian folklore stems from my exposure to those immigrants.” Kadian-Gopigian says she was also encouraged by the love of her late husband Archie who supported her dream of fulfilling a project that came to life in Delray.
Kadian-Gopigian spent 60 years collecting for Armenian Proverbs and Expressions; she started when she was a young girl and continued as a student at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. Many of those proverbs were heard on the porches of Cottrell, Harrington, Gould and Solvay streets. It was no easy project, but they expressed the folklore history of Armenia. It was a child’s wish. What unfolded in Delray, Kadian-Gopigian etched into her gift for future generations in tracing their family history from the ancestral homeland to the New World. She describes how West Jefferson was the hub of Delray – like Main Street, USA where hardworking Armenians toiled at Ford’s Rouge Plant, GM’s Ternstedt-Fleetwood plants, Solvay Process and Zug Island.
Armenian Proverbs and Expressions also features pictorial scenes of Delray landmarks from Armenian Zavarian Hall, Delray Community Center to McMillan and Cary schools and a host of other scenes from the time machine including Southwestern High School—Susan’s pathway to higher education.
Then, in words which cloak every living Armenian across North America, a teary-eyed Kadian-Gopigian said, “I’m haunted by the experiences of my family members who lived through this and those who perished as victims of the 1915 genocide. We the children and grandchildren are the voices that they buried in the desert sand of Der Zor desert. It’s as if their soundless voices rise up and remind me never to forget.”
As you walk into Susan’s lifetime, you are also taken back to the days when Delray was also home for newcomers from Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Germany. In the prologue, she includes the inspiring proverb, “A tree stands taller when it knows its roots.” In the sections that follow, she shares hundreds more from genocide survivors from Sepasta, Keghi, Erzeroom, Mush, Van, Bitlis, Kharpet, Malatya and Cilicia.
Detroiters called the southwest portion “Delray Armenia.” Like so many other ethnic conclaves, Delray has became a blur of the past. In a few years, Delray will get a new chapter in history – the new Gordy Howe Detroit -Windsor International Bridge. Hopefully a bronze marker will be attached to advise that its American side is anchored in old Delray – or as Susan Kadian-Gopigian says, her Armenian Delray.