St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School Participates in Virtual Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide

WATERTOWN, Mass.—St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School’s (SSAES) annual pilgrimage to the Massachusetts State House to commemorate the Armenian Genocide did not occur this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The school took a novel approach and held a very meaningful virtual commemoration of the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide for grades 3-5. 

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The program included the singing of the Armenian national anthem “Mer Hairenik” and an eight-minute Genocide memorial video from EuroNews. Opening remarks were presented by SSAES Principal Houry Boyamian, who read excerpts from her father Karnig Panian’s memoir, Goodbye Antoura. Under the guidance of Armenian teacher Ardemis Megerdichian, the graduating class of fifth graders shared their presentations on the Young Turks, the story of Musa Dagh, the works of Hovhannes Toumanyan, the history of Raphael Lemkin and the coining of his term Genocide, as well as Diasporan Armenian history. At the end of each piece, each student spoke the words, “I Remember. We Demand.”

Author Marsha Skrypuch

Marsha Skrypuch, whose two books Aram’s Choice (2006) and Call Me Aram (2009) serve a significant role in the SSAES Armenian Genocide curriculum, was also invited to participate. Skrypuch shared how she first learned about the Georgetown Boys (orphans from the Armenian Genocide who ended up in Ontario, Canada); from 1996 to 2006, she befriended a Georgetown boy’s son, who then shared his father’s stories. Skrypuch explained how she used cassette tapes of the Georgetown Boys sharing their testimonies in developing the storyline of the books using a fictional character named Aram. The students were engaged and asked thoughtful questions during this unique and memorable online experience.

Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Watertown, Mass.

The program’s closing remarks and prayer were provided by Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian, who also shared a childhood story he heard from his parish priest, Rev. Movses Shirikian, about the battle at Musa Dagh. Der Movses shared his experience as a young man about how they stole a cannon one evening while the Turks slept. They used it to defend the Armenians of Musa Dagh. Der Antranig connected a fifth grade student’s earlier presentation with Der Movses’ story, passing down a first-hand account of the event from one generation to the next. Everyone prayed Hayr Mer to close out the commemoration and remember our martyrs.

Heather Krafian

Heather Krafian

Heather Apigian Krafian was born in Detroit, Michigan and was one of the founding students of A.G.B.U. Alex Manoogian School in 1969. She graduated Michigan State University in 1988 with a bachelor’s in International Relations and cognate studies in German and Russian. She holds a master’s in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University. As an ANCA intern, Heather worked for the Minority Rights Group in London under Ben Whittaker. She’s also worked at Zoryan Institute as its Armenian Studies Coordinator. She began her career in education in 1990 after which she became the assistant principal of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School from 2006 to 2008; she currently serves on its Education Committee. She has also served on the Board of Trustees at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church. Heather is a member of the ARS Cambridge “Shushi” Chapter and a member of the ARS Eastern Region Board of Directors. Heather was the 2010 recipient of the Knights of Vartan “Community Leader” Award and the 2015 recipient of the Eastern Prelacy’s Certificate of Merit. She is married to Ara Krafian; they live in Belmont, MA with their four daughters Araxi, Nairi, Anoush and Knar.

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