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.
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.”
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.
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.