DOUGLASTON, NY—The 103rd anniversary of the independence of the First Republic of Armenia was commemorated on Friday, May 28, 2021 at St. Sarkis Armenian Church in an event organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) New York “Armen Garo” Gomideh and the St. Sarkis Armenian Church community, under the auspices of Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Church of Douglaston, and Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of St. Illuminator’s Armenian Church of Manhattan.
Mher Janian, Armen Garo Gomideh member, served as Master of Ceremonies of the Armenian language program, which championed the significance of Armenia re-emerging as a sovereign nation on May 28, 1918, under the leadership of Armenian revolutionary figure Aram Manukian, that essentially served as the foundation for modern-day Armenia.
“We can’t look towards our future without reflecting on our past,” said Janian in his impassioned remarks. “We will never forget our martyrs who made the ultimate sacrifice for our independent homeland through the sheer force of will, guns, sweat and tears.”
Janian acknowledged the efforts of the ARF and Manukian, alongside Generals Tro, Karekin Njdeh and many other freedom fighters who fought valiantly on the battlefield between May 21 and May 28, 1918, and reiterated the importance of remaining “defenders of the Armenian homeland and the Armenian people.”
“If we maintained that strong will, that hope and that respect towards one another, we would not have lost Ghazanchetsots Cathedral,” said Janian. “We would not have lost Artsakh, and we would not have lost Western Armenia.”
Janian concluded by quoting inspirational words from Roupen Ter Minasian: “The struggle is as valuable as life, the struggle is as sacred as hard work.”
In her keynote speech, ARF Eastern Region Central Committee Vice-Chair Ani Tchaghlasian, elaborated on the timeless values and selfless service passed on from generation to generation that brought everyone together to commemorate the momentous occasion.
“Today we raise the tricolor high, with honor and dignity across the globe as we mark the sacrifices that made the Armenian Republic possible,” said Tchaghlasian. “Today we mark the courage, steadfastness and grit to create an independent Armenia in the wake of the Armenian Genocide, facing unimaginable hurdles, innumerable enemies and insurmountable odds.”
Tchaghlasian noted the challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh in the present day, but urged Armenians not to concede. Instead, she advised them to gain strength from the heroic soldiers and freedom fighters throughout Armenian history.
“We owe them a homeland, we owe them a nation and most of all, we owe them their pride,” said Tchaghlasian. “We do not have the right to yield and we cannot despair because we owe them and ourselves our dignity, self-respect and honor.”
Closing the program, Fr. Terterian reflected on the state of today’s independent Armenian Republic and the symbolism of commemorating Armenia’s independence days of May 28, 1918 and September 21, 1991.
“Patriotism is behind everything, but today there is an absence of patriotism,” said Fr. Terterian. “We believe Armenia is sacred, and it is that sacredness that we must protect.”
Touching upon the 44-day Artsakh war last fall, Fr. Terterian expressed his understanding that many were bitterly disappointed at the loss of lives and territory. He advised the Armenian people to remember that independence has not happened too often in Armenian history.
“Before 1918 we were not independent but we preserved our identity, even during 70 years of Soviet rule,” said Fr. Terterian. “We have never stopped being Armenian and we should continue to strengthen that Armenian spirit in our homes, churches and communities so that the next generation grows up Armenian and loves to be Armenian.”
His final words echoed hope as he stated the importance of remaining connected to the Armenian church and identity: “Challenging times like this have occurred in our history, but this too shall pass, and we will reclaim what we have lost.”
The evening, which welcomed a number of youth from the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) New York “Hyortik” Chapter, concluded with a question and answer session moderated by Tchaghlasian and a reception hosted by the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild.