PHILADELPHIA, Penn.—Sis Publications, an imprint of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has just released a bilingual edition of “My Memoirs (1914-1921),” the unfinished recollections of Gurghen Sarkissian (1898-1972), which constitute a valuable testimony of the crucial period leading to the foundation and demise of the first independent Republic of Armenia. Executive Director of the Eastern Prelacy and editor and translator of the book Dr. Vartan Matiossian presented it on Sunday, June 13, at the hall of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in Philadelphia, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, following the Divine Liturgy. Outreach pastor Rev. Fr. Dr. Vahan Kouyoumdjian officiated the Divine Liturgy and also was in attendance.
The Armenian manuscript, held in the family for close to half a century, has been edited, annotated and translated into English by Dr. Matiossian, who has also authored an extensive introduction. Archbishop Anoushavan wrote a foreword to the illustrated book, which also contains an appendix of documents and a bibliography.
Dr. Matiossian discussed details about the preparation of the book, saying that the Armenian manuscript left unfinished in the early 1970s had pleasantly surprised him as he had come to know a remarkable figure that had been forgotten. He added that the memoirs were worthy of attention even in their incomplete state.
Sarkissian, a graduate of the Kevorkian Seminary of Echmiadzin who had undertaken the writing of his life story in his last years, prepared the blueprint for his text, but only managed to write his recollections until the triumph of the February 1921 uprising that briefly ousted the Soviet regime in Armenia. The author left Armenia after the end of the uprising and, after a brief stint as an actor in a theatrical group that played in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Greece, pursued his higher education at the University of Prague. He settled in Romania where he was a teacher for two decades. In 1944, he was arrested by the Soviet army that had invaded the country and exiled to Siberia, where he survived 12 years in labor camps. After his return to Romania, he emigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Philadelphia, where he passed away.
Dr. Matiossian expressed his regret that the author had been unable to write about the 1921-1965 period of his life, which promised to be an equally valuable testimony. The wealth of information in the memoirs, Dr. Matiossian said, required exhaustive work to annotate the volume and reconstruct the author’s biography. The bilingual book is valuable documentation about the crucial period in the life of Eastern Armenia as well as the first Republic of Armenia.
Victor Sarkissian, the author’s grandson, also addressed the audience, thanking Archbishop Anoushavan for undertaking the publication of the memoirs and Dr. Matiossian for the critical editing of the volume. He evoked the memory of his grandfather with moving words, saying the book presented a fuller portrait about Gurghen Sarkissian’s life and work.
In his closing remarks, the Prelate extolled Sarkissian as one of our “humble heroes” and commended Dr. Matiossian for his meticulous work. He also thanked Mr. and Mrs. Victor and Stephanie Sarkissian who entrusted the publication to the Prelacy and sponsored it.