A Place Called Gyumri: A Book Presentation and Signing

Earlier this fall, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Chicago “Christapor” Chapter and Chicago Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Association sponsored a book presentation and signing with author Knarik O. Meneshian. The event was held in October at the Shahnasarian Hall and Community Center in Glenview, Illinois and featured Meneshian’s book, A Place Called Gyumri: Life in the Armenian Mountains.

Armine Papazian (Photo: Vartkes Panossian)

The evening began with introductory comments by Armen Papazian, chairman of Chicago’s Hamazkayin Association, followed by opening prayers by Reverend Vahan Kouyoumdjian. Vana Dakarian sang the US and Armenian national anthems. Armine Papazian spoke briefly about the author and her work. Oscar Tatosian, Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Armenia in Chicago and environs, followed by Paruir Sarkisian, senior consulate adviser, and ARF Chicago chairman Hagop Soulakian all spoke about Meneshian, her work and numerous years as contributor to The Armenian Weekly. The Hamazkayin Sardarabad Dance Ensemble of Chicago, directed by Hrachya Kostanyan and assisted by Sahak Zakarian, performed a dance in honor of Gyumri. Arpy Seferian hosted the elegant reception.

The Hamazkayin Sardarabad Dance Ensemble of Chicago (Photo: Vartkes Panossian)

Before Meneshian began her three-part presentation—introduction, the showing of photos, and the reading of passages from her book—she thanked all those who organized the event and the audience for attending the evening’s program. She also expressed her appreciation to Dr. Khatchig Mouradian, former editor of The Armenian Weekly, who encouraged her to write a book soon after she began submitting a series of articles about Gyumri, and also to The Hairenik Association for publishing A Place Called Gyumri, her second book published by them. All proceeds from the book benefit The Hairenik Association.

Knarik Meneshian (Photo: Vartkes Panossian)

In her introduction, Meneshian briefly spoke about the devastation in the earthquake zone following the 1988 Spitak earthquake. She described the situation of the people when she and a small group of Armenian Relief Society (ARS) members went to Gyumri, then Leninakan, in 1990, on a humanitarian mission, and in 1991 when she was a volunteer teacher in the village of Jrashen, next to Spitak and not far from Gyumri. She discussed the hardships the people endured in the earthquake zone during those enormously difficult, uncertain and dark years when the lives of the people were turned both upside down and inside out. Meneshian stated that the book is not only a story of survival and triumph, interspersed with historical information, but also a snapshot of the daily life of a people who lost much, yet, gradually, began rebuilding their shattered lives, homes and city under the most difficult of conditions. She added that the book includes the experiences of two volunteer teachers from the Diaspora and describes the various holidays, how funerals are observed and weddings celebrated, how classes are conducted and where some of the historical areas are located. “Included also,” Meneshian said, “are examples of what life was like under Soviet rule, and the positives and negatives of human nature.”

After briefly discussing the photos shown on the screen, she read passages from the book and concluded her presentation with a quote from the book: “I opened my notebook filled with favorite quotes and read the one by Willian Penn: ‘I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.’” 

Reverend Hovhan Khoja-Eynatyan of St. James Armenian Church in Evanston, Illinois, then performed the traditional Armenian book blessing ceremony known as kinetson with prayers and red wine. (The priest says a prayer in front of the author. Then the priest asks the author to open the book and slowly pours wine over the pages.) Tatosian graciously provided the Armenian Red Tushpa and White Koor wines for the reception and book blessing ceremony.

A number of people from surrounding communities and the neighboring state of Wisconsin, including clergy, as well as some non-Armenians, attended the book presentation and signing. After the program, the author was presented with a bouquet of roses.

On Sunday, November 21, 2021, Meneshian’s second book presentation and signing took place at Sts. Joachim and Anne Armenian Apostolic Church Hall in Palos Heights, Illinois. The presentation followed church service and a luncheon. Reverend Tavit Boyajian introduced the author to the audience. After a question-and-answer period, Boyajian presented the author with a book by His Holiness Karekin I of blessed memory, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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