Book release event held for “The dignity of being American”

FRESNO, Calif.—A book signing event for the recently published book The dignity of being American took place on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 at the Armenian Museum of Fresno located at the University of California Center in Fresno, California.

Co-authored by Varoujan Der Simonian and Sophia Mekhitarian, the book records the previously unpublished stories of 14 displaced persons (DPs) and their families who settled in Fresno after World War II, tracing the DPs’ paths and the trials they endured. The book highlights the extensive involvement of George Mardikian, the founder of ANCHA (American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians), Brigadier General Haig Shekerjian and attorney Suren Saroyan.

“It’s been our mission to focus on the accomplishments of our ANCHA leaders and affiliates for their magnanimous undertaking and to preserve our history for future generations. Heroes they were, and so shall remain,” said Mekhitarian, who herself was once labeled as a displaced person.

Extensive coverage of the role of the unsung heroes, including Dr. Artasches Abeghian, Generals Drastamat Kanaian (Dro) and Garegin Nejdeh, Arsen Taplatsian, Misak Torlakian, Vahan Papazian, Garo Kevorkian and others, who saved thousands of POWs and an untold number of Armenians – to some estimation 600,000 Armenians under Nazi-controlled Europe during World War II – are presented in the book.  

“This is a significant part of our history that often has been overlooked. It is our duty to recognize the role that these men and women played before, during and following World War II in saving thousands of Armenian lives,” commented Der Simonian of the Armenian Museum of Fresno. “I wonder where we would be now if it weren’t for the unsung heroes’ patriotism, dedication and commitment – their call to serve their own people, who were far away from their homeland.”   

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The 260-page book includes over 300 photos highlighting the life of the Armenians at Funkerkaserne DP Camp near Stuttgart, Germany. It covers the ANCHA monument in Fresno, with its six panels placed on the monument’s pedestal, that was appropriately placed next to the Sunday school building entrance at the Holy Trinity Church in Fresno. It also covers an oral history interview with George Mardikian and an essay by Mardikian titled “Three Meals for the Chief” providing detailed explanations of how he would prepare three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – for his friend, President Herbert Hoover. The essay is being published for the first time courtesy of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Almost all copies of this limited-edition of the book were sold, and the Museum’s galleries were packed with an enthusiastic crowd well past the event’s conclusion. Contributors to the Fresno ANCHA monument received a complimentary copy

A photographic exhibition complementing the content of the book, titled The Saga and the Triumph of the Displaced Persons, is currently on display at the Armenian Museum of Fresno. 

Copies of the book may be purchased or ordered from the Armenian Museum of Fresno at $60.00 per copy, pending availability.

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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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