ARS Contest Winners - 2020
Theme: Family Roots
Greetings. Today I will tell you about the history of my family, from my father’s side. Our family goes centuries back, as far as I know, and I am going to tell you how life was in each of my family member’s times, as well as what I know about them. And with that said, I hope you enjoy listening to my essay. My whole family lived in Artsakh and Armenia, up until my generation. My Great-grandfather Arsen, escaped from Kars during the Genocide when he was 23 years old, and miraculously escaped from the Turks, losing his brother and sister there and went to Artsakh, where he joined Zoravar Antraniq Pasha’s Army. He was a great fighter and he was very brave, strong, and very witty. He settled in Artsakh, in the Hadrut region, and got married.
He still was fighting for his land and his people even in Soviet/Bolshevik time, having established a Ghachagh/ Fidayi group to fight against bolsheviks. My great-grandfather Arsen joined World War ll in 1941. My grandfather Mikayel, his oldest son, was born a few months after his father went to fight against the Germans. I am very proud to be a great-grandson of Arsen, who was one of the armenian soldiers of the Armenian battalion who danced the Armenian Kochari victory dance in Reichstag. ln spite of his hard life, my Great-Grandfather Arsen lived a long life and died when he was g0 years old. My grandfather, Mikayel, got married, and he had two children, but by that time, in 1988, the fight for independence of Nagorno Karabakh from Azerbaijan had broken out between the Azeris and Armenians. Sadly, my grandfather was brutally murdered by the Azeris in 1988, at that time my father, David, was serving in the Soviet Union Army. When that happened, my father immediately came back and joined the Artsakh army fighted against Azeris. ln a few years, by the request of my Grandmother Jasmine, my dad, David, moved to America with his mother and sister. Life wasn’t easy in the U.S. for my dad, his mom and sister but he worked hard and became very successful always helping people in Artsakh. Soon, my grandmother died, and even though my father had seen terrible things, he carried on and he married my mother and had Jasmine and l. I can conclude that my family has a very interesting history. I hope you enjoyed learning about the history of the Ambartsumian Family, and that’s all for now.
«Մի մութ, ամպոտ օր թուրքերը սկսեցին բոլոր Հայերին իրենց տներից հանել խաբելով որ ավելի լավ տեղ են տանում։ Բայց, իհարկե, նրանք խաբած էին։ Թուրքերը հայերին քշեցին դեպի անապատ, որտեղ ոչ ոք չկար, եւ սկսեցին նրանց սպանել։ Եւ սա միակ դեպքը չէր։ Թուրքերը համատարած տարահանում էին հայերին, զրկանքների ու խոշտանգումների ենթարկում, ապա սպանում։ Վերջապէս լուրը հասաւ բոլորին, եւ իմ տատիկիս պապիկը հաւաքեց իր ընտանիքը, գիշերով նստեցրեց սայլի մէջ; Ան Կարսի շրջանի մեծ փարկիթ գյուղից ուղեւորվեց դեպի Գյումրի։ Սայլի մէջ նստած էին ինքը, իր կինը, եւ նրանց հինգ երեխաները։ Բայց հինգերորդը դեռ չէր ծնվել։ Այսպես շարժվում էին նրանք առաջ՝ մեծ դժվարություններով ու զրկանքներով շրջապատված։ Այդ ընտանիքին կերակրել էր պետք, ցրտից պաշտպանել, թշնամուդ պատսպարել։ Ճանապարհի կեսին ծնվեց իմ տատիկի հայրը։ Տատիկիս պապիկը նրա անունը դրեց Համբարցում, որովհետեւ այդ անունը նշանակում է մահից խուսափել, նոր կյանք ստանալ։ Այսպես նրանք տեղափոխվեցին Գյումրի։ Ճիշտ է, նրանք կորցրել էին իրենց տանն ու ողջ ունեցվածքը, բայց պահպանել էին իրենց ինքնությունն ու ընտանիքը։ Ես հպարտ եմ որ համարվում եմ այս աննկուն ընտաիքի հետնորդը»։
Իմ ընտանիքիս պատմութիւնը շատ հետաքրքրական է։ Իմ ընտանիքս ապրեցաւ տարբեր կեանք մը։ Իմ մեծ հօրս մեծ հայրը եւ մեծ մայրը Կարապետ եւ Էլսան, ծնողքիս Խորեն Սալխանեանն է։ Խորեն Սալխանեան ամուսնացած է Օսանա, Տէր Հայրապետեանին։ Խորեն երկու տարի երբ Խորեն մեռաւ, Սալխանեան մականունը չէ այլեւս։ Ան փոխած է Արապեան, Հայրապետ Արապեան։ Մարդը ըսած էր որ Խորեն շատ երիտասարդ է որ նաւի վրայ առանձին երթայ։ Խորենը ըսած է իմ զաւակս է։ Խորեն ծնած է Ուրֆա 1907-ին։ Ան մեռաւ ինքնաշարժի արկածով 1954-ին Պուէնոս Այրես։ Ան կ՚աշխատէր գործարանի մը մէջ, որ կը պատրաստէր հագուստներ, կրծքալ, եւայլն։ Օսանա Ղաղլետճեան միակ անձն էր որ ողջ մնացած էր։
Ան փրկուեցաւ որովհետեւ որբանոց գացած էր։ Ան ծնած է Եթեսիա 1908-ին, ան մեռած է 1970’s Պուէնոս Այրէս։ Խորեն ճամբորդած է Հայաստանէն Պէյրութ եւ Արժանդինա, Ոսաննան ճամբորդած է Հայաստանէն Ֆրանսա եւ Արժանդին։ Իմ մեծ հայրս Վարդան Պագրճեանը եւ իր կինը Ալիսիա Հարպօեան, որ ծնած են Անդապ, հասան Արժանդինա Պոնըս Այրէս Յուլիս 2, 1929։ Նաւուն անունը España-ն է։ Հետաքրքրական բանը այդ է որ նաւուն վրայ կ՚ըսէ որ Ալիս Պագրճեան ծնած է Մարաշ Անդապի տեղ եւ անունը բոլորովին տարբեր է։ Ուրիշ հետաքրքրական մասը իրենց կեանքէն որ մեծ հայրս Խորենը օգնած է որ շինեն առաջին Հայկական եկեղեցին Արժանդինի մէջ։
Այս տակաւին մէկ մասն է ընտանիքիս պատմութենէն։
The Armenian Relief Society Eastern Region (ARS of Eastern USA) has always been at the forefront of relief efforts and humanitarian aid during times of crisis for the Armenian people, both in the homeland and in the diaspora. When the novel coronavirus crisis began, the ARS of Eastern USA sprang into action, both in the local communities through their chapters and internationally. The Armenian Weekly recently spoke with ARS of Eastern USA Board Chairwoman Ani Attar regarding the efforts related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Armenian Weekly: What was the ARS Eastern Region’s initial response to the coronavirus crisis in terms of a plan of action?
ARS of Eastern USA Board Chair Ani Attar: Our board had been closely monitoring the coronavirus situation. When it was deemed a global pandemic, we wanted to make sure that all our members had access to information to stay safe. Therefore, we asked our chapter executives to reach out to their members to ensure that they were up to date with current information and to see if anyone needed anything. Next, our chapter executives reached out to their community members to see if they needed anything. For many, ARS is like a second family. We wanted to make sure that our people knew their family was thinking of them and was there if and when they needed help.
A.W.: Were there specific areas of concern on which the Regional Board focused?
A.A.: Yes, our primary concern was with our elderly. Fortunately, this was not a major concern because we know that our elderly receive good care from their family members. In the event of need, however, our chapters were ready to assist with any kind of request. Another concern was that so many of our chapters had planned spring fundraisers that had to be cancelled. These fundraisers generate the monies needed to keep our many projects and programs running. This too will pass; we will get through it together and meet again stronger than ever.
A.W.: What prompted the Regional Board’s decision to decide on Feed America for its fundraising effort entitled “Feeding Families, Providing Hope?”
A.A.: As members of this society, the United States has given us so many opportunities. The ongoing crisis has resulted in increasing numbers of people struggling to get by because of unemployment and rising costs of living. So, we wanted to help our hungry neighbors by providing meals to our non-Armenian community. We chose to donate to Feeding America because of their reputation as the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. All donations made by our ARS chapters, members and supporters will also be matched by the Tony Robbins Foundation allowing us to double our impact.
A.W.: How has the Regional Board maintained contact with the chapters?
A.A.: We are in constant contact with our chapters. I called for a Zoom meeting with all our chapter chairwomen on April 28. I reviewed with them the programs that were initiated due to the pandemic, including Lebanon Emergency Aid, Global Emergency Relief Fund and Feeding America. This meeting gave the chairwomen the opportunity to ask questions. I also asked each chapter to share what they have been doing in their communities. The Zoom meeting received a positive response with the chairwomen requesting that we do it again in the near future.
A.W.: We know that the Eastern Region Convention, which was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the convention, has been postponed to next year. Can you please elaborate on those changes and what is being planned by way of annual regional communications for this year in place of the convention?
A.A.: We will continue working as we have into the next fiscal year. Our programs will continue with the assistance of our chapters and supporters. So many of our chapters’ fundraisers had to be cancelled due to this pandemic. We have confidence that as soon as it is possible, our chapters will be back to work. Like so many other major events in our communities, our 100th convention had to be postponed to 2021. Our plan for replacing the convention this year is to hold a Zoom general membership meeting on July 25, 2020. It will be open to all ARS members. We will present our annual report as well as our financial report. A copy of the report will be emailed to all members at the beginning of July. We will ask our members to email their questions to the board so we may address them during the Zoom meeting. In the morning session, the annual report will be presented as a PowerPoint, and questions that were emailed will be answered at that time. The afternoon session will include the financial report followed by more questions and answers and comments by chapters. More details regarding this first-of-its-kind event will follow.
A.W.: Finally what would you like to tell our readers about the work of the ARS Eastern Region during times of crisis, and in particular, during this pandemic?
A.A.: Without a doubt, the Armenian Relief Society is no stranger to disasters and crises. Since its founding in 1910 the ARS has helped the most vulnerable in this world, especially during tragic times and in every corner of this world. That has been largely due to the humanitarian characters of our members who have continued to devote themselves to the ARS mission and always step up to help those around them. It’s because of their determination and commitment that I know we will continue to serve our communities, our homeland and our world, while continuing to celebrate different milestones and centennials with our supporters.
As a final note, the ARS of Eastern USA board, its chapters and members would like to thank all the nurses, doctors and front-line workers for risking their lives to keep us safe.
We ask anyone in the eastern region who is aware of someone in need of our assistance to please contact the ARS of Eastern USA office at [email protected]
ARS EASTERN REGION CHAPTERS TAKE ACTION DURING PANDEMIC
In response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the ARS chapters of the eastern region have offered and provided assistance wherever needed, often collaborating with sister organizations to deliver basic needs to those most vulnerable. In addition, special efforts have been made to express appreciation to those putting themselves at risk every day to keep their communities safe and healthy.
The New Jersey chapters (Agnouni, Armenouhi and Shakeh), along with their local sister organizations delivered food to the elderly in their communities and sent baskets to the Armenian healthcare professionals for their ongoing heroic work during the pandemic. In addition, the Armenouhi chapter of Bergen County donated hand sanitizer and masks to the Armenian Nursing Home and provided lunch to local hospitals.
Under the initiative and guidance of the Greater Boston ARS Social Services Program, the Cambridge Shushi and the Watertown Leola Sassouni chapters helped organize and deliver care packages to 35 women in the Watertown area for Mother’s Day. They brightened up their day by providing them with an ARS reusable shopping bag packed with choreg, chocolates, face masks, an Armenian poem and a friendly note.
The Chicago Zabelle chapter has been working with local sister organizations to help needy families in their community. They also provided grocery boxes for 50 healthcare workers at a Rehab & Senior Center. One of their own members, Hermineh Kholamian, has also been spending her time at home by sewing masks for healthcare workers.
The Philadelphia Ani chapter has continued to express the hearts, mission and devotion of the organization and its members during the pandemic. As member Dori Keshgegian noted, “In the blink of an eye our lives, our community and our world has changed.” One of the selfless members who has risen to the occasion and helped so many is Shnorhik Karakelian, an active member for more than 65 years, serving as president of the chapter for over 20 years and as a delegate to the regional convention 13 times. Karakelian has used her talent as a gifted seamstress to make hundreds of masks for the healthcare workers in the tri-state area and across the country.
Silva Santerian, another active member for over 10 years and Karakelian’s daughter, proudly follows in her mother’s footsteps. In collaboration with two close friends, she formed FLAG 2020 SEPA (Front Line Appreciation Group of Southeastern Pennsylvania) whose mission is to provide food to healthcare workers in the area, including in hospitals and nursing homes, while partnering with local restaurants to help sustain their businesses. So far FLAG 2020 SEPA has served over 1,000 meals with efforts ongoing. Facilities served thus far include hospitals in Riddle, Paoli, Chester County, Crozer-Keystone, as well as Fair Acres, Bellingham, Sterling and Capella Nursing Care facilities. In recognition of Santerian’s humanitarian efforts, the chapter made a monetary donation to the group.
Member for more than eight years Verjin Kazanjian and her husband Aram have owned and operated Soprano’s, a restaurant and catering business in Broomall, PA since 2000. In their usual manner of supporting the community, during the pandemic they have prepared lunches and dinners for the first responders, churches, hospitals and schools in the area. Soprano’s also generously donated gift cards and 10% of all proceeds back to the hospitals and to those in need.
Also in Philadelphia, the Artemis chapter donated to the St. Gregory Charity Fund to help parishioners in need and to the Philabundance, a local food bank.
In the Detroit area, the five chapters (Sybille, Maro, Zabel, Shakeh and Tzolig) provided hot lentil soup and lahmejun to the residents of the Armenian Senior Citizens Tower.
The Mayr chapter of New York delivered groceries to the needy families of New York. Along with their local sister organizations, they also sent thank you gifts to healthcare workers for their ongoing fight on the frontlines.
The Florida Sosseh chapter sent Mother’s Day baskets to community members to make them feel appreciated and loved!
The Lousintak chapter of Lowell donated to the Armenian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica Plain, MA to assist with the purchase of N95 masks and to benefit the employee meal fund.
The Providence Ani and Arax chapters have joined local sister organizations to assist community members in need of groceries, medical supplies, and items like masks and cleaning supplies through Sts. Vartanantz Church’s “Aid to Parishioners in Need” program.
As the crisis continues, the ARS of Eastern USA board, chapters and members will continue to work for the good of their Armenian communities locally and internationally. Efforts are ongoing not only in the United States, but also in Armenia, Artsakh and Lebanon as the needs rise exponentially, both medically and economically.
WATERTOWN, Mass. – The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of the Eastern US has announced that it is donating $25,000 to the ARS Central Executive Board in response to the Lebanon Emergency Appeal for three ARS relief programs—the Hope Package, the Care Support and the Hot Meal.
Earlier in the year, as the ongoing political, economic and regional crises continued to affect the Armenian community of Lebanon, the ARS issued a statement calling on the diaspora to help their compatriots who were incapable of securing their livelihood. The Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon (ARS Lebanon) had initiated three programs (the Hot Meal Program, Hope Packages and Care Support) which would help provide meals, groceries, medication and other basic necessities to the community members.
In the months following that call to action, as the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the country’s financial crisis, the families struggling to cope with the long term impact of the outbreak and political situation exponentially grew. Although several ARS chapters in the Eastern US had to cancel their fundraising events with the stay-at-home orders in place, they were still able to collect donations from their supporters and members to help their compatriots in Lebanon.
“Lebanon has been a pillar in our diaspora and we are proud that our chapters and supporters once again responded to our call to action,” said Ani Attar, Chairperson of the ARS Eastern US Regional Executive Board. “It is the generosity of our members and supporters that powers our work to continue the humanitarian mission of the ARS,” she added.
The ARS Eastern US will continue to collect donations to help the Armenian community of Lebanon and ask that supporters continue to join the relief efforts by donating online and selecting Lebanon Emergency Appeal.
Photography by Knar Bedian
NEW YORK, NY—The ARS Norian Youth Connect Program’s latest installment on February 29 galvanized university students from all over North America. More than 100 students converged on Columbia University for a day of lectures and discussions from leading scientists, artists, journalists and scholars.
The program featured journalist Raffi Khatchadourian (The New Yorker), historian Houri Berberian (University of California, Irvine), filmmaker Stephanie Ayanian (“What Will Become of Us”), historian and program director Dr. Khatchig Mouradian (Columbia University) and Mariam Avagyan (Columbia University), who works on Mathematical Deep Learning with applications in Computer Vision and Signal Processing.
Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern USA board member Sandra Vartanian opened the program with welcoming remarks and briefly discussed the work of the ARS.
The success of the program has prompted the ARS to hold what was an annual program twice every year. Over the past four years, Youth Connect has been held at MIT, Yale or Columbia University.
“The ARS Norian Youth Connect Program has emerged as a leading educational program in the Armenian world, bringing together artists, intellectuals, fostering an environment of discussion, debate and community engagement for hundreds of university students,” said Mouradian, who was directing his tenth consecutive Youth Connect.
“Much of the credit for the program’s success goes to the students, whose feedback and suggestions have helped us rework or tweak different aspects of Youth Connect over the years, and whose willingness to engage in discussion has generated tremendous enthusiasm,” he added.
Registered students hailed from Columbia University, Stetson University, University of Central Florida, Fordham University, UMass Lowell, Concordia University, University of Montreal, Temple University, George Washington University, New York University, Duke University, UCLA, University of California, Riverside, Cornell University, SUNY Maritime College, Yale University, Ryerson University, University of Toronto, Boston University, Point Park University, Carthage College, Tufts University, University of Vermont, Mt. Holyoke College, Boston Architectural College, Colgate University, UMass Boston, MIT, Fashion Institute of Technology, Durham College, Ramapo College of New Jersey, California Lutheran University, Berklee College of Music, UMass Amherst, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Harvard University, Northeastern University, University of Maryland, UCSD, University of Delaware, among others.
The day began with Ayanian who showed a seven-minute extended trailer of her film What Will Become of Us which focuses on Armenian Americans today. The short clip was followed by a discussion about the process of making the film. Ayanian teaches documentary film production at Drexel University, and she co-owns Storyshop, an independent production house for creative media. She previously produced Kinderwald, an Official Selection of Munich International, Seattle International, Napa Valley and Slamdance film festivals.
Changing gears to a completely different subject, Avagyan’s talk centered on machine learning and neural networks discussing the cutting edge research that is being conducted in the field as well as her own work. Avagyan is a PhD student in electrical engineering at Columbia University, and her research focuses on mathematical deep learning with applications in computer vision and signal processing. Avagyan also is the director and founder of ZeRoRo robotics camp in Armenia, which was driven by her passion for robotics and children’s education, with plans to make it an international camp this year.
Following a lunch break, Khatchadourian moved the discussion to journalism and the challenges facing long form journalism today. A discussion ensued with the participants on the role of journalists and the public-at-large in fighting against the ubiquity of fake news. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 2008, Khatchadourian covers a wide range of topics, including science, art, politics, foreign affairs and national security. On two occasions, his work was nominated for National Magazine Awards—once for his profile of an Al Qaeda propagandist, titled “Azzam the American,” and a second time, in collaboration with a New Yorker multimedia team, for “Secrets of Edgewood,” an investigation into Cold War psychochemical experiments.
Professor of history, Meghrouni Family Presidential chair in Armenian Studies and director of the Armenian Studies Program at UC Irvine, Berberian discussed her new book, Roving Revolutionaries: Armenians and the Connected Revolutions in the Russian, Iranian, and Ottoman Worlds. She focused on the role played by the Armenian revolutionary Rosdom, among others, from 1904-1911 when the Russian, Iranian, and Young Turk revolutions took place. Her presentation focused on the movements and participation of these revolutionaries within and across frontiers that tell us a great deal about the global transformations that were taking shape at that time.
Concluding the day was Mouradian’s discussion about the life and legacy of two Armenian midwives who practiced midwifery in Aintab and then in Aleppo from the 1890s into the 1940s. Besides being the director of the Youth Connect program, Mouradian is a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia University, where he also heads the Armenian studies program. His book The Resistance Network: The Armenian Genocide and Humanitarianism in Ottoman Syria is forthcoming in 2020.
WATERTOWN, Mass.—Journalist Raffi Khatchadourian (The New Yorker), historian Houri Berberian (UC Irvine), filmmaker Stephanie Ayanian (“What Will Become of Us”), and a panel of science and tech experts will be headlining the Spring 2020 installment of ARS Norian Youth Connect Program.
Raffi Khatchadourian has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2008. He covers a wide range of topics, including science, art, politics, foreign affairs, and national security. His articles have been anthologized in “Best American Sports Writing” and in “Best American Nonrequired Reading.” On two occasions, Khatchadourian’s work was nominated for National Magazine Awards—once for his profile of an Al Qaeda propagandist, titled “Azzam the American,” and a second time, in collaboration with a New Yorker multimedia team, for “Secrets of Edgewood,” an investigation into Cold War psychochemical experiments. His work has also been short-listed for Overseas Press Club and James Beard Foundation awards and for the Livingston Award.
Houri Berberian is Professor of History, Meghrouni Family Presidential Chair in Armenian Studies, and Director of the Armenian Studies Program at UC Irvine. Her talk will be based on her new book, Roving Revolutionaries: Armenians and the Connected Revolutions in the Russian, Iranian, and Ottoman Worlds. The talk explores three of the formative revolutions that shook the early twentieth-century world occurred almost simultaneously in regions bordering each other. Though the Russian, Iranian and Young Turk Revolutions all exploded between 1904 and 1911, they have never been studied through their linkages until now. Roving Revolutionaries probes the interconnected aspects of these three revolutions through the involvement of the Armenian revolutionaries—minorities in all of these empires—whose movements and participation within and across frontiers tell us a great deal about the global transformations that were taking shape. Exploring the geographical and ideological boundary crossings that occurred, Berberian’s archivally grounded analysis of the circulation of revolutionaries, ideas, and print tells the story of peoples and ideologies in upheaval and collaborating with each other, and in so doing it illuminates our understanding of revolutions and movements.
Stephanie Ayanian is a film producer, director and educator. She will be screening a seven-minute version of her feature documentary, What Will Become of Us, a project focusing on Armenian Americans today, followed by discussion. She previously produced Kinderwald, an Official Selection of Munich International, Seattle International, Napa Valley and Slamdance film festivals. Ayanian co-owns Storyshop, an independent production house for creative media. Before starting Storyshop, Ayanian worked as a senior producer/director for Penn State Public Broadcasting where she was the producer and co-director of Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure, for which she received the American Association of Engineering Societies Award for Journalism. She holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and a BA in Film and Video from the Pennsylvania State University. She teaches documentary film production at Drexel University.
The program will be held on Feb. 29, at Columbia University in New York.
Armenian university students age 18-27 are encouraged to register for this weekend of workshops, discussion, and networking that is capped at 100 participants.
The registration fee of $50 covers participation in the program on Saturday, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the evening social. Overnight accommodations will be provided to out-of-town students only.
More details are available on YCP’s Facebook page.
WATERTOWN, Mass.—The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of the Eastern United States is proud to announce its spring 2020 installment of the ARS Norian Youth Connect Program (YCP) will be held on Feb. 29, at Columbia University in New York.
Armenian university students ages 18 to 27 are encouraged to register for this weekend of workshops, discussion and networking. The event is capped at 100 participants.
The registration fee of $50 covers participation in the program on Saturday, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and the evening social. Overnight accommodations will be provided to out-of-town students only.
The program features lectures and discussions led by notable science and technology experts, scholars and artists. Former Weekly editor and Columbia University professor Dr. Khatchig Mouradian serves as program director.
The names of speakers are announced on YCP’s Facebook page.