Armenia’s champion

Bradenton Herald, FL
April 27 2004

Armenia’s champion

Ann Stephanian Kale wants world to know of 1915 genocide

Herald Staff Writer

‘They need to know that this genocide really happened’

EAST MANATEE – Ann Stephanian Kale wants people to know.

She wants them to know about the dark secret her parents, aunts and
uncles shunned in public and only spoke of in hushed tones. She wants
them to know about an atrocity that some governments still deny

Kale wants people to know that 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered
wholesale starting in 1915.

April 24 was the 89th anniversary of what is considered the beginning
of the Armenian genocide. That day, in 1915, 200 Armenian leaders
were arrested in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), sparking the
beginning of three years of intense violence. Kale’s parents survived
by fleeing their homeland.

It is a subject that is still controversial. The United States has
been careful not to offend Turkey, a valuable ally in the Middle
East. And Turkey still refuses to acknowledge the atrocities of the
early 20th century.

Kale is probably best known as a dedicated substitute teacher and a
local author who is asked to read her children’s book, “Marco and
Princess Gina,” at local schools.

She hopes to bring awareness to the Armenian plight. And she hopes
the proceeds from her book will make a difference in a
still-decimated Armenia.

Seeking safety

Kale said her parents, Nishan and Parouhy Stephanian, came to America
at separate times to escape the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s.
Her father fled first to Egypt, then France, before coming to
America. Kale said Nishan Stephanian had no choice but to flee when
he did: he was going to be drafted into the Ottoman Empire’s army.

By then, the atrocities had begun. Kale said her father refused to
partake in violence against his people. Her mother, Parouhy, who had
not yet met her husband, was smuggled out of the country to escape
the rising violence against Armenian women.

Kale said she will never know the barbarities her parents witnessed.
Both passed away guarding the terrible memories of being ousted from
their homes and marching through deserts to concentration camps.

Kale’s uncle gave her a small glimpse of what they faced as they were
flushed from their homes into concentration camps in the desert.

“Sometimes all they could eat was grass and they had to be careful
what type of grass they ate,” her uncle told her.

Kale said her mother only once talked in detail about the genocide.
Kale’s mother did not sleep that night, tormented by the memories she
had pushed to the back of her mind.


Few countries outside of Turkey deny the Armenian genocide occurred.

Several European nations have passed resolutions recognizing the
Armenian genocide, but such actions have brought sanctions from the
Turkish government. A similar proposal in the U.S. House in 2000
failed when Turkey threatened to cut off the use of some of its bases
used by the U.S. to contain Iraq at the time.

Still, several presidents, including George H.W. Bush and Bill
Clinton, have publicly acknowledged the Armenian genocide.

The Turkish government still denies the genocide. Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, in a question-and-answer pamphlet, says that the claim that
1.5 million Armenians died during World War I is “imaginary.” The
pamphlet goes on to claim that about 300,000 Armenians died in World
War I.

Most American scholars put the death toll at around 1.4 million
Armenians. The events are considered by many to be the first genocide
of the 20th century and the term “genocide” was coined in reference
to the mass killing of Armenians.

Marco lends a hand

When Kale’s grandson, Marco, was 4 years old, he asked his
grandmother to write a story about him, making him a superhero. Kale
took him up on that offer, writing out “Marco and Princess Gina”
longhand, and then typing it out on a computer at the Braden River

She would read it to the students she taught as a substitute around
the county and kept getting the same question: where can I buy your

Kale decided to try her hand at getting her book published. She
passed along the manuscript, along with her illustrations, to Abril
Publishing Co., which published her book.

Kale said her book has sold well and she has begun writing a second

She said she plans to donate the proceeds from both books to Our Lady
of Armenia Educational Center in Gyumri, Armenia. The orphanage
educates children between 5 and 12 years old and helps them go on to
higher education.

And she said she will give her donation in person. She has a trip to
Gyumri planned for September 2005 to see the dedication of the St.
Gregory of Narek Cathedral in Vanadzor, Armenia.

She said she can’t wait to see the orphanage.

“I need to go and visit my roots, I want to go and see where my
parents came from,” Kale said. “It’s going to be very emotional. I’m
going to want to hug every kid in that room, probably want to bring
every one back with me.”

Seeking closure

But for Kale, her real battle is against history. She said she won’t
rest until people know about Armenia’s past. She said the genocide is
a big reason why there is so much poverty in Armenia today.

She wants people to know what happened and she wants Turkey to admit

“They need to know that this genocide really happened in 1915 and
that 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives,” Kale said. “We just
want them to admit it; the denial makes it real difficult.

“I think not only for me, but for Armenians all over the world; it
would put some closure on it.”

AGE: “Seventy-something”


– OCCUPATION: Substitute teacher, artist, writer, student


– FAMILY: Children Mary Ann, Laurie, Joseph and Art, all of Michigan