Armenians celebrate their culture

Armenians celebrate their culture
By: Tim Kane, The Record02/07/2005

Troy Record, NY
Feb 7 2005

LATHAM – About 60 Armenians celebrated the sixth annual Vartanantz
Day Sunday, honoring a 5th century military hero who is as important
today as he was 15 centuries ago.

“His self-sacrifice is an example for the community today,” said
Raffi Tapalian, the master of ceremonies for the celebration. “What
he did to keep the culture alive back then is reminder to us about
never forgetting our past today.”

In the face mounting Persian armies, Vartan led an Armenian army that
was out numbered by an 8-to-1 margin. While the Armenians lost the
battle, they won the war, but not in a military sense, Tapalian said.

Inflicting a high number of casualties, Vartan’s underdog troops
forced the Persians to rethink their plan to annex Armenia. Rather
than fight, Persian leadership decided it was best to let the Armenian
to live in peace and practice Christianity.

“Despite the odds, Vartan decided to stand for his beliefs and
was able to keep the community together,” Tapalian said. “Today,
we face assimilation as a threat to our history and traditions. We
must hold on.”

Not remembering the past is what the Turkish want Armenians to do
about the 1915 genocide that killed 1.5 million, Tapalian said.
Forgetting the genocide will only lead to others, he said.

Participants at the observance at the Masonic Lodge on Old Loudon
Road were served a hearty roast beef lunch and heard about a dozen
children from the Armenian after-school program sing religious songs
in Armenian.

Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian, the honored guest at the event, told the
group he really didn’t feel too much like an honored guest, but more
like a regular guy.

“I’m one of you,” Tutunjian said. “I think it’s important to preserve
the culture. I was reviewing videos the other day from my family and
realized how important it is to keep the past alive.”

Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Mihran Kupeyan told the audience that Vartan
was 65 years old when he accepted the commander-in-chief position,
sending a message that it’s never to late to be involved.

“He was basically ready to die and leave his life on the battlefield,”
Kupeyan said, adding that his heroics stand as one of the key turning
points in the 3,000 years of Armenian history.

The Knights and Daughters of Vartan has several dozen members among
an Armenian community of 2,500 in the Capital District. The civic
organization does a variety of charitable and education endeavors,
but the main task is raising money for schools in Armenia.

So far, the chapter has raised nearly $23,000 for School 2 in
Getasten village in Armenia, where 692 children attend school. That
has translated to $200,000 in actual money received by the school
due the World Bank matching any funds at a 9-to-1 ratio.

Overall, the national organization has sent nearly $9 million to
Armenia since 1988 when the program was started to reconstruct the
country after a devastating earthquake.

Another focus of the group is maintaining awareness of the 1915
“holocaust” carried out by Turkey. In 2002, the group started an annual
observance at the steps of the state Capitol. This year, members will
observe the date inside with a resolution by the Legislature.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress