London, Ontario: Armenians remember Genocide’s losses

London Free Press, Ontario, Canada
April 23, 2005 Saturday
FINAL EDITION

ARMENIANS REMEMBER GENOCIDE’S LOSSES

BY CHRISTINE KHACHERIAN, LONDON FREELANCE WRITER

This month marks the 90th anniversary of the first genocide of the
20th century — the Armenian genocide of 1915. Launched by the words
of Ottoman Turkish leader Mehmed Talaat Pasha (1874-1921) to “kill
every Armenian woman, child and man without concern for anything,”
the annihilation of the Armenians by the Turkish government during
the First World War represents a major tragedy of the modern age.

Nearly an entire nation was destroyed. The Armenian people were
effectively eliminated from the homeland they had occupied for nearly
3,000 years. This annihilation was premeditated and planned to be
carried out under the cover of war.

On the night of April 24, 1915, the Turkish government placed under
arrest more than 200 Armenian community leaders in Constantinople.
Hundreds more were apprehended soon after. They were all sent to
prison in Anatolia, where most were summarily executed. In a single
year, 1915, the Armenians were robbed of their millennia-old
heritage. The desecration of churches, the burning of libraries, the
ruination of towns and villages — all erased an ancient
civilization.

With the disappearance of the Armenians from their homeland, most of
the symbols of their culture — schools, monasteries, artistic
monuments, and historical sites — were destroyed by the Ottoman
government. The Armenians saved only that which formed part of their
collective memory. Their language, their songs, their poetry, and now
their tragic destiny remained as part of their culture.

Beyond the terrible loss of life 1.5 million and the severing of the
connection between the Armenian people and their historic homeland,
the Armenian genocide also resulted in the dispersion of the
survivors. Disallowed from resettling in their former homes, as well
as stateless and penniless, Armenians moved to any country that
afforded refuge. Within a matter of a few decades Armenians were
dispersed to every continent on the globe.

Slightly more than a thousand Armenians were allowed to enter Canada
during the 1920s. The majority were young women who were brought in
often as brides for those earlier sojourners who were widowed by the
genocide. They formed new families and together bought houses and
began businesses. The Armenians showed their loyalty to their new
land by being hardworking and law-abiding Canadian citizens. While
acculturating to Canadian society, they were also determined to
preserve their heritage, which had almost been destroyed.

The after-four Armenian-language schools became a vital feature of
each community. One of the most important institutions that the
Armenians transplanted to the New World was their church. Currently,
about 60,000 Canadians of Armenian origin reside in Montreal and
Toronto. There are also about 3,000 Armenians in Southwestern
Ontario. A number of Armenian schools and churches operate to help
preserve unique culture and tradition, as well as to contribute to
the cultural diversity and richness of Canadian society.

There are about 30 families of Armenian origin in the London and St.
Thomas area. In the 1970s, there were about 10 times more Armenians
in London, but most of them left London to join larger Armenian
communities in Cambridge, Toronto or Montreal.

Let today be dedicated to the remembrance of victims of all
genocides. The Armenian community in the diaspora and homeland
commemorates the victims of April 24 and reminds the international
community of 90 years of denial. If you would like to be involved in
the Fight for Recognition, you can visit to
locate events that take place in your area.

LOCALLY . . .

What: A screening of the documentary film, My Son Shall Be Armenian,
which follows filmmaker Hagop Goudsouzian and five Montrealers of
Armenian descent as they return to the land of their ancestors in
search of survivors of the genocide. The film will be followed by a
discussion with the filmmaker. A reception featuring traditional
Armenian foods will conclude the evening.

When: Tuesday, April 26, 7 p.m.

Where: Wolf Performance Hall, London Public Library, central branch.

www.genocideevents.com

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