Marash Defense Remembered in Watertown

By Ara Demirjian

On Sun., Jan. 31, after attending a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Mass., in commemoration of the victims of the Armenian Genocide from Marash (1915-20), the Boston Marashtsi community held its annual reception in the St. Stephen’s Armenian Church Hall, once again remembering their ancestors who heroically defended Marash.

Shant der Torosian playing the piano at the event (Photo: Marash Girl)

The Marash Defense ended with the departure of the French in the middle of the night, their horses’ hooves covered with burlap to deaden the sound of their departure, which would assure the demise of most of the Armenians in Marash.*

This year’s commemorative event began with Nevart Kouyoumjian, president of the Watertown chapter of the Union of Marash Armenians, who welcomed the Very Reverend Father Antranig Baljian, Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, honored guests, and the Marashtsis and friends of Marashtsis.  Kouyoumjian discussed the canonization of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1920) and commented on how Marashtsis in the United States help support Armenian Schools, such as St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School in Watertown, Mass., and help the Armenians in Syria.  “However we can, we help them,” she said. Kouyoumjian also thanked the younger members of the community, who work together towards the success of this yearly event.

Traditional Marash “Keshkek Ghabakhli,” a hulled wheat-based pilaf with a squash “sulu” (cooked with onions) and chi kufte (a traditional dish of raw lamb meat kneaded with bulgur), and Armenian salad (fresh tomatoes with onions and parsley) were served.

The meal was blessed by the Very Reverend Father Antranig Baljian, who later addressed the audience on the Beatification of the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, including Marashtsi martyrs, a beatification that occurred on the 100th anniversary of the genocide—April 15, 2015. Rev. Baljian drew attention to the fact that for centuries, concerned with survival, the Armenian Apostolic Church had beatified no saints, but for the past decade has undertaken the task of research and re-discovery of the process of beatification, keeping those lost in the genocide in mind.

Baljian emphasized that Armenian martyrs were proclaimed saints, not by us mortals, but by God for the sacrifices they made for Jesus and God throughout their life and daily work. He said that the church recognizes that fact through the process of beatification, not for us to pray for them as we did over the past century, but rather for them to pray for us as intercessors with God.

The reverend also observed that this beatification is a “Group Beatification” as opposed to individual sainthoods—all have ancestors who are beatified, although it does not mean that individuals are descendants of saints. The group beatification is for Armenians to bear example of their lives in the service of God so that their descendants aspire to do the same in their lives.

Peter Koutoujian Jr., sheriff of Middlesex County, delivered his remarks next, thanking Baljian for his words and thanking the community who came on that important day. He recounted his Marashtsi heritage by briefly reflecting on the memory of his elders. Following Koutoujian’s remarks, Harout Sajounian accompanied by Helena Hagopian performed a rendition of “Kedashen” and “Adana Vokhb,” two patriotic songs in remembrance of the Armenian martyrs.

Ani Chekijian recited poetry reflecting on the sufferings of Armenians then, a century ago, and now in present-day Syria. Sevan Soukiassian and Shant Der Torossian followed with two short piano pieces, culminating in Sajounian and Hagopian’s performance of “Giligia,” a hallmark song performed at the closing of many observation ceremonies at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church.


*This information is based on the eye-witness account of Stephen Baliozian. His oral history—documented in an interview conducted by Marash Girl—is on tape and on file at the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown. Baliozian was 8 years old at the time of his departure from Marash during the famous snowstorm.

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: Marash Defense Remembered in Watertown

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