Heritage Park Dedicated

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By Alin K. Gregorian

Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — The almost decade and a half of work for a park dedicated to the Armenian people culminated with a one-two punch celebration on Tuesday, May 22, which marked the dedication and official unveiling of the Armenian Heritage Park. The event featured dignitaries from both the US and Armenia and speakers that represented the city and the state as well as the Armenian community. Finally, the abstract sculpture, a split dodecahedron designed by architect Donald Tellalian, the labyrinth and the reflecting pool all had come together at their permanent home on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

Under rainy skies, surrounded by colorful bobbing umbrellas, a plethora of dignitaries spoke or were present to lend their support. Originally, Armenia’s president, Serge Sargisian, was slated to be the main speaker, but international politics intervened. (See story on page 1.)

The tone was two-fold: celebrating immigrants and their success by making this $6-million gift to the City of Boston, while remembering the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Mention was made that the site is behind the North End neighborhood of Boston, which in the last century in particular was home to working-class Italian immigrants, as well as a statue of Christopher Columbus. The theme of the community’s unity was also stressed again and again.

The theme was referenced again and again throughout the day, during which both the participants and the audience were clearly touched.

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Master of Ceremonies Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, the project’s honorary co-chair along with current Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian, who has been involved with the project in one way or another for the entire length of its gestation, was clearly touched, even getting choked up toward the end. He stressed that it is immigrant families that are celebrated by the project, as part of the Armenian and American experiences in this historic city. He credited Misak Barsoumian with getting the ball rolling, talking to a state official on creating a park for Armenians in the late 1990s, and James Kalustian, the Armenian Heritage Foundation president,
for seeing the project through.

He noted that the foundation has 38 board members representing practically every Armenian organization in the state, all of whom saw the big picture and collaborated fully.

Kalustian, who could barely contain his joy, stressed that the park is a “gift from our community” to the city of Boston, and has a value exceeding $6 million, including an endowment for maintaining it. He referred to his grandparents, who escaped the Armenian Genocide, and praised the “triumphant spirit” of the Armenians who made Massachusetts their home, including Arshile Gorky, Alan Hovhaness, Yousuf Karsh and Moves Gulezian.

Even more importantly, he said in Armenian, for this project the  community spoke with “one voice, one body.” In turn, he praised Koutoujian, as well as project architect Tellalian, and his wife, Barbara, with advancing the project, Aurelian Mardiros and his family who fabricated the statue, as well as the residents of the North End and Wharf District.

Special praise was reserved for Gov. Deval Patrick. “He is one of the few senior elected officials who has backed his words in deeds,” and has had a “courageous commitment” to get recognition for the Armenian Genocide, Kalustian said.

Patrick soon got the crowd swooning when he said, “brothers and sisters, we are all Armenians today.” He noted, “This is a tribute to the resilience of the Armenian spirit, the immigrant spirit and the human spirit. … This shows the triumph of the idea of America.” He said America is unique in that its population is not united in ethnicity, but around the ideals of opportunity, equality and fair play.

In Koutoujian’s words, Patrick is a “khenami” or in-law, of the Armenians.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino paid tribute to his city, saying it is a city of immigrants. He also praised Koutoujian and the rest of the activists for “staying the course,” as well as the residents of the North End. “They wanted a ‘heritage’ park,” he said, because like the Armenians, “they fought to come here.”

Referring to the dismal weather, he said, “God upstairs is sending holy water. I didn’t think they would have this much holy water.” Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who represents the heavily-Armenian populated Watertown, instead characterized the rain as “tears of joy” from ancestors looking on from above. Markey said he could relate to the sentiments expressed, as he himself was the grandchild of Irish immigrants who came to Boston at the turn of the century, with a total net worth of $10.

He then recited Hitler’s quote about remembering Armenians and said, “We remember the
Armenians. With this monument, we will never forget.”

As for the Genocide resolution, which year after year fails to get passed, because “it is not the right time,” as he said opponents say, he suggested, “It is always the right time for the truth and this congress must pass this resolution.”

He noted that the US cannot condemn contemporary genocides in Darfur and Rwanda
and then ignore the Armenian Genocide because of political expedience. Markey himself is a member of the House Caucus on Armenian Issues and is a regular supporter of issues facing the community.

A blessing service was jointly performed by Archbishops Khajag Barsamian (Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Easters); Oshagan Choloyan (Prelate, Prelacy of the Armenian Church of America, Eastern) and Vicken Aykazian (Legate, Diocese of the
Armenian Church of America, Eastern).

Representing Sargisian was Armenia’s minister of foreign affairs, Eduard Nalbandian. He
recalled seeing the site in 2010 when he had come to Boston and said he was “proud to see
the project come to life.” He said such a visceral representation of the experience of the Armenians made the case of the Armenians stronger globally when it came to Genocide
recognition. He also said that in Turkey “our efforts are yielding results” in creating an internal dialogue with regard to the Genocide, noting that on April 24, commemorations had taken place in Istanbul and several other cities.

“I would like to express the hope that this will become the place for pilgrimage for all who are fighting to recognize genocides,” Nalbandian said.

A reception for donors followed at the Millennium Hotel.

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