St. John Parish Commemorates Genocide

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DETROIT — On April 24, Fr. Garabed Kochakian led a commemoration of the Armenian Genocide at St. John Armenian Church of Greater Detroit. This year, a new monument stood adjacent to the 1915 Martyr’s Monument, and with it, a new tradition of remembrance emerged.

The new monument was a project that spanned several years and remembered the pogroms of 1988-1991 of Armenians in politically-unstable Azerbaijan. Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet government, thousands of Armenians suffered this “smaller scale genocide.” Eventually, those who survived found refuge across the globe and many settled in metropolises like Brooklyn, NY, Detroit, Mich. and Los Angeles, Calif., to name a few. Many of these survivors set the unpleasant memories aside and were left to pick up the pieces of their life and move forward.

But their struggles would not be a forgotten page in a long chapter of struggles that the Armenian people have faced. The idea of Kochakian, the memorial dedicated to survivors of these tragic events was guided under leadership of Ed Korkoian, called “Haigy” at the St. John Parish. Korkoian has been a member of the church for more than 50 years, committing himself to various Armenian causes. The vision also could not have been executed without the time, trove and talent of Arthur Lazaryan, the architect of this meaningful project.

Fast forward several years and the vision finally became a reality. The church sanctuary was married with solemn music and prayers as the evening began with a requiem. Once the church ceremony was over, parishioners and visitors shifted outside. “And then,” Kochakian said, “It was as if God pushed the clouds aside and let the sun peek out.”

The change of venue from ambient lighting to bright surroundings revealed a record-breaking amount of people. Some were faces Kochakian sees every Sunday, like Deacon Mihran Hoplamazian, while others like the Der Boghossians came from Grand Rapids, Mich. — a journey that takes three hours each way.

After Kochakian read a prayer for the 1915 Martyr’s Monument, he moved on to bless the new Baku-Sumgait-Kirovobad Memorial. Tears were shed as those who lost family in the Armenian Genocide were reminded that the struggle for survival continues into the present.

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After the flowers were laid, a traditional Madagh dinner was served inside the Cultural Hall. It was here that guest speaker Chris Bohjalian spoke of his most recent publication. Deacon Richard Norsigian, co-chair with Edward Korkoian, served as MC. He welcomed all present and introduced Bohjalian who explored his personal journey to writing The Sandcastle Girls, a sweeping historical love story deeply steeped in his own ethnic Armenian roots. Bohjalian narrated his journeys to Armenia and the inspiration that led pen to paper. Later in the evening, Bohjalian signed copies of both The Sandcastle Girls and Midwives.