Heroes Commemorated on 95th Anniversary of Defense of Marash


WATERTOWN — On Sunday, January 31, after attending a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide from Marash (1915 to1920), 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, a defense that 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, the departure assuring the demise of most of the Armenians in Marash.

(This information from eyewitness Stephen Baliozian, his oral history conducted by Bethel Bilezikian Charkoudian, the tape now on file at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Stephen Baliozian who was 8 at the time of his departure from Marash during a fierce snowstorm).

This year’s commemorative event began with the serving of the traditional Marash  “Keshkek Ghabakhli,” a hulled wheat based pilaf with a squash “sulu” (squash cooked with onions) and chi kufte (a traditional dish of raw lamb meat kneaded with bulghour), Armenian salata (fresh tomatoes with onions and parsley); the meal was blessed by Rev. 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 for the sacrifices they made for God throughout their life and daily work. He added 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.

Peter Koutoujian Jr., Sheriff of Middlesex County, followed. 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 the present day in Syria.  Sevan Soukiassian and Shant Der Torossian followed with two short piano pieces, culminating in Sajounian and Hagopian once again in the performance of Giligia, a hallmark song performed at the closing of many observation ceremonies at Saint Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church.

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— Ara Demirjian


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