CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Dr. Nora Nercessian gave a talk illustrated with slides about her book, The City of Orphans, at an event organized by Arpie Lodge of the Daughters of Vartan on May 4. Cosponsors included the hosting Holy Trinity Armenian Church, the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), Tekeyan Cultural Association, and the Armenian Mirror-Spectator.
Anahid Mardiros, Dirouhie of Arpie Lodge, welcomed guests and praised Nercessian’s efforts at making the voice of the orphan survivors of the Armenian Genocide, silent for so many years, heard once more, and shedding light on the efforts of the Near East Relief organization in aiding the orphans. She recognized and thanked representatives from the sponsoring organizations.
Ani Ross Grubb then extended greetings on behalf of Holy Trinity Armenian Church, and later handled the microphone during the question and answer session.
Marc Mamigonian, director of academic affairs of NAASR introduced Nercessian, pointing out that she has a distinguished background in academia. Assistant Professor in the Department of Fine Arts in Harvard, Visiting Professor at Boston College, Assistant Professor at the University of Puget Sound at Washington State, and Assistant Dean and then Associate Dean of Administration at Harvard Medical School from 1987 to 2004, she is the recipient of various prestigious fellowships and medals. She was the author of several books prior to The City of Orphans.
Nercessian has not restricted her activities to academia. She founded in 1992 and subsequently became co-director of the Center for Women’s Reproductive Health, at the Erebuni Medical Center in Yerevan, and in the same period became the founder of the first soup kitchen in Yerevan for the vulnerable, elderly and children.
Nercessian started her talk by explaining the origins of her book. She was asked by a friend in Yerevan in the summer of 2012 whether she might be interested in writing about the Gyumri (Alexandrapol) orphanage. Though she had never heard of it, and it was at a great remove from her own academic specialty of the European Middle Ages, she said that it struck a nerve, as her father and uncle had grown up in orphanages in Lebanon.