Roupen Herian

Roupen Herian: Rescuer of Orphans Remembered by the TCA Metro LA Chapter


ALTADENA, Calif. — The Tekeyan Cultural Association Metro Los Angeles Chapter hosted a bilingual program titled “Roupen Herian: Rescuer of Armenian Orphans,” on February 17 at the Tekeyan Center in Altadena. Boston-based scholar Aram Arkun, executive director of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada and assistant editor of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, served as the keynote speaker and presented the fascinating life of Herian, who dedicated himself to the herculean task of locating kidnapped Armenian women and children during and immediately after the Armenian Genocide.

Aram Arkun

The master of ceremonies, Carl Bardakian, chairman of the TCA Metro LA chapter, offered brief welcoming remarks. He introduced Kana Hovhannisyan, second secretary of the Republic of Armenia’s Consulate General in Los Angeles, who spoke poignantly about Herian and the importance of his great sacrifices.

Bardakian then introduced Arkun, who presented a detailed overview of the incredible life Herian lived. In particular, he noted that Herian was not driven by narrow political ideology. He started out as a member of the Hnchag Party, became a Reformed Hnchag, and then a member of the Armenian Democratic Party, the predecessor of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party. Though a dedicated member of his party, he worked with many other organizations for the betterment of the Armenian people and nation.

Arkun noted that Herian was born in Tokat sometime between 1868 and 1872, and later worked in Constantinople, before immigrating to Boston and afterwards moving to New York City. He became a successful businessman in the tobacco industry, while continuing to be deeply involved in Armenian political activities.

In 1916 he carried out a secret war mission for the British government.

Herian helped arrange the transportation of many of the 1,200 Armenian-Americans who joined the Armenian Legion, which successfully defeated the Turkish and German forces at the Battle of Arara in Palestine in September 1918, and himself later enrolled as a legionnaire though he was older than most of the other volunteers. In fact, he was often called the “grey-haired youth” due to his enthusiasm and energy.

Carl Bardakian

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Herian served as the director of an infirmary in Egypt for the legionnaires, and participated in an abortive expedition to help the besieged city of Hadjin in Cilicia. He also played a role in the defense of the Cilician city of Dört Yol (Chork-Marzban).

As representative of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), Egyptian Armenian Relief and [Armenian] United Orphan Care, with additional financial support from the Armenian Church, the Armenian Democratic Party (predecessor of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party), various other Armenian relief organizations, and, most strikingly, many individual Armenians who themselves barely had enough money to live after the Genocide, Herian tried to rescue kidnapped Armenian women and children from the Bedouins, Turks, Kurds and their harems. Using his adept linguistic skills, Herian disguised himself as needed as an American missionary, British official or Bedouin, primarily in the Aleppo, Der Zor and Mosul regions, to carry out his mission. Despite threats of death and robbery and facing great resistance from those who did not want to easily relinquish Armenian women and children from their hold, Herian remained valiant. He used persuasion, money and sometimes threats to rescue Armenian women and children from their captors.

Arkun noted that Herian was a moving and effective speaker who participated in fundraising activities in the United States, France, the Ottoman Empire and Egypt with the intent to rescue more women and orphans. His untimely death in Cairo, Egypt on July 7, 1921, prevented him from fulfilling those plans. He was to have gotten married only a few days later.

Kana Hovhanisyan

Recognized at the program was Hratch Manoukian, whose father, Nazaret Manoukian, was a member of the Armenian Legion and fought at the Battle of Arara. He also was a military policeman in Adana. Two others recognized were Hagop Mardirossian, whose father was saved by Roupen Herian and taken to an orphanage in Jerusalem, and Irena Varjabedian, whose grandmother was born in the town of Aksehir in the province of Konya, and saved by Herian.

Participating in the program were the dancers of the Patille Dance Studio of Pasadena, under the direction of Patille and Cynthia Albarian.

Alique Bardakian (center) of the Patille Dance Studio of Pasadena

Roupen Herian made many personal sacrifices to serve the Armenian people, in part by means of the Armenian Legion, Armenian Democratic Party, Armenian National Union and AGBU. He remains a great patriot and hero of the Armenian nation, whose bravery, determination and selflessness led to the rescue of countless Armenian orphans and women.

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