Watertown Candlelight Vigil for Peace Remembers and Honors the Fallen Soldiers of Artsakh

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WATERTOWN – Sadness and hope marked a very special event held on Artsakh Street in East Watertown, late Sunday afternoon, November 22. Greater Boston area Armenians gathered in front of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church for a program sponsored by Ms. Eva Medzorian. The recent war between the Artsakh Republic and the combined forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Israel, Pakistan, and ISIS, ended in a ceasefire and large loss of life and territory in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). The President of Armenia and the Catholicos of All Armenians in Echmiadzin declared November 22 to be the day of remembrance throughout the world of the fallen heroes. Consequently, to remember and honor the loss of more than 2,500 Armenian soldiers, mostly young men, who defended the region, including the cities of Shushi and Stepanakert, event organizers produced a multimedia event on the front steps of the church.

Father Antranig Baljian led the clergy in prayers for the martyred soldiers. The other Armenian priests participating, all from Boston-area Armenian churches, included Frs. Vasken Kouzouian, Arakel Aljalian, Khachatur Vazgen Kesablyan, and Vart Gyozalyan,

Images flashed from a large display screen of the fallen young men and recorded music accompanied the pictures with a standing board of their portraits nearby for visitors to see. Master of ceremonies Arminé Manukyan, principal of Erebuni Armenian School, welcomed the more than 200 attendees, most in family groups, to the event and spoke in Armenian.

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She said: “We are gathered today to honor our fallen soldiers. Today, Armenians feel frustrated, defeated, confused and angry. We carry pain and we feel helpless, but we our spirits cannot be broken. In these last 45 days, I have never seen my people so united. And I hope that the unity will last forever and we stay together. Armenia needs us. We cannot afford to divide and weaken.

“The diaspora is the backbone of our homeland. We are not in Armenia physically but we have a lot to do. I am telling this particularly to the young generation: use your knowledge, use your professional connections to impact our homeland՛s prosperity and contribute to Armenia’s development. A thriving economy is key to Armenia´s future – and so is security. Helping Armenia develop democratically, advance economically, and establish a strong and secure country are the keys to a strong Armenia.

“Tonight we are praying for our fallen soldiers who died defending Artsakh. We want to tell the parents of our brave soldiers that we are mourning with them, we hear them, we feel their pain, and they are in our prayers. We want to tell them that their children are heroes, and because they gave their lives, others are able to live. Eternal glory to our martyrs.”

Arman Manoukian spoke about the great losses of Armenians throughout history including ancient defeats and destruction of armies by great powers, massacres leading to the Genocide of 1915 and even the loss of a whole country, the first independent Republic of Armenia in 1920. Throughout it all, Armenians maintained presence on their ancient lands. This time even though there was defeat and loss of territory, some of Artsakh was preserved and the borders of Armenia are intact. Armenians will recover and rebuild and that’s the positive part of what has happened. Armenians will recover once again.

A haunting rendition of Gomidas’ Groong [Stork], was performed by vocalist Lucia Papikian and several duduk (reed pipes) performances by Zori Babroudi and Mher Mnatsakanyan transfixed the audience and the entire neighborhood into a meditative state as everyone placed candles on the stairs of the church. The gathering slowly separated as Martin Haroutunian played a shvi flute, ending the evening.

The organizers of the memorial event, one sure to become part of local Armenian-American lore, included Eva Medzorian, Anahid Hovhannisyan, Mary Kyuregyan, Rubina Simikyan, Natalie Gevorgyan, Ani Pepanyan, Julie Der-Torossian, Anahid Ohanyan, Zara Kuzelian, and Arminé Manukyan. According to the online event invitation, the youth of the local community, of “no political affiliation,” organized the vigil “to bring the community together to heal and to unite as one body.”

All photos accompanying this article are by Ken Martin. The following video is by Craig Martin.

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