RACINE, Wis. — With social and community activities of all kinds grinding to a halt during the pandemic, people found different ways to use their time. Some found new hobbies; others binge-watched TV shows. Fr. Avedis Kalayjian and his family decided to enter the creative cottage industry by coming up with two family-friendly products celebrating the Armenian heritage: “Armenopoly,” an Armenian themed Monopoly board game, and “Ayp oo Pasta,” a custom made dried pasta in the shape of the letters of the Armenian alphabet.
Fr. Kalayjian is a native of the DC area where his father, the late Fr. Vertanes Kalayjian, pastored St. Mary’s Armenian Church. His wife, Karen, is a native of New Jersey. With their two children, they are now living in Wisconsin where Fr. Kalayjian is pastor of St. Mesrob Armenian Church in Racine.
Kalayjian says that the inspiration for the “Armenopoly” game came from his son Aram, who was 10 at the time. “Armenopoly came about because we were stuck at home during the lockdown,” said Fr. Kalayjian, “And someone gave my son ‘Fishin’-Opoly.’ I was totally unaware of the different themed versions of Monopoly. I thought it would be a nice project for Aram and I to develop an Armenian version.”
The father and son came up with a list of the top sites of interest in Armenia, and added some sites outside Armenia but “related to the Armenian Nation,” like the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The property cards, which represent these historic Armenian sites, include an educational element in a few sentences about the site’s significance on the flipside of the card. Though some Armenian script is included, the board game is primarily aimed at the English-speaking Armenian Diaspora.
Initially, the Armenopoly game was intended as a fundraiser for the St. Mesrob church, but with the advent of the Azerbaijani attacks on Artsakh, it was transferred into a fundraiser for the war effort. But Kalayjian wasn’t done thinking up creative ideas.