FRESNO, Calif. — A book signing event for a recently published book, The Dignity of Being American, took place on Wednesday, January 10 at the Armenian Museum of Fresno, located at the University of California Center in Fresno, California. Co-authored by Varoujan Der Simonian and Sophia Mekhitarian, the book records never before published stories of 14 displaced persons and their families who settled in Fresno after World War II, tracing the DPs’ paths and the trials they endured. The book highlights the extensive involvement of George Mardikian, the founder of ANCHA (American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians), Brigadier General Haig Shekerjian and attorney Suren Saroyan.

Co-authors Varoujan Der Simonian and Sophia Matewosian-Mekhitarian during the book signing

“It’s been our mission to focus on the accomplishments of our ANCHA leaders and affiliates for their magnanimous undertaking and to preserve our history for future generations. Heroes they were, and so shall remain,” said co-author Mekhitarian, who herself was once labeled as a displaced person.

Extensive coverage of the role of unsung heroes, including Dr. Artasches Abeghian, Generals Drastamat Kanaian (Dro) and Garegin Nejdeh, Arsen Taplatsian, Misak Torlakian, Vahan Papazian, Garo Kevorkian and others, who saved thousands of POWs and untold number of Armenians – by some estimates 600,000 Armenians under Nazi-controlled Europe during World War II, are presented in the book.

“This is a significant part of our history that often has been overlooked,” commented Der Simonian of the Armenian Museum of Fresno and the co-author of the book. “It is our duty to recognize the role that these men and women played before, during and following World War II in saving thousands of Armenian lives,” said Der Simonian. “I wonder where we would be now if it weren’t for unsung heroes’ patriotism, dedication, and commitment – their call to serve their own people, who were far away from their homeland,” added Der Simonian.

Varoujan Der Simonian presenting a copy of the book The Dignity of Being American to Joan Schoettler, author of The Honey Jar

The 260-page book includes over 300 photos highlighting the life of the Armenians at Funkerkaserne DP Camp near Stuttgart, Germany. It covers the ANCHA Monument in Fresno, all six panels placed on the monument’s pedestal, that was appropriately placed next to the Sunday School Building entrance at the Holy Trinity Church in Fresno. It also covers an oral history interview with George Mardikian; and an essay by Mardikian titled “Three Meals for the Chief” – providing detailed explanations of what, and how he would prepare three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner, for his friend, President Herbert Hoover. The essay is being published for the first-time courtesy of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Almost all the copies of this limited-edition of the recently published book were sold. The book signing was scheduled from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. However, the Museum’s galleries were packed with an enthusiastic crowd that lasted past 5:30 p.m. Contributors to the Fresno ANCHA Monument received a complimentary copy.

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A photographic exhibition titled “The Saga and the Triumph of the Displaced Persons” complimenting the content of the book is currently on display at the Armenian Museum of Fresno.

Copies may be purchased or ordered from the Armenian Museum of Fresno at $60.00 per copy, pending availability

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