Thursday, March 5, 2015

95th Anniversary of the Heroic Defense of Marash

With Roger Hagopian's documentary MEMORIES OF MARASH playing on the screen at the front of the auditorium, Marashtsis from all over the world, now settled in the Boston area, gathered in Belmont, Massachusetts, this past Sunday, March 1, 2015, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the 95th Anniversary of the Heroic Defense of Marash, a defense that ended with the departure of the French in the middle of the night, their horses' hooves covered with burlap to deaden the sound of their departure, the departure assuring the demise of most of the Armenians in Marash. (This information from eyewitness Stephen Baliozian - his oral history conducted by Marash Girl, the tape now on file at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts - Stephen Baliozian who was 8 years old at the time of his departure from Marash during the famous snowstorm).

Opening remarks were given by Lalig Musserian; Nvart Kouyoumjian, chairwoman, welcomed the gathering, and Harout Sajonian, accompanied on the piano by Yelena Hakobyan, sang with the assembled the Armenian National Anthem and the Marash Anthem, following which a traditional Hokejash was served.  Blessings and remarks were offered by the Very Reverend Father Andon Atamian,

Entertainment consisted of a Piano Interlude with Yelena Hakobyan at the piano, a recitation of poetry by poet Avik Deirmenjian, and a musical program offered by Antranig Boynerian and Shan't Der Torossian.  Closing remarks were offered by Lalig Musserian.

The event was sponsored by the Union of Marash Armenians, Watertown Chapter; the hokejash was preceded by a memorial mass.

Peter Bilezikian remembered.  He told of how the Armenians, now few in number, unarmed, their young men having been taken into the Ottoman army (and often forced to dig graves into which they would soon be placed), from these defenseless people, the Turkish soldiers demanded arms; the Armenians had no arms to give. The Turkish soldiers proclaimed that they knew that the Armenians had arms, and if the Armenians did not give up their arms, they would be thrown into jail.  So most of the population, unarmed, had to go out and buy guns to give up to the Turkish soldiers in order to save themselves from certain death in Turkish prisons.

Such a sad story that Marash Girl really doesn't want to go there . . .

Peter also told of the Marashtsis gathering here in Boston --  how they gathered to be together, to remember, to ask of the whereabouts of their loved ones . . . where were they? had they survived? The moderator could not get the attention of the gathered amidst all the hubbub, and so he tried the following words, the words Peter remembered with a smile to his dying day; the words Marash Girl remembers Peter quoting throughout his many years of life.

"Quiet, please!  Quiet, please!  Pretty soon, by and by, we gonna have a the ice-a cream."

Although there was just as much hubbub this past Sunday, it was all joyous, and no, there was no ice cream!
Dignataries attending the event pose for photographer at culmination of Heroic Defense of Marash event held at the Holy Cross Armenian Church in Belmont..  l. to r. Elizabeth Cerda Koutoujian (Mrs. Peter Koutoujian, Jr.), The Very Rev. And on Atamian of the Holy Cross Armenian Church, Nevart Kouyoumjian (Master of Ceremonies), Peter Koutoujian, Jr., ( current Sheriff of Middlesex County, Massachusetts and a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives), Mrs. Peter (Connie Cassidy) Koutoujian, Sr.; front row are the children of Mr. & Mrs. Peter Koutoujian, Jr. -  l. to r.  Isabel, Cristian,  and  Peter Koutoujian

Peter Bilezikian remembered Cornelia "Connie" (Cassidy) Koutoujian when she was a little girl, as he used repair her family's furnace. He would be so pleased to see her with her husband and children at the Marashtsi events in Watertown, Massachusetts.  Peter Bilezikian would often recount his memories of Peter Koutoujian, Jr.'s grandfather as both Peter Bilezikian and Peter Koutoujian's grandfather were young boys in Marash together, and later settled in the Boston area.


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