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Friday, May 13, 2022

2022-Wed_April 27 _Rev. Fr. Untzag Nalbandian's Presentation - AZEZEN Ameriga Book- by Zarmine Boghosian



·                                  May 4, 2022





At the tribute for Zarminé  Boghosian on April 27, 2022, Fr. Untzag Nalbandian delivered the following remarks on her memoir,

From Azez to America.

* * *

Three days after the 107th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, we gather here under the dome of St. Vartan Cathedral and auspices of our Primate, Bishop Daniel. Once again, this testifies we not only survived but we continue to thrive. And we are a creative people, in this case, also in literary endeavors.

Mrs. Zarminé Boghosian’s newly published 434 page memoir, From Azez to America is beautifully written in Western Armenian. Although not strictly autobiographical, she has organized the book under different categories, such as: People Who Influenced My Life, Unforgettable Meetings, Meeting with literary figures, and writers, from our community life, to mention the few. The book was published in Armenia and I understand that almost all copies are gone. After reading this book, you learn that Zarminé is a keen observer, fine commentator and good storyteller.

We are gathered here to honor the author for her literary work; however I feel she honors us and future generations by sharing her stories and honest thoughts in writing. As she told me, “I wrote this book so that my writings will not be lost.” And of course and also, to educate the new generation.

Our people and especially intellectuals have always appreciated its writers. They knew well the “recited words fly by and it is the writing that stays «խօսքը կը թռչի, գիրը՝ կը մնայ» as we say in Armenian.

Zarminé  Boghosian is familiar to us–as an educator and school principal of Holy Martyrs Day School, contributor to Armenian newspapers, and now memoirist. Anyone can read her book with great pleasure or as we say in Armenian, Համով հոտով։ She has taught Armenian language and culture in this very St. Vartan Cathedral for 10 or more years.

Zarminé is also a member of the Armenian Church, to which she refers many times in her book. As she describes, “In Azez, on the day of the Feast of Dyarnuntarach (the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple), we had to make sure we could take the light to our homes without extinguishing it.’’

For sure, all these years she has not only brought that light, Zarminé has radiated it wherever she went, including into the minds and hearts of all her students.

The author’s life spans two countries, Syria and the United States. Instead of writing solely her own autobiography, she wrote about her meetings with important and well-known intellectuals, writers, musicians, inventors, educators and those who are concerned with Armenian life and issues. In this book you also will find essays on different events and anniversaries.

Why are stories so vital? Because through our stories, we can educate the new generation about our faith and Christ-centered culture! Yes, by telling her stories, she educates the reader. She expresses her thoughts freely, without hesitation. She knows well as an educator, she must say the things that others may not say, not to criticize, but to correct, to teach, to make readers aware and think about those things that need to change.

The first part of her book is about Azez and Aleppo. She describes her family and friends, childhood Armenian school years, very much connected to the Syrian Armenian community. She speaks about the local Soorp Takavor Armenian Church in Azez. She also mentions her Jerusalem Odyssey with her brother, Fr. Vrtanes and how they somehow had to leave under not pleasant circumstances.

She mentions important and well-known individuals, to name the few, Silva Gaboudikian, Antranig Poladian, Raymond Damadian, Aris Sevag, Lousine Zakarian, Sahan Arzruni, Sero Khanzadian, Maro Markarian, Arshille Gorky, Dr. Hrand Markarian, Zareh Melkonian and many more.

She also writes about events she has attended and reflected upon, such as the 100 year old Armenian Students Association, AGBU, A century old life of Armenians in America, or the 100 year old Grtasirats Armenian school in Aleppo and her first job as a teacher in that school after her graduation from Najarian-Gulbenkian High School.

Her book is also didactic. She at times tries to educate her readers or at least make them stop and reflect. For example, while describing Dr. Pergrouhi Najarian Svajian’s hospitalization, she writes that one of the nurses spoke highly of Dr. Svajian saying, “What an extraordinary woman she is.” When Zarmine told Dr. Svajian, who was on a stretcher going to surgery, Dr. Svajian responded, “Even though she just met me, she knew me better than some who worked with me for years.” I think there is a lesson for us to learn from Dr. Svajian’s short message. First, we must appreciate what we have.

Unfortunately, often others, foreigners and strangers admire what we Armenians have more than we do.

She also relates the story of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day school sign. She, as the principal of the daily school was given permission to order and place the sign in front of the school. Disappointment came when the church leadership told her hold on, we must still discuss this in our PC meeting.  We must agree on the color and the size of the sign and the exact location where it should be placed. The lesson? Sometimes, we waste our time on secondary matters instead of focusing on more important issues. Maybe this story caught my attention because I am a parish priest.

She describes how she and others from abroad attended an Armenian language teachers’ training conference in Armenia. She and other participants noticed it was not well organized. But they agreed not to criticize. They decided to speak and write positively about it. This too – refraining from being overly critical — is an important virtue, sometimes lacking in our people, including our community leaders.

Zarminé also mentions the advice Diramayr Siranoush Baljian the mother of the late Vazken Catholicos, gave to Armenian mothers: “I want each of you to be an educator in your home. I too have lived on foreign soil, however I was dedicated to my son’s education. Dear Armenian mothers, love and teach your children to love the Armenian Church, Armenia and the Armenian language. We have so much literary wealth, do not deprive your children from that wealth.”

What a simple, but powerful and timeless message and another brief sermon from Diramyr.

At the end of the book the author has Բանաստեղծական ներշնչումներ a “Poetic Inspirations” section. Here, she has included many of her Armenian poems on anniversaries such as the 1600th  anniversary of the invention of the Armenian alphabet, the 50th  anniversary of her brother, Fr. Vrtanes’s ordination, or the 70th  anniversary of Arshile Gorky’s death and others.

In her last two pages titled Յաւէտ երախտապարտ “Forever grateful,” she mentions the names of her elementary and high school teachers who encouraged her to write, as did her brother Fr. Vertanes. He placed the books of well-known Armenian writers in her hands saying, “Read them and write, I know you can!” What short, but very effective advice. This book is the result of the advice of those teachers and her brother. May God bless their souls.

Zarminé acknowledges this book is not even 10% of her thoughts and feelings of her 70 years of life. She praises Missak, her husband of 55 years, who has been the pillar and the true supporter of her life.

In conclusion, I note in 2014, Zarminé received the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob medal, given by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians.

Today, we too can only congratulate and appreciate Zarminé, not just for publishing her memoirs, but also for serving the Armenian community as an educator for the past 50 years. God bless you, your husband Missak and all your loved ones!

You can proudly repeat the words of the great Armenian poet, Vahan Tekeyan who some 90 years ago wrote, (which you also included in your book):

«Յաշուեյարդար ի՞նչ մնաց, կեանքէն ինծի ի՞նչ մնաց,
ինչ որ տուի ուրիշին, տարօրինակ, ա՛յն միայն»։

“In the final accounting what did I get out of life?
Amazingly, only what I gave to others.”

By Fr. Untzag Nalbandian

* * *

Pictured: Fr. Untzag Nalbandian at the Diocesan Center in New York, during the tribute in honor of Zarminé Boghosian on April 27, 2022. (Photo by Diran Jebejian)


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