Remembering Hagop J. Manjikian

Rep. Adam Schiff with, from left, Hagop Manjikian, his wife, Knar and daughter Tamar Mashigian
Hagop Manjikian

Hagop Manjikian

Editor’s Note: On October 18, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation family and the Armenian American community, lost one of its most influential figures, Hagop J. Manjikian. During his funeral services on November 2 at Forest Lawn, he was eulogized as great patriot and family man, whose devotion to the advancement of the Armenian Cause defined his life, as well as generations of Armenian Americans. This week we publish the eulogies and remember Unger Manjikian. A Requiem service on the 40th day of his passing was held on Sunday, November 24 at Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Encino.

The Quintessential Diasporan Armenian and ARF Member

BY NORA HOVSEPIAN, ESQ.

Nora Hovsepian, the chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region, delivered remarks during Hagop Manjikian’s funeral on behalf of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western U.S. Central Committee.

Unger Hagop Manjikian was the quintessential Diasporan Armenian. One of the initial architects of the political agenda for the Armenian-American community, Unger Hagop was the first California Secretary of the ACIA, the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia, precursor to the Armenian National Committee of America, which was founded one hundred years ago by Vahan Cardashian in 1919.

In 1969, he became the founding chairman of the ANCA-Western Region, setting an example of leadership and dedication that I and others in this role can only strive to emulate.

From those early days, Unger Hagop formulated a dual vision:

  • To foster unity within the Armenian American community; and
  • To harness the strength of that unity to promote a national Armenian agenda within American political circles.

Since then, our community, our organization, and our Cause have all evolved to changing times, growing exponentially in numbers and meeting new and unexpected challenges, while sometimes losing sight of the strategy developed by Unger Hagop and his compatriots.

Hagop Manjikian at the opening of the Montebello Armenian Martyrs Monument in April, 1968

Hagop Manjikian at the opening of the Montebello Armenian Martyrs Monument in April, 1968

But time has proven that Unger Hagop was truly a visionary, because now, decades later, we have returned to that strategy by making a conscious choice to cultivate true community unity and to harness our strength as one united voice to promote our agenda through the US political system.

This is how we secured US unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide just a few days ago – a seminal and historic event to which Unger Hagop dedicated his life but alas, in a sad twist of irony, did not see come to fruition.

This is how we came together to commemorate the Armenian Genocide centennial with a record-breaking 166,000 compatriots still demanding justice.

This is how we’ve come together to build an Armenian American Museum, an idea born from the community unity surrounding the Genocide centennial.

None of this would have happened without the vision and unbridled dedication of Unger Hagop and his generation, who established the first Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument on public grounds in Montebello, California, an idea which itself was born from the community unity surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Genocide and the reawakening of Hye Tad. At its official opening in 1968, it was Unger Hagop and the joint committee which brought together 15,000 Armenians, the Catholicos of All Armenians Vazken I, and dozens of US elected officials. And our annual community commemorations at this same Monument are proof of the vision and lasting legacy left to us by Unger Hagop and his compatriots.

Time has forced us to grapple with the painful yet inevitable loss of our generation of Genocide survivors, who taught us how to maintain our national heritage and ethnic identify far from our ancestral homeland. And now we have to deal with the loss of Unger Hagop and members of his generation, who taught us to be not just good Armenians but more importantly, on how to be effective Armenians still fighting for our Cause and still maintaining the sense of duty to instill in our own children and grandchildren.

In doing so, we stand on the shoulders of Unger Hagop and his compatriots as undying soldiers of Hye Tad, always bridging our past with our present and future. It was through this vision that the history of our freedom fighters was memorialized in the monumental research and painstaking work of Unger Hagop and his beloved life partner and co-researcher Digin Knar in publishing multiple volumes of an unprecedented A.R.F. Album.

And it was through this work that we saw Unger Hagop as both a dreamer and a pragmatist.

He was a fierce advocate for younger generations of Armenian Americans to have the ability to speak, read and write Armenian, not only in his own home, but also through his dedication to the success of all Armenian schools, especially Ferrahian, where he served for many years on the school board and set an example to others by sending all three of his beloved daughters, Tamar, Salpy and my dear friend and classmate, Vicky.

But at the same time, he knew that it was more realistic to spread the ideology and history of the A.R.F. to future generations of Armenian Americans in English to avoid alienating them simply because they may not be fluent in Armenian. So he insisted and secured the translation of the A.R.F. Albums into English to give greater access to his phenomenal work.

This is the legacy we are left by Unger Hagop and one which we can only aspire to fulfill but which we are duty bound to try:

  • To be true soldiers of the Armenian Cause as he was;
  • To dedicate a lifetime of service to our Nation as he did;
  • To advocate tirelessly for unity in the Armenian American community as he did when he would constantly proclaim the virtues of «միասնականութիւն» and;
  • To stand on his shoulders as he stood on the shoulders of Armenian Genocide survivors to maintain our heritage and fulfill their legacy by instilling it into future generations of Armenians here and everywhere until our national goals and our quest for justice are fulfilled.

May he Rest In Peace with the assurance that we will honor his legacy and continue his work – our holy work – until complete victory for our Cause.

A Eulogy to a Father

BY TAMAR MANJIKIAN MASHIGIAN

During the funeral service for Hagop Manjikian, his daughter Tamar Manjikian Mashigian delivered a poignant eulogy to her father that not only chronicled his contributions to the Armenian Cause, but also his role as a dedicated husband, father and grandfather

In the days after my father’s passing on Oct. 18, I received numerous letters, texts and messages from family and friends. A note from one of my Ferrahian School classmates, Roxanne Parnagian Makasdjian, stood out:

“I was so sorry to read of the passing of your wonderful father. I always considered him one of the heroes of his generation for his important and lasting contributions to the preservation of Armenian history and identity in the Diaspora and to the continued fight for justice. I looked up to him so much, along with your mother, as a true role model as an Armenian-American. I’ll never forget my first visit to the monument in Montebello, during the inaugural commemoration day there. As a 7-year-old kid, I was enjoying rolling down the hill, but in the back of my mind, I knew there was something important about that place to our people. Your dad was the unwavering force that got the monument built. I spent my entire adulthood working in the ANC, an organization he also built. Now, in my role in The Genocide Education Project, I deeply appreciate his work in translating the genocide memoirs into English, again preserving and expanding the exposure and recognition of our history. The value of his legacy is endless.”

Rep. Adam Schiff with, from left, Hagop Manjikian, his wife, Knar and daughter Tamar Mashigian

Rep. Adam Schiff with, from left, Hagop Manjikian, his wife, Knar and daughter Tamar Mashigian

By now many of you have heard, read or known that Hagop Manjikian was an Armenian community leader. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, he lead April 24 marches and rallies, he met with governors, mayors and gubernatorial candidates as an Armenian representative, he led the committees that built the Armenian Genocide monuments in Montebello and in Fresno, he wrote articles and history books, he published Genocide memoirs, and more.

But to me and my sisters, Salpy and Vicky, he was our father, our Hyrig as we called him. He was our pillar and our idol, our disciplinarian and our protector, the keeper of our fig and pomegranate trees, the person who patiently recorded our lives on film with his German camera. We admired that he came as far as he did in America, he, an immigrant from a tiny farming village at the northwesternmost tip of Syria near the town of Kessab and a stone’s throw from Turkey, an Armenian Christian village called Karadouran that God and time had forgotten.

It was in Karadouran that Hagop Manjikian was born in 1924, in a cow shed where countless other Manjikians had been born over hundreds of years. Kessab and its surrounding villages are the last vestiges of the Cilician Armenian kingdom, which got swallowed up by a sea of Moslem peoples in 1375 AD. Hagop was nourished with the soil of patriotism that the people of Kessab had in their DNA for centuries since the fall of the Cilician Armenian kingdom. They were, after all, the descendants of Hayk.

Since his youth, he was focused on Armenia – the lands that had been lost during and after the Genocide as well as the small then-Soviet Republic. In his early 20s, during World War II, he left his home without even telling his parents and began a dangerous journey to Soviet Armenia to protect what was left of a sovereign nation. In Mosul, Iraq, destiny had it that a kind Armenian man was able to convince Hagop that he would not be able to cross the border into Armenia and took him back to Syria.

Despite Hagop’s fanatic loyalty to his village, he felt something pulling him to a place where he thought he stood the chance of doing something for the Armenian people. In 1950, he left his cherished parents and brother, Vahan, and his beloved Kessab and set sail for America, arriving in New York just before Christmas and setting foot in California on New Year’s Day 1951.

Hagop started his own business, Armo Machine Company, in South Gate, California, in 1952, making precision parts for oil exploration machinery and the aerospace and naval industries. But after 5 pm was when his real work began, as he helped put together an organizational infrastructure for the burgeoning Armenian community in Southern California. His goal was to keep Armenians together in order to stay alive as a Diaspora while Armenian political organizations pursued a resolution to the Armenian Cause.

In late 1957, he returned to Syria with ulterior motives – he wanted to marry an old-fashioned Armenian girl. During a visit with a friend in Aleppo, he met his life partner, Knar Rita Avedian, and within weeks they were married. They settled down in Los Angeles, where Salpy, Victoria and I were born. Not one to forget his roots, our Hyrig had the three of us travel to Syria with our brave and beautiful mother, and we were baptized in the Karadouran Church, putting the stamp of his homeland on our memories.

Hagop Manjikian was an idealist, but he also was a pragmatist, an unusual combination. He dreamed, and then he worked hard to achieve his dreams. Early on in their marriage, Hagop told Knar that he would be going to meetings at night frequently, and he found Knar to be a ready, willing and capable partner in his “Hayrenaseeragan” endeavors.

Fortunately, some of his projects actually brought our family together. He was one of the forces behind creating Armenian Center Inc. Hye Getrone at 1501 Venice Boulevard was a hub of activity, with dinners and plays and other gatherings. The Armenian Center was one of my favorite places to go when I was a little girl.

Hagop was appointed director of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia in California in 1953. In his position, he wrote letters to politicians about the Armenian Cause, he met with governors and mayors, and he invited them to the Armenian Center. This was the beginning of an Armenian voice in American politics, and it is no coincidence that a decade and a half later Hagop was a founding member and chairman of the Armenian National Committee, Western Region in 1969.

Hagop was part of a generation of letter writers, and my mother had plenty of carbon paper on hand when he would hand her letters for her to type and mail out. I will never forget the 8 handwritten pages of a letter that my father wrote to President-elect Jimmy Carter and that I had to edit and then type. I am still looking for the carbon copies of that letter at the family home.

Hagop Manjikian treasured the heroes of the Armenian people. As a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Hagop had the good fortune of working with Soghomon Tehlirian, hailed as a hero for assassinating the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, Talaat Pasha, in 1921. Tehlirian lived in San Francisco, California, and Hagop, whose parents were an ocean and a continent away, was particularly close with and very fond of Tehlirian. After the Armenian hero’s passing, Hagop directed the project to build the Soghomon Tehlirian Monument in Fresno. It was the very first Armenian martyrs monument in the U.S.

Hagop Manjikian also is one of the founders of the Armenian Monument Council that built the Armenian Genocide Monument in Montebello. As my mother tells it, Hagop, who was in a leadership position in the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, was the one who made the call to George Mandossian of the Ramgavar leadership to join the committee – in the name of unity. Catholicos Vazken I, who coincidentally was scheduled to travel to the U.S. at the time of the unveiling of the monument in 1968, agreed to attend the opening of the monument. Addressing a crowd of 15,000, Hagop Manjikian introduced the Catholicos, who delivered a rousing speech that tore down the political barriers that had factionalized the Armenian community in the U.S. 51 years later, my father, on his deathbed, was preaching the importance of unity during a visit from Archbishop Hovnan Derderian.

One of his most beloved projects was starting the Armenian National Radio Hour in 1978. For one-and-a-half years, he recorded a weekly show that consisted of news announcements, classical Armenian music and other cultural content in the basement of our family home, with the help of Knar as well as Sarkis and Salpi Ghazarian.

Hagop ardently supported the Asbarez Armenian newspaper by writing articles over a 50-year period.

When he should have been thinking about retirement, Hagop embarked on a massive project toward the close of the 20th century at the directive of the ARF. He and Knar traveled to Paris and to Boston to search through archives of thousands of pictures to produce the massive and epic Houshamatyan Commemorative Album-Atlas of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, 1890-1914 and a companion volume. For an entire decade – from 1990 to 2001 – the dining room table at my parents’ home was covered in boxes and folders containing valuable photos.

At the age of 80, Hagop started yet another project – the translation of Armenian Genocide memoirs to English to make them accessible to an audience around the world. He and Knar created the Armenian Genocide Library Collection in 2005 and published 6 books written by survivors and eyewitnesses of the 1915 massacres and deportation.

Though he never sought them out, Hagop Manjikian received several honors for his life’s work, including:

  • The Mesrob Mashdotz Medal from Catholicos Aram I in 2001
  • Tributes from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 and in 2014 for translating and publishing the Armenian Genocide memoirs, whose names were entered into the Congressional Record of the United States
  • Recognition from the Los Angeles City Council, spearheaded by Council Member Paul Krekorian, on April 23, 2014, for his dedicated service to the Armenian-American community

My father’s last project took him back to his roots – the town of Kessab. In honor of his high school, the Ousoumnasirats School of Kessab, founded in 1909, Hagop compiled a history of the first 30 years of the school, whence graduated Catholicos Karekin I and numerous people who became principals, teachers and educators throughout the Middle East. That book was published in December 2018 in Antelias, with the blessing of Catholicos Aram I, and my father got to see and hold a copy of it before his eyes closed forever.

When my father’s brother, Vahan, passed away 4 years ago, my father referred to him as one of the last Mohicans – the final remaining person of a particular group. Based on what others have told me, Hagop Manjikian, it appears, is the last of the Mohicans. But even though he is no longer with us, the Armenians he mentored are with us today, his work remains and the way he worked stands as an inspiration to us all.

And not to confuse Mohicans with Manjikians, there are enough Manjikians around the world to keep the dynasty going for centuries. But there is not one as singular as my hyrig, Hagop Garabed Manjikian.

‘Bebo’: An Ode to A Grandfather

BY ARAM MASHIGIAN

Hagop Manjikian’s grandson, Aram Mashigian, delivered an ode to his grandfather during funeral services on November 2.

My brother and I call our grandfather Bebo.

And I want to share with you one of my last conversations with him.

While he was lying in bed, I leaned over and asked him: “Bebo, toon vor ays chap yergar abradz es…gyanki kaghneekuh keedes?”

He looked at me and said “Huh!?”

He wasn’t wearing his hearing aids.

So a bit louder, I said: “Bebo, gyanki kaghneekuh keedes?”

He said “Ah…chem keeder.”

Then before I could say anything, he just went right into it.

Hagop Manjikian speaks at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in 1975

Hagop Manjikian speaks at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in 1975

He made two points.

He said “Arach: En-da-nik. Fa-mi-ly. Ays ashkarin metch endaniken aveli garevor pan chga.”

There’s nothing more important in this world than family.

Then he gave me my favorite speech…“Aghvor hay aghcheeg muh kudeer. Yev aghvor hay endanik muh gazme.”

“Hedo: Find your purpose.”

He actually did say this in English.

“Find your purpose. Asi bedk oonees vor ardooneruh angogheenen yelles.”

Then he went back to the hay aghcheeg point: “Payts amene garevoruh…aghvor hay aghcheeg muh kudeer.”

After a few seconds of silence, he asked me…

…”Heema kanee daregan es toon?”

How old are you now?

Uhsee “26 daregan em.”

I’m 26.

He said: “Aah……ooshatsadz es.”

So for those of you taking notes…the secret to life according to my grandpa…family and purpose.

Now there’s one final thing that he didn’t tell me but rather he showed me.

Here’s a man who’s 94 years old.

He’s been lying in bed in his home for weeks, unable to get up.

He’s been eating nothing but a few spoonfuls of soup a day.

He’s become completely dependent on us to take care of him.

Even though as a family we did everything we could to make him as comfortable as possible, what I’m describing to you sounds miserable. And I have no doubt that it was.

But every time I’d go over there and ask him “Bebo eenchbes es?”…I would always get a smile, a little sparkle in his eye, and a “Kezi desah aveli lav”.

Spirits always high. Always asking questions about me and my brother.

He even asked my dad “Yerp guh gardzes vor beedee lavanam?”

When do you think I’m gonna get better?

So if I were to add one more thing to his secret to life list…it would be positivity.

Optimism.

So from my bebo to each and every one of us here today…may we create family, find purpose, and discover the power of a positive mind.

 

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2 Comments

  1. haig atamian said:

    Unger Injejikian was a great man. I am honored that I was able to know him.

  2. Aram Hamparian said:

    A great man, proud Armenian – hands us the baton, leaving to the living the sacred cause of our ancient tribe. – Aram

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