Western Prelacy to Host Presentation on the State of Armenian Monuments in Historic Armenia

LA CRESCENTA, Calif.–Armen Aroyan will discuss the “Current State of Armenian Monuments in Historical Armenia” at the Armenian Apostolic Church of Crescenta Valley on Sunday, November 7 at 1 pm, following the church service.

The event will take place at the Western Prelacy’s Dikran and Zarouhi Der Ghazarian Hall at 6252 Honolulu Ave., in La Crescenta, California.

There will also be a short video presentation of September 19, 2010 Akhtamar Holy Cross Divine Liturgy on the island of Lake Van. Free and open to the public, the event is a public service program of Armenian Apostolic Church of Crescenta Valley ( AACOCV ) Educational Committee.

“In a time when historic Armenia has all but vanished into the distant landscape of a modern world, Armenians living in the diaspora are left to put together the pieces of a fragmented past. Armen Aroyan is one of those rare historians who not only studies but shares his education by leading tours to historic Armenia.” (Alexandra Bezdikian, ‘The Armenian Reporter’ Dec 13, 2008).

“Aroyan is a time traveler who deconstructs the fine stands of our scarred history to weave new memories for new generations. Sitting at the loom, he helps to rekindle those memories of “back home ” that most of today’s young Armenians have come to know and understand through the eyes of their grandparents and distortion of modernity.” (Alexandra Bezdikian,’ The ArmenianReporter’ Dec 13, 2008).

“The tour leader, organizer educator and scholar of history is the one following the shadowy fragments of our past, taking those who seek him out on a journey of healing and discovery to the places we all once called home. He is the memory maker taking vague images of a once beautiful place passed down almost by birthright and making them part of this enigmatic tapestry we all struggle to unravel as Armenians.”(Alexandra Bezdikian, ‘The Armenian Reporter’ Dec 13, 2008).

According to William Shakespeare, ” All the world’s a stage, and all the men merely players.” Some fill center stage. Others work quietly behind the scenes, happy in the realization that the services they provide are unique, serve an important purpose in the community, and cause deep personal satisfaction. The respect earned eventually is an incidental but welcome recognition of their efforts to be useful and contributing members of society. Armen Aroyan is one of those serene individuals who leave an imprint on community life without being conspicuous. Since early 1990s he has organized the Armenian Heritage Society’s tours to historic Armenia, making interesting and emotional forays into the past. Tour participants, most of whom are survivors or offspring of deportees from Anatolia, choose to visit the land of their ancestors in search of their roots, to heal open wounds that still ooze, or repair the disconnected link with the past.These tours are not run-of-the mill trips, but rather emotionally charged pilgrimages that need to be handled tactfully and with sensitivity. (Mary Terzian)

Since early 1990’s, Aroyan has organized over sixty tours to historic Armenian lands and doing so, he has ventured into untrodden territory and has managed to dispel some of the apprehensions that still cloud the Armenian psyche. In addition these visits have brought to light a plethora of churches, monuments and buildings that are still somewhat erect and bear witness to the Armenian presence in that part of the world.

Born near the end of World War II in Cairo, Egypt, the eldest of four siblings, Aroyan grew up in a typical closely-knit Armenian family. He showed enough acumen from early childhood to become eligible for an innovative advanced placement program at the Kalousdian Armenian School, with successful results. He remained there through the sixth grade, imbibing the essence of Armenian qualities for which the school is well recognized. Thereafter, he attended St. George’s College, an all-boys high school, where the primary language was English, preparing for General Certificate of Education.

Unlike other teens, Aroyan concurrently followed correspondence courses in electrical engineering, under the tutelage of his far-sighted father, through the International Correspondence Schools ( ICS ) of London. The elder Aroyan took great pains in endowing his children with a well-rounded education along with available entertainment: music lessons, tape recorders ( a novelty then ), electric trains, educational toys and extra-curricular activities. He kept them in focus on self-development. Father still keeps his pedestal in Armen’s memory.

After two years of engineering courses with Ahmeds and Muhammads at the University of Cairo, Aroyan continued his studies in the United States, courtesy of his father’s efforts, with Johns and Jacks. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Cal State, Los Angeles, and kept on with studies during his employment with McDonnell Douglas, garnering a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master of Business Administration from University of Southern California. He established and directed for a decade Armenian Evangelical Choir of Pasadena with a limited training in music but with a sharp ear for rhythm and harmony and a knack for organization.

Aroyan’s genteel manner, his depth of technical knowledge, his ease with languages and “savoir faire” in public relations won him consulting assignments in Japan, Taiwan, China and Germany. Such exposure sharpened his curiosity about the world and his taste for foreign travel. He always volunteered for assignments where he could prove useful. In 1983, on a business trip to a client in Germany, an advertisement for weekend vacations in Constantinople, Turkey, caught Aroyan’s attention. He elected to visit the country on a whim. It was an eye-opening experience that eventually changed his life. What started as a curiosity, evolved into extended visits to the hinterland, collection of archival material, interaction with the local people and establishment of facts, supported by a massive video collection. At first, conceding to requests by acquaintances to join him, he led visits to satisfy demand. Later, as pressure for extended services increased, he organized the Armenian Heritage Society Tours. Travel progressively absorbed more of his attention, especially after he became a casualty of the U.S. Defense Budget cutbacks in 1990 (pursuant to the fall of the Berlin Wall)-after 24 years of service at the same company.

Asked if he does not tire of visiting the same country over and over again, Aroyan comments on the vast opportunities for discovery, both physical and social. The interior is sprinkled with Armenian relics. Within any group, the mix of individuals with particular interest and qualifications make each venture a unique experience. The itinerary, which usually includes cities of major interest, is fluid and is designed to tailor-fit the participants’ desire to visit certain sites, hometown to their ancestry. These sites, especially the villages, often with distorted names or fired up imagination, may prove to be blown up pictures of modest hamlets, or real locals long wiped off the map. It is also possible that they still exist, or have acquired a different name. Aroyan makes every effort to locate these nondescript villages to place them back on the map or in his itinerary.

“He is driven by a mission,” said Perouz Seferian of Ontario, Canada, one of Aroyan’s most recent tour participants. “I think Armen would try to move Mount Ararat if that was the only way he could get you to your village. I have for many years had a profound need to see Kalan, the village where my father and grandfather were born. It’s not on the map, but Armen somehow took me there.” For Seferian, her experience was simply life-changing. “I stood in the village my father and grandfather had yearned for all their exiled lives.” she said “And wished so much that they could have been there with me. As a child, I would hear them weep in the night for lost family members and for the simple familiar comforts of home in their village.”

Aroyan led Seferian along the caravan route that her family had taken, along the road where, as her father had written, he saw his grandmother murdered.

“In Oghnout, where the caravan had stopped for four days, I met a man whose great grandfather had been left behind as a child, in hopes that he would somehow survive,” Seferian said. “I was flooded with emotion as I realized that his ancestors and mine had shared a common terror at the very place we were both standing.

I cast flower seeds in all these places, and around the cathedral at Ani, in memory of all 1.5 million who [have no graves bearing their names]. I cast root-vegetable seeds, in acknowledgment of their terrible hunger, and I scattered fiber flax seeds, which linen is spun from, remembering that most of the victims first had their clothing removed.”

Seferian says she is going back next spring. “I want to see if the pink and gold flowers of memory have grown, if root vegetables have taken hold, and if the fiber flax seed has sprouted,” she said. “I left candles burning in Ani. I don’t want anyone to think that we have forgotten 1915.”

Aroyan has impacted and changed many lives for the better. Without his service and dedication to the cause of giving his fellow Armenians the missing pieces to their own family puzzles, many would continue to live without peace or closure.

That is Armen Aroyan’s legacy. To this day he continues to give a sense of peace to those who embrace it. “It is extremely gratifying to see people happy,” Aroyan said. “I get a lot of satisfaction from that. It gives them a lot of closure and a third dimension. Now they are able to see their village and could picture the images of the past that was passed down to them through parents and grandparents.”

The general public is invited to be present in this very interesting, invaluable and soul searching lecture and public service program. Refreshments will be served.

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