By Douglas Kalajian
I felt certain of the title the moment I decided to write the book: Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me.
It represents a dilemma that will be familiar to many Armenian-Americans born after the tumult that dislodged our parents and grandparents from their homeland.
My father, Nishan Kalajian, had the misfortune to be born in Diyarbakir, Turkey in 1912 at the core of the imploding Ottoman Empire. For him, the Armenian Genocide was not a distant, historic event but the defining reality of his life. He lost his mother, his home and everything familiar before being cast into the world alone.
I knew that much from an early age, but I desperately wanted to know more: How he survived, how he kept his wits and his faith, how he moved forward without being consumed by bitterness and hate. My father volunteered none of it. He dealt with his most painful memories in a most Armenian way, by pushing them aside.
My mother understood this better than anyone. She warned me never to ask him about such things and I never did, at least not directly. But every so often when an opportunity presented itself, I’d approach the topic obliquely and with great caution.
When he responded at all, my father often shared only a scrap or two before changing the subject or retreating to his books. It was left to me to figure out the importance of each scrap, and to connect it to whatever had come before or after. This is how my life-long conversation with my father continued, in fits and starts, yielding scattered pieces of a puzzle that I’m still trying to complete more than 20 years after his death.
As a writer, I felt compelled to tell as much of my father’s story as I could because I believe it holds important lessons. But I also wanted to tell my own story about growing up in the shadow of a great cataclysm with a father who would not talk about what he had experienced.
The book’s subtitle, Living With The Armenian Legacy of Loss and Silence, conveys my challenge in learning to appreciate a complex cultural inheritance that is rich and wondrous but also dark and painful to contemplate.
Most important, I wrote the book for my daughter and for her generation in hopes that they’ll figure out how to celebrate the best parts of that inheritance while finally vanquishing the pain.
Stories is my third book, and the first I’ve published independently. It’s available in print and as a Kindle e-book. You won’t find it at your local bookshop but they can order it for you—or you can order one yourself through Amazon or other online booksellers.
Or just click here.
Douglas Kalajian is a regular contributor for FLArmenians.com. Prior to his retirement he worked as an editor, reporter and feature writer for the Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald. He currently lives in Boynton Beach with his wife Robyn, and together they operate www.TheArmenianKitchen.com.
Mayor of Boca Raton Proclaims April 24, 2014 as Armenian Martyrs’ Day
BOCA RATON, FL – On Thursday, April 24, hundreds of members, friends, academics, clergy and human rights activists from the South Florida Armenian American community gathered at St. David Armenian Church to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Armenians around the world commemorate the genocide on April 24, when in 1915 Turkish authorities arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Thereafter, Armenians were uprooted from their homes and forced to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Over 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children perished in 1915-1923 in what historians recognize as the Armenian Genocide. While 23 countries have officially recognized the events of the period as genocide, Turkey denies the word genocide as an accurate description of the events. In recent years, it has faced repeated calls to accept the events as genocide, but has refused to do so.
Boca Raton City Councilman Mike Mullaugh attended the commemorative service and read a proclamation from Susan Haynie, Mayor of Boca Raton, which announced April 24th 2014 as Armenian Martyrs’ Day. The proclamation called upon the citizens of Boca Raton “to join all Armenians worldwide to observe the 99th commemoration of Martyrs’ Day in the hope that these days of infamy will never be forgotten.”
As the Armenian community commemorated 99 years of a genocide unrecognized by its perpetrators, the focus of the program echoed a growing shift. Instead of looking to the past, the evening highlighted the survival of the Armenian people and looked to the future, through artistic expression. Mr. Taniel Koushakjian, Communications Director of the Armenian Assembly of America, served as master of ceremonies and took the crowd through the evening’s events. The program included several artistic performances by local Armenians. Some read poetry, others played the piano or violin, while still others danced or performed vocally.
Fr. Galstyan of St. David Armenian Church and Fr. Joulfayan of St. Mary Armenian Church offered the memorial service for the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Fr. Saba of Saint George Cathedral, Rabbi Rosenkranz of Congregation B’nai Israel, Rev. Endruschat of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Fr. Leondis and Fr. Klund of St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church, Archpriest Gvosdev of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Fr. Marashlian and Fr. Jebejian were also in attendance.
This year’s commemoration followed on the heels of the April 12th Walk Against Genocide in Mizner Park, a walkathon organized to raise funds for genocide awareness, community outreach and advocacy for more comprehensive genocide education in Florida public schools.
David Silvers, Candidate for Florida House District 89, addressed the crowd of over 250 walkathon participants that day: “The actions of the Ottoman Empire perpetrated on the Armenian people was and is an affront to all of humanity. I strongly believe that politics shouldn’t get in the way of facts. It’s a fact 1.5 million Armenians died as a result of this genocide. It’s a fact that national, state, and local governments all over the world have recognized this genocide. It’s a fact that all of the lives lost mattered and refusing acknowledgment of this genocide is the type of political gamesmanship that’s beneath the American people.”
Both the April 12th Walk Against Genocide and April 24th commemorative service at St. David Armenian Church were organized by the Armenian Genocide Commemoration (AGC) Inc., a nonprofit organization comprised of representatives from various Armenian American organizations and churches in South Florida.
AGC Inc is dedicated to observing the Armenian Genocide, as well as bringing awareness to the public on all genocides. The committee was incorporated in February 2014 and is comprised of representatives from the following South Florida organizations: St. David Armenian Church, St. Mary Armenian Church, Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Relief Society, Florida Armenians, Homenetmen, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and Knights of Vartan.
Event to raise funds for genocide education in Florida
BOCA RATON, FL – An upcoming walkathon in Boca Raton will mark the 99th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, whereby 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated by the Ottoman Turkish Empire during World War I. Event proceeds will go towards genocide awareness, community outreach and advocacy for more comprehensive genocide education in Florida public schools.
The Walk Against Genocide, a two-mile walk which will take place Saturday, April 12 at Mizner Park, is organized by the Armenian Genocide Commemoration (AGC) Inc., a nonprofit organization comprised of representatives from various Armenian American organizations and churches in South Florida. The mission of the AGC is to educate the public about the first genocide of the 20th century — and that genocide continues to occur in modern times, all over the world. In the past few weeks, Armenians have watched history repeat itself as foreign Islamic extremists sacked the predominantly Christian Armenian town of Kessab, Syria, displacing thousands of peaceful Armenians.
Arsine Kaloustian-Rosenthal, AGC’s Public Relations Director, explained: “The Armenian American community usually finds itself commemorating the genocide within its own confines. However, with the 100th anniversary one year away, there seems to be a stirring in Armenian communities all over the world. By planning highly visible events such as this walkathon, we are throwing open the door to all who wish to learn more about us, our culture, and the genocide that took our ancestors from us. As the saying goes, ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ We must raise our voices together to condemn not only the Armenian Genocide but also the Holocaust, the Assyrian, Greek, Ukrainian, Cambodian, Rwandan and Darfur genocides, among others.”
Today, the Armenian Genocide remains the second-most studied genocide event, after the better-known Jewish Holocaust of World War II. In fact, when Adolf Hitler was asked how the world would respond to his “Final Solution” plan — the extermination of the Jewish people in Europe — he replied, without compunction: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, has yet to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, despite repeated calls from historians and world leaders. Over 20 countries and 40 U.S. States officially recognize the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkey, including the State of Florida.
David Silvers, Candidate for Florida House District 89, will be speaking at the event and has stated “It is important to acknowledge both the suffering and the resilience of our fellow world citizens. Recognition of Turkey’s atrocities toward the Armenian people in 1915 is a necessary step in that process. An injury to one is an injury to us all.”
A traditional Armenian performance by renowned musicians Joe Zeytoonian and Myriam Eli will take place following the walk, and food and refreshments will be provided. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., while the walk starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Mizner Park Amphitheater, located at 590 Plaza Real in Boca Raton.
Registration for the Walk Against Genocide is $19.15, including a T-shirt and a bottle of water. Children under eight years old may participate for free. To learn more, sponsor a walker, make a donation or sign up for the event, please visit http://www.walkagainstgenocide.com.
AGC Inc is non-profit organization whose purpose is to observe the Armenian Genocide, as well as bring awareness to the public on all genocides. The committee was incorporated in February 2014 and is comprised of representatives from the following South Florida organizations: St. David Armenian Church, St. Mary Armenian Church, Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Relief Society, Florida Armenians, Homenetmen, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and Knights of Vartan.