Miami Herald Publishes Op-Ed on the Passing of Harry Pilafian, South Florida’s Last Armenian Genocide Survivor
On Christmas Day, the Miami Herald published an op-ed by Harout Jack Samra, a Miami-based attorney of Armenian heritage. His article calls attention to the recent passing of Harry Pilafian (1921-2014), a grandfather, father, husband, veteran, and genocide survivor.
Below is an excerpt from Samra’s article and a link to the full story.
Annually, Armenians around the world gather on April 24 to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Survivors of this national calamity stand at the front of each assembly as symbols of a people’s capacity to survive.
With each passing year in South Florida, with the commemoration reaching its centennial, survivors have grown fewer. Two weeks before Christmas, South Florida’s last known Armenian genocide survivor died.
Harry Pilafian was born in Tekirdag, in Thrace, during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. His mother and father had fled their home to Damascus in 1918. Their first son, James, was born in that ancient city.
During a period of calm, the family, like so many others, tried to return home. This is when Pilafian was born.
You can read the article in full by clicking here.
HOLLYWOOD, FL —On Wednesday April 24, several hundred members of the South Florida Armenian American Community gathered at St Mary Armenian Church to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, reported Florida Armenians (FLArmenians).
The evening began with a hokehankist (memorial service), which was offered for the victims of the Armenian Genocide by the V. Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian of St. David Armenian Church and Rev. Fr. Vartan Joulfayan of St. Mary Armenian Church.
After the service, a cross-cultural, multimedia program began delving into the history surrounding the Armenian genocide, as well as the emotions that are shared not only by the survivors and descendants of survivors, but also the survivors of many of the numerous other genocides of the 20th century.
Armenians worldwide commemorate the genocide on April 24 of each year, the day when, in 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Soon after, the Ottoman military ripped Armenians from their homes and began a systematic extermination of Armenians which was implemented in two phases: the killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. The total number of Christian Armenians who perished as a result between 1915 and 1923 has been estimated at around 1.5 million. The Turkish government has yet to formally acknowledge that the genocide even occurred.
Mr. Raffy Yaghdjian, member of the St Mary Armenian Church parish council, served as master of ceremonies. In Yaghdjian’s opening words he stated, “We are gathered here today to remind ourselves that the struggle is not over. The world did not learn. There were many more genocides following ours. The Assyrians, the Greeks, the Jews, the Cambodians, Rwandans, and those in Darfur. So we continue with the struggle. We must continue to educate. We must continue to publicize. We must continue to publish books and write papers. We must continue to make the effort. We must continue to be creative in how we do it. After all, and I quote, ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”
As the program continued, Mr. Harry Pilafian, a survivor of the genocide who was in attendance, was recognized with standing applause. Lilit Mnatsakanyan and Tanya Lusararian read papers they had composed regarding their perspectives on the genocide, and Roubina Majarian of St David Armenian Church presented Armenian poetry. Guest speaker Professor Hannibal Travis of the Florida International University (FIU) College of Law addressed the audience about his ongoing study of the Armenian Genocide, particularly how it has been addressed by the United States. Professor Travis is the author of the first comprehensive history of physical and cultural genocide in the Middle East and North Africa, entitled Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan. A short screening from the documentary “Orphans of the Genocide” was also presented by south Florida film producer Bared Maronian. A musical interlude followed, with Alique Mazmanian performing “Karouna” by Komitas on piano, Mrs. Audrey Pilafian performing “Manoushak” and “Yeraz” on cello, Joseph Yenikomshian playing “Lord have mercy” on clarinet, and Sage McBride performing “Krounk” by Komitas, on violin.
Before the conclusion of the program, Mr. Yaghdjian unexpectedly once more approached the podium to excitedly say, “I was just given a note that the Florida State Senate just passed a resolution recognizing April 24 as Armenian Martyrs Remembrance Day for the first time in Florida history,” to a round of thunderous applause.
Fr. Joulfayan offered in closing, “Many thanks to you, dear South Floridians, families, youth, and children. But, in a way, I should not be thanking you. We do not thank each other on this day. Today, we simply come to remember and never forget.”
The South Florida Armenian Genocide Commemoration was held under the auspices of St. David Armenian Church of Boca Raton, St. Mary Armenian Church of Hollywood and Florida Armenians, together with the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee, and the Knights of Vartan.
Photo Caption 1: St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Hollywood, Florida.
Photo Caption 2: Florida Armenians joined by human rights and anti-genocide activists to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and all genocides of the 20th Century.
Photo Caption 3: FIU Professor Hannibal Travis presents his studies on the Armenian Genocide.
Photo Caption 4: Armenian Genocide survivor Harry Pilafian recognized by South Florida Armenian American community.
Photos courtesy of Michele Kevorkian McBride for FLArmenians.com.