On 26 June 2015 the Executive Committee of the AGBU London Chapter organised an evening,“Living Memory” at the Chelsea Old Town Hall dedicated to the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide and the rebirth of the Armenian nation.
The first part of the event (4-7 P.M.) was an impressive exhibition, “The memory is still alive”, dedicated to the works of the young painter Nairi Afrikian. The visitors watched the exhibits of this very talented artist with great interest and admiration. Some of the works were a combination of painting and sculpture, manifesting a style which uniquely belongs to Nairi Afrikian. It should be noted that the exhibition was dedicated to the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide.
The second part of the evening was opened by Assadour Guzelian, who welcomed the honorary guests attending the function, such as Baroness Caroline Cox, Ex-Mayor of Chelsea Councillor Condon Semmondz, Honorary Alderman Mushtaq Lasharie and Counsellor of the Armenian Embassy Tigran Galstyan, as well as the audience. After making a short reference to the Armenian Genocide, Guzelian read the following passage from Winston Churchill’s book, “The Aftermath” regarding the extermination of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish Government during WWI. “There is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself to clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.” Guzelian then read the letter he received from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in response to his Open Letter written in February to P. M. Cameron, President Obama and President Netanyahu about recognising the Armenian Genocide. The letter confirmed that the British Government had not altered its position. Guzelian pointed out that “powerful governments like USA and Great Britain can bury JUSTICE,but they should always remember that TRUTH has never had a grave in history. One cannot bury the truth.”
The founder-director of the Komitas Institute Ara Sarafian, a historian specialising in late Ottoman and modern Armenian history, delivered an impressive lecture entitled “Let us remember the Armenians living in Turkey today”. He referred to his meetings with the Turkish and Kurdish intellectuals, representatives of various organisations, public figures, ordinary citizens and peasants in different provinces of Turkey, illustrating his talk with maps and pictures. In his very interesting lecture Sarafian pointed out that compared to the undemocratic and dictatorial regime of two decades ago, the situation has improved considerably in present day Turkey. Many issues, which were considered taboo and could not be publically referred to then, including the Armenian Genocide, can now be openly discussed, and as a result many hidden Islamised Armenians are returning to their roots. Sarafian emphasised that for the pursuit and peaceful solution of the Armenian question, we must ensure the cooperation of Turkish and Kurdish intellectuals, public figures and organisations. A reputed specialist in his subject, Ara Sarafian’s lecture had a great impact on the audience.
One of the greatest friends of Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian people, Baroness Caroline Cox delivered an excellent speech full of emotion, entitled “The spirit of Armenia: Beauty from the ashes of destruction”.After a short reference to the Armenian Genocide centennial commemoration event on April 24 at the Tsitsernagapert in Armenia, Baroness Cox spoke about the atrocities perpetrated by Azerbaijan on Armenians of Artsakh during the war. She condemned barbaric crimes committed by Azerbaijan and praised the Armenians of Artsakh for their Christian spirit and patriotism. She narrated many moving stories related to her 82 humanitarian visits to Armenia and Artsakh. According to Baroness Cox, during the Azerbaijan-Artsakh war, the Azeris launched 400 Grad rockets every day on Stepanagerd. Hundreds of missiles and rockets were launched, amongst other sites on historic Gantsassar Church. Only one bomb fell on the church, but did not explode! Baroness Cox attributed this to Divine intervention. She spoke from her heart and that is why her moving stories made some members of the audience cry! Baroness Cox ended her speech by reading the English translation of a poem written by Gegham, a ten year old Armenian boy from Artsakh. Please find below the poem, together with Gegham’s photo.
I climbed barefoot the mountains
To pay my last visit with yearning.
The mountain looked at me and became dark,
‘What are you doing, black-eyed child?’ he asked.
I knelt down at the bank of the river Tartar
To pay my last visit.
The river suddenly became rough,
‘What are you doing, black-eyed child?’
I went out to the beautiful bushland
For the last time to pick some flowers,
‘Shame on you’, the bushes told me again;
Then I looked at the beautiful sun,
With tears in my eyes….
How can I leave all this, I wept,
How can I leave Artsakh?
You as a mother love me and embrace me’!
And I laid down on the ground,
Hugged the holy land
And shouted loud, so that the earth would hear me,
‘No, no, in our life we will never leave Artsakh,
We will never search for a haven in other lands,
Let Artsakh be our grave.
I was born in these mountains
And I will become soil in Martaghis [his village]
I will be soil, I will be a rock,
As long as my village is alive,
I will mix with the soil of my land,
And silently listen to the voice of the river Tartar.
“This Photo of Gegham was taken when he was returning to his village after it had been liberated from Azeri occupation (? 1993). I subsequently met the adult Gegham, who had returned to the village as a teacher! What commitment, what an inspiration!”
After enjoying the reception given by the A.G.B.U. Executive Committee, the artistic programme of the event commenced at 8.45 with the participation of a group of Armenian talented performers.
To the background of Dele Yaman music (Jean-Claude Petit- “Mayrig”), the beautifulBaghdjian sisters, Maraland Tamar, carrying candles as a symbol of light and life, opened the artistic programme with a ceremonial dance in traditional Armenian costumes. Later in the programme the audience watched with admiration as Maral and Tamar performed again with effortless and graceful movements the dance called “Hayouhiner” (the Armenian Maidens) to the music of Khachatur Avetissian,
Jenia Nersissian, a well-known actress from Soundukian Theatre, Yerevan, recited Paruyr Sevak’s “Ghoghanch Yeghernakan (Bells of Calamity) and Sylva Kaputikian’s “Kele Lao” (Get up boy!) with inspiration and emotion.
Artur Bobikian, a talented pianist-composer, interpreted Arno Babajanian’s “Elegy” and Yeranian’s “Kilikia” with controlled emotion and perfect technique.
Bobikian’s composition, “Jerusalem” was sung by the gifted mezzo-soprano Anais Heghoyan, accompanied at the piano by the composer himself. Heghoyan processes a rich, warm and colourful voice, which she uses to perfection. Anais masterfully sang also Ganachian’s “Oror” (The Lullaby) accompanied at the piano by Kristine Arakelian.
Tereza Gevorgian has a rich, powerful, yet refined soprano voice. She beautifully interpreted “Garun a” (It is spring) and “Tsirani Tsar” (Apricot Tree) by Komitas. Anais and Tereza also sang a duet “The flower”, composed by Kristine Arakelian (words Gevorg Emin), accompanied at the piano by the composer herself.
Actress Seta White recited the English translation of the poems “The Dance” (Siamanto) and “We are few but we are called Armenians” (Paruyr Sevak). She succeeded in conveying the spirit of the poems in perfect English and with artistic rendition.
It should be mentioned that each and every performance was received by the audience with prolonged applauses and exclamations of appreciation.
The evening was concluded by the artistic director of the programme Shake Major-Chilingirian, a talented dancer and choreographer, who invited the audience to the “Circle of Life” ceremonial dance symbolising unity and everlasting life.
I would like to take this opportunity in congratulating members of the A.G.B.U. Executive Committee, as well as all those who participated in producing such a rich, varied and praiseworthy programme befitting the occasion.