By Hagop Vartivarian
NEW YORK – Hranoush Hakobyan, Armenia’s minister of the diaspora, after participating as part of President Serge Sargisian’s visit to Boston, visited New York for two days to meet with leaders of Armenian-American organizations such as the Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration Committee of America Eastern Region, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), and the Cilician Prelacy. In addition, she accepted an invitation to a reception in her honor organized by the members of the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA).
On the evening of March 31, the Armenian Mission to the United Nations (UN) held a reception in honor of Hakobyan. Invitations to the event were sent to members of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration Committee of America Eastern Region.
Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan introduced Hakobyan. Thanks to his position, Mnatsakanyan has been able to closely follow Armenian events in Washington and New York. He praised the efforts of all those present in the Armenian Genocide centennial commemorations.
Hakobyan gave a brief report on all the important commemorative events which have taken place throughout the world, focusing in particular on the visit to Tsitsernakaberd on April 24 in Yerevan. The presence of two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council turned the latter into an event of a political nature. He also spoke about the speech of the German president, the declaration of the Pope in Rome, and the ceremony of remembrance in the Vatican, and the significance of the canonization of the Armenian martyrs as saints in Echmiadzin for the Church of Armenia. He emphasized that when in every geographic location with a large Armenian community the populace assembled to organize large demonstrations and it made its voice of protest and demand heard in non-Armenian forums, this was a beautiful example of unity.
He then related some important and practical steps which could help Armenia, such as once every four years organizing a family vacation trip to Armenia, opening a bank account at a high interest rate in Armenia, and considering the purchase of a second home in the homeland.
Hakobyan gave letters of thanks to each person present in acknowledgment of their conscientious and productive efforts towards strengthening Armenian-diasporan cooperation, and working for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Khoren Bandazian, chairman of the Centennial Commemoration Committee, expressed thanks in the name of all the committee members to the minister. Afterwards, those present had an opportunity to individually speak with the minister.
On April 1, at 9 p.m., Hakobyan arrived together with Mnatsakanyan, and his wife, at the Tekeyan Center of New Jersey. Aside from TCA leaders, philanthropists Nazar and Artemis Nazarian and Carmen Gulbenkian, and representatives of organizations sympathetic to Tekeyan’s mission, including the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Knights of Vartan, the Armenian International Women’s Association, the Essayan-Getronagan Alumni Association, the Pan-Armenian Fund of Armenia, the Fund for Armenian Relief, as well as the treasurer of the Armenian Relief Society of the Eastern USA, the principal of Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School of New York, and notable artists Shahan Arzruni, Nora Armani and Gerald Papasian of Paris, were present.
Hilda Hartounian, newly elected chair of the TCA chapter of Greater New York, welcomed the guests and invited Hagop Vartivarian, member of the Central Board of TCA, to introduce the minister and act as master of ceremonies.
Vartivarian, who has been friends with the minister for decades, declared, “Of the Armenian officials of state, Hranoush Hakobyan is the one who is most familiar with Tekeyan. She has had close relations with the founders of TCA for about forty years, and was well aware of TCA’s patriotic efforts dedicated to the [Armenian] nation even during Soviet times. She has believed in its mission, especially its work of strengthening ties between the homeland and the diaspora, the advancement of Armenian culture, and the hallowed work of keeping patriotic feelings alive.” He continued, saying, “If more favorable political conditions would have been created for our organization through the birth of the third Republic of Armenia, without a doubt Mrs. Hakobyan would have not only been appointed a member of the Central Board of Tekeyan, but as its chair.” Vartivarian in the name of the TCA wished that close collaboration would continue with the minister.
The minister responded by first giving thanks for the warm reception, and stating that she felt quite at home there. She praised the work of TCA and urged that it continue, especially for the preservation of Armenian identity, for which the Armenian language forms the fundament. Our language is the first and foremost guarantee for the creation of Armenians. She pointed out that the visit of the TCA Meher Megerdchian Theatrical Group to Armenia in April to perform was evidence of strengthening ties. She then praised the princely philanthropy of the Nazarians for the prosperity of the diaspora, homeland and the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin.
Seta Jebejian, one of the founders of the theater group, recited two poems, the second of which was penned by the immortal Vahan Tekeyan. Minister Hakobyan took advantage of the occasion to bestow a gold medal and certificate from the Diaspora Ministry to Vartan Garniki Oganesian, one of the directors of the Tekeyan group, for his work in the field of Armenian drama. Meanwhile, two other founding members of the group, Harout Chatmajian and Missak Boghosian, presented the minister with a souvenir album of the most recent presentation of the group, Berj Zeytountsian’s play “All Rise, Court Is in Session!”
Mnatsakanyan spoke to the group. He said, “Only a few days after my arrival in New York with my present diplomatic position, I was the guest of the TCA executive, which came to welcome me. I have been a participant and believer in the activities of Tekeyan throughout the period of my official positions in London and Geneva. I know the leaders, who are dedicated patriots.” He wished ever more and greater accomplishments for the association in forthcoming years.
Vartivarian then introduced Hartounian, the new chair of the Greater NY chapter of TCA. She is both by birth and family a true Tekeyan follower, and expressed his happiness to see her take over the position of chair in his place after a decade of service.
After the official program, the guests were able to freely speak with the visiting representatives of the Republic of Armenia about Armenian national, cultural and educational matters in a comfortable and warm atmosphere until the late hours of the evening.
(Translated from the Armenian)