By Aram Arkun
WATERTOWN – The Society of Istanbul Armenians of Boston held a Mother’s Day dinner celebration on May 14 at the Armenian General Benevolent Union center in Watertown honoring Vosgi Dagdelen of New York as “mother of the year.” Dagdelen, a teacher and administrator both in Istanbul and later New York, came with her family to Boston for the occasion. Dr. Aida Minasyan Yavshayan served as the master of ceremonies. She is both an advisor to the board of the Society and co-chair of the evening’s event. Arto Kurkjian, vice president of the Society, served as the other co-chair. Approximately 60 people were in attendance from Boston, New York and other areas.
Dagdelen was born in Sepasdia as Vosgi Marzvanian but moved with her parents to Istanbul as a four year old. She graduated Esayan School in 1939 and Getronagan High School in 1942. She began teaching at the Esayan School while studying French at Istanbul University for two years.
She taught 35 years at Esayan and also became its general office administrator, with financial and educational responsibilities. In 1955 she married Dr. Vahrij Dagdelen and had a daughter, Aghavni-Rita. She became a member of the executive of the Teachers Association of Istanbul and of the Esayan and Getronagan Alumni Associations there.
Dagdelen retired in January 1979 and moved to New York, where she taught the seventh-grade class for ten more years at the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School in Bayside. During this period of time she visited Yerevan in order to follow a course for diasporan Armenian teachers organized by Soviet Armenia’s Committee for Relations with the Diaspora.
She wrote articles for the Istanbul daily newspaper Marmara, which were republished in Egypt in the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party newspaper Arev. She edited the 30th and 40th anniversary commemorative books of the Esayan-Getronagan Alumni Association of New York, and was a member of the executive of this organization.
Dagdelen published an Armenian-language book in 2012 entitled Yerazankee baher geanki darineres [Moments of Reveries from the Years of My Life], copies of which Dagdelen signed for guests at the event.
The elegantly attired Dagdelen later addressed the crowd without a microphone in a clear and powerful voice, testimony no doubt to her years spent as a teacher. Prior to her formal speech, Dagdelen spoke of two episodes from her life which gave her great happiness. Her mother wanted her to become a seamstress/tailor but her father encouraged her to continue her education and gave her a paper with registration for the Getronagan School. She cried tears of happiness. Years later her husband gave her roundtrip tickets to go to Boston from Istanbul to spend a month with her daughter, who was at the time a student in that city. At the end of her trip, she met with Prelate Mesrob Ashjian who invited her to come to the US as a teacher. This changed her life.
Dagdelen spoke about the ideal of the Armenian mother as the embodiment of love and sacrifice, and praised her unending labors. She is the first teacher of every child, and the chief defender and nurturer of the child. Every year mother’s day is celebrated with special dinners for the mothers who are with us, while we visit the graves of those mothers who have departed this world.
Even nature is called Mother Nature, as it has great love like a mother toward mankind. Life is full of such unimaginable pain, that the moments of joy are short and often cast in shadow. The mother always attempts to make those moments last longer.
Dagdelen quoted a poem of Zabel Asadur (Sibil) on the nature of the mother, and gave several stories of sacrifice by mothers, including one she herself witnessed in Armenian school.
Several videos were screened, including one by Istanbul-Armenian singer Sibil Pektorosoglu dedicated to Mother’s Day, and another of a youth from New Jersey reciting Baroyr Sevag’s poem “Mor tzerkere.”
On a different occasion several years ago, Archbishop Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) had declared, “Vosgi Dagdelen, with her love of the Armenian heritage and language, is an inspiration to all of us,” and the event of the Society of Istanbul Armenians demonstrated this to be true.