An International Conference `Honoring Those Who Helped Rescue a
Generation of Survivors'
Friday, April 25th, 2014

Unveiling of Hadjin Orphan Dress by Kevin Blowers, curator of Bethel
College Library in Mihawaka, Indiana.


MISSION HILLS, Calif.'On March 22, at the Ararat Home of Los Angeles
in Mission Hills, where our surviving elders still reside, the
Ararat-Eskijian Museum hosted an all-day International Conference,
`Honoring Those Who Helped Rescue a Generation of Armenian Survivors
1915 -1930'. The event was well attended by the community. Dr. Carla
Garapedian, director of `Screamers,' was mistress of ceremonies for
the day. The conference opened with pre-recorded speeches addressed to
the Armenian community by United States Representatives Adam Schiff
and Mike Gato Assembly member 43rd district.

The purpose of the conference was to pay tribute to all those
countries, individuals, and organizations that had sacrificed so much
to aid a perishing nation. Diplomatic representatives were invited
from twenty countries, including New Zealand, China, Japan,
Philippine, South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Britain,
Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Czech Republic, Germany, Royal Danish
consulate, Canada, and South Africa, with three diplomatic deputies
attending, importantly those of Greece, Norway and Australia.

Martin Eskijian, representing the Eskijian family, whose father,
Luther Eskijian founded the Museum, spoke about his father and the
legacy of his grandparents. Rev. Hovhannes Eskijian and his wife,
Gulenia, who labored to save Armenians during 1915 and 1916 in the
city of Aleppo. Rev. Eskijian perished at the age of 34 of typhus a
day before he was to be hanged publicly for saving the lives of
thousands of orphans from death.

Leading scholars from around the world discussed the manner in which
the international community, including the American Red Cross,
American Near East Relief, and the League of Nations, participated in
making the first major humanitarian effort of the twentieth century.

Missak Kelleshian described the Near East Relief (NER) humanitarian
organization, in which the `world united in selfless service to
humanity.' Through trauma relief, education, empowerment,
self-reliance, parenthood by proxy, education, and nutrition, the NER
assisted an entire generation of Armenian orphans to maintain their
heritage and reintegrate into society. `Quite literally,' Kelleshian
emphasized `Near East Relief kept and entire nation alive'.

Shant Mardirossian has been a member of the Board of Directors of the
Near East Foundation since 2002 and its Chair since 2007, in turn,
discussed the continuation of the Near East Relief's work in many
areas in the Middle East and Armenia today. `Ninety-nine years later
the NER is still prominent throughout the world.' The Near East Relief
has kept alive its principle of honoring the past and continuing our
national legacy with many humanitarian projects. Prof. Vahram
Shemmassian (director of the Armenian Studies Program at California
State University, Northridge) described the work of the American Red
Cross in rescuing and rehabilitating survivors in the Arab Near East,
in nations such as Syria and Lebanon, and author Dr. Rubina Peroomian
spoke of the various missionaries that served in the Armenian
provinces in the Ottoman Empire and became witnesses to the mass
atrocities against the Christian Armenian population. Missionaries
from Sweden, Germany, United States, and other nations sent letters,
telegrams and other communications to their governments warning of the
humanitarian crisis in the Ottoman Empire, and were also instrumental
in saving thousands of Armenian children from a tragic fate.

Robert Fisk receiving the 'Franz Werfel' medal from Genocide Museum
Institute director Hayk Demoyan

Guests of the conference were moved with emotion at the `Orphan dress
from Hadjin,' a patchwork of a deported child's sole garment, and an
unfinished rug created by the orphans, which Mennonite Missionary
Sister Dorinda Bowman brought with her on her return to the United
States from Turkey in 1914. The items are on loan from Bethel College
in Indiana to the Ararat-Eskijian Museum for two years. Also on loan
for the day of the conference from a San Francisco patron was a
jewelry box made by the orphans of Sivas.

Dr. Hayk Demoyan, the director of the Armenian Genocide
Museum-Institute in Yerevan, spoke about Aurora Mardiganian'`Why was
America's Heroine was Condemned to Oblivion?' Demoyan presented newly
revealed and unknown materials related to Aurora Mardiganian and movie
Ravished Armenia'. Aurora was a girl from Chmshkatsag in the Ottoman
province of Kharpert (Harput/Mamuret ul-Aziz), the daughter of a
wealthy family who was kidnapped during a death march and sold into
the slave markets of Turkey. She eventually escaped, and with the help
of the Near East Relief made it safely to New York. Aurora authored
Ravished Armenia, the story of her survival, which led to the creation
of the silent film, Auction of Souls. This was the first movie about
the Armenian Genocide. Aurora played the leading role herself.

Bared Maronian, the award winning director of the documentary of
`Orphans of the Genocide' screened a brief portion of his documentary.
He showed an emotional visual journey through never-before-seen
archival footage and recently-discovered memoirs of orphans who lived
through the last century's first, fully documented, and least
recognized genocide.

Dr. Vatche Mankerian gave a powerful performance on the piano of the
works of Father Gomidas. Before his performance he gave tribute to his
family members, the Mankerians from Hadjin. Over three hundred family
members perished and only handful survivors.

Finally, Dr. Robert Fisk, a British writer and Middle East
correspondent for the UK newspaper, The Independent, flew in from
Damascus to participate in the conference. A century ago, Ottoman
Armenians were marched to their deaths in the Syrian Desert. Now, with
the recurring accounts of massacres in the Syrian conflict, including
the killings of Armenians on Syrian soil, Dr. Fisk explored the
comparisons between the 1915 Genocide and the current Syrian

Former Governor of California George Deukmejian presented the
participants and European and Australian diplomats that were present
with awards replica of ` Mother Armenia' for their unprecedented
humanitarian assistance to the Armenian Orphans from 1915-1930. Dr.
Fisk also received several resolutions, and a gold medal of `Franz
Werfel' from Dr. Demoyan, the director of the Genocide Museum in
Armenia, for Dr. Fisk's selfless contributions to the Armenian cause,
as Franz Werfel did with his pen when he wrote `The Forty Days of Musa

From: A. Papazian