The first English Language Armenian Weekly In The United States
Acting Editor Barbara J. Merguerian Assistant Editors Alin K.Gregorian Suzanne E. Moranian
755 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02472-1509 Tel:(617) 924-4420 Fax:(617) 924-3860 E-MAIL: ArmenMirr@aol.com
1) SEARCHING FOR A LOST UNCLE and A FORGOTTEN CHAPTER
IN ARMENIAN AMERIICAN
2) HISTORICAL ARMENIAN ATLAS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
3) FATHER DAJAD DAVIDIAN OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT.
4) TCA DICKRANIAN STUDENTS GIVE GROUP PIANO RECITAL
1) Searching for a Lost Uncle and a Forgotten Chapter in Armenian American
By Barbara J. Merguerian
WATERTOWN, Mass. - It happened over 60 years ago, but Raymond Balley can still
remember clearly the day in 1937 when his much admired uncle left the United
States on a transoceanic liner as one of the Armenian-American volunteers in
the Spanish Civil War.
Balley never saw his uncle again. A few months later, the family learned from
a returning soldier that his uncle had been killed shortly after his arrival
in Spain. But there was never an official notification, nor was his uncle's
passport ever returned.
Now retired, Balley lives in Waltham and has embarked on a mission to learn
more about the circumstances of his uncle's final days, in a quest that has
taken him to the offices of several Armenian-American organizations, as well
as to the Spanish Civil War archives at Brandeis University, without achieving
tangible results so far.
"It's a mystery that has bothered me all these years," Balley explained
recently, on a visit to the M-S office looking for information. "My uncle was
a wonderful person, and if I ever find out how he died or where he is buried,
I'll go right over to visit his grave."
In the wake of its recent 60th anniversary, a great deal has been written
about the Spanish Civil War, which pitted the well-equipped and professionally
trained nationalist forces supplied by the Nazi regimes of Hitler and
Mussolini against the poorly armed volunteer troops of the Republicans,
supported by the Soviet Union and international communism.
A little remembered fact of Armenian-American history is the effort made in
the 1930s to recruit volunteers from the community to fight for the Republican
cause -an effort which led to the enlistment of several young men, many of
whom became victims in the fighting.
For Balley's uncle, Hovhannes (John) Dikijian, it was the final chapter in the
momentous life of an Armenian man whose experiences mirrored the 20th century
fate of the Armenian people.
Dikijian was born in Dikranagerd (Diarbekir), in present-day eastern Turkey,
in 1886. His father passed away when he was only 6, leaving him in the care of
an uncle. Enrolled in the local school, he left at an early age to apprentice
with a local goldsmith. At the same time he became a member of the local
chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, participating in such
activities as distributing revolutionary literature. Later, under the
constitutional government in Turkey, he became active in national affairs.
That was only the beginning. Managing to escape the Genocide, Dikijian fought
in the Caucasus and later in Cilicia with the French Foreign Legion during
World War I. After the war he immigrated to the United States and found a job
in a laundry business in Philadelphia and later in New York.
In 1926, as a member of one of the first diasporan delegations, Dikijian went
to Soviet Armenia, taking with him some laundry equipment in the hope of
establishing a laundry business in Nor Dikranagerd, a suburb of Yerevan. But
he was not allowed to remain in the country and had to return to the United
"We used to live in Astoria, New York," Balley recalled. "My uncle used to
stay with us and tell us stories about his experiences in the French Foreign
Legion." After his return from Armenia, Dikijian went into the jewelry
business, probably drawing on his early experience with the goldsmith in
Dikranagerd. No one ever knew what became of the laundry equipment taken to
Ever restless and eager to find a way to pursue his ideals, Dikijian
volunteered to fight in Spain. He sailed with the other Armenian-American
recruits on the Ile de France. "We went to see him off," Balley recalled, "and
we never saw or heard from him again."
Balley himself served as a US Marine in World War II, and then married and
started a family, living first in New Jersey and then in the greater Boston
area. He operated a photo-engraving business for many years, and is now
retired, with more time to pursue his interest in learning more about his
At the Brandeis University archives, he went through the list of volunteers in
the Spanish Civil War and spotted about a dozen Armenian names, including his
uncle's. His sister found in the attic a copy of the compatriotic paper Nor
Dikranagerd which includes an article about his uncle and refers to his
uncle's diary. The copy is obviously only one of a series about his uncle, but
try as he might Balley has been unable to find other issues of the periodical.
Nor has he been able to find any records of the Dickranagerd compatriotic
organization in this country.
Balley did receive useful information from Florence Chakerian of Albuquerque,
New Mexico, who has access to information in the papers of her late husband
Jerry, an Armenian-American journalist at the time of the Spanish Civil War.
This information indicates that Dikijian died soon after his arrival in Spain,
at the battle of Jarama, on February 27, 1937. He was wounded on the
battlefield and died soon after in a nearby hospital.
Dikijian was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as were most of the US
fighters on the Nationalist side. Like most of the international volunteers
(who numbered about 40,000 in all), they were ill equipped for the demands of
the battle. The idealism of the Republican cause has been captured by a number
of famous writers, most notably Ernest Hemingway in his 1940 novel (later made
into a movie) For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Today the battle has been forgotten, and the idealism of the Spanish Civil War
is difficult to understand.
"What business did a 50-year-old man have in going overseas to fight and risk
his life?" Balley wonders. With the spread of world communism after World War
II, the Cold War, and the McCarthy era in this country, the struggle against
Nazism in the 1930s was viewed as somehow subversive, and no one wanted to
talk about participating in the Spanish Civil War. But, as Balley points
out,"If they had stopped the Nazis then, we might have avoided World War II."
But all that is history now, and Balley is interested in knowing more about
his uncle's life. Surely somewhere out there can be found copies of the Nor
Dikranagerd paper, and surely in the archives of Armenian organizations can be
found information about the Armenian-American participation in the Spanish
Civil War. Ray Balley would be most grateful to anyone who could provide him
with information that would help him solve the mystery of the life and last
days of his uncle.
2) Historical Armenian Atlas Translated into English
By Alin K. Gregorian
LAKEWOOD, NJ - The author of a historic Armenian atlas has finally translated
the work into English and is keenly seeking a publisher.
Dr. Sergei Allakhverdov has been working on the two-volume atlas for several
years. Each volume has 90 hand-drawn maps. All the translation work is
finished and now Allakhverdov is in the final stages of translating the index
He has also received glowing reviews from Armenian studies professors, who
extol the virtues of his book.
"The atlas consists of 90 detailed and informative maps covering the whole of
Armenian history from the earliest times to the present day. It is especially
useful for military campaigns, battles and for both major and minor transfers
of territory. An ambitious and serious conception, it demonstrates that the
author is thoroughly versed in Armenian history and historical geography, and
it is obvious that he has put an enormous amount of time, energy and
scholarship bringing it to its present state. Although the atlas has no text,
each map is accompanied by an elaborate legend that makes it easy to
understand," writes Dr. Robert H. Hewson, professor of history at Rowan
University in New Jersey.
Another fan of the work is Dr. James Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian
Studies at Harvard. "I have examined the Historical Atlas of Armenia prepared
by Dr. Sergei Allakhverdov... This is a valuable work, the fruit of immense
labor and wide learning; and I have no doubt it will be extremely useful to
students of Armenian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern and Russian history, at both
high school and college levels. The particular strengths of the atlas, in my
view, are in the treatment of the period since the end of Armenian
sovereignty, in 1375, down to the present day. The maps that portray the
changing boundaries of the Armenian clan-territories, the nakharardoms, are
also very interesting indeed," he said.
High praise has also come from Nina Garsoian, professor emerita of Armenian
Studies at Columbia University. "This is monumental work and clearly the
product of long and intensive study. The rendition of the territories of the
numerous medieval principalities and of the various military expeditions is
far more detailed than any in existence to my knowledge. As such, it should
certainly prove a useful tool for anyone interested in the area."
Allakhverdov said that he was pleased that the translation is finally
complete. "It was very hard for me," he said. "I don't know any publishers.
This is a very good business for the publisher too." Allakhverdov said that he
also needs help from a cartographer to put his maps on a computer. He said,
however, he would prefer to do it after getting a publisher, as the cost of
cartography is high. Allakhverdov estimated that his 180 maps would cost about
$25,000 to $30,000.
"If I find a publisher, he can have people do that," he said.
Allakhverdov's maps are not only those of Armenia's and the regions'
geographical delineations; they also include maps on the evolution of
Armenia's aristocratic families, maps detailing Armenia's ethno-religious
history and a map detailing the spreading of the Armenian population in
Transcaucasia at the end of the 19th century.
Allakhverdov also has maps on the major ruling dynasties of Armenia. He has
produced 10 maps in the second volume of Cilician Armenia, five maps of
Bagratuni Armenia and seven maps of the Arshakuni era.
Allakhverdov's family has wound its way around Transcaucasia and Europe. His
grandfather moved from Iran to Russia, then Karabagh and finally settled in
Baku when he was 18 or 19. Eventually Sergei Allakhverdov and his wife moved
to the Ukraine because his wife is Ukrainian. After the Ukraine, the family
moved to the United States to be with Allakhverdov's parents, who had earlier
settled in New Jersey.
3) Father Dajad Davidian Officially Announces His Retirement
WATERTOWN, Mass. - Father Dajad Davidian, for the past 30 years pastor of St.
James Armenian Church, officially announced last Sunday that he will retire at
the end of September.
Making what he described as his final report as parish priest to the annual
parish assembly, Father Dajad announced that Father Arakel Aljalian, the
rector of St. Nersess Theological Seminary, will take his place.
Although for a long time he has made it clear that he would retire this year,
the finality of the announcement left parishionners, most of whom have known
no other pastor at the church, stunned.
"I have been asked frequently as of late why I have made this decision,"
Father Dajad said. "While still of sound mind and body, the aging process is
inevitable," he contined as he went on explain that "this parish needs a
younger priest with new ideas, new vitality to maintain its life and work."
Father Dajad added that it was his wish, a few months after his retirement, to
serve in the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, both in a teaching and
"Armenian Jerusalem is the pride of our church, its bridge to world
Chrstendom," he said. However the Armenian Patriarch, Archbishop Torkom
Manoogian, "lacks sufficient manpower to advance all of his plans, and needs
more people to promote his agenda."
Father Dajad indicated that he would also like to spend an extended period of
time in Armenia.
"Independence, so long and avidly sought after, has come accompanied with all
the aults of Western civilization," he observewd. "In Armenia today there is
both oplent consumerism as well as despairing poverty.'"
Father Dajad indicated, however, that he will have a perment residence in the
Boston area. "This is my church, I remain a parishioner of St. James, no
longer as pastor but as a dues-paying member," he said. "You will probably see
me more often than you may anticipate or wish."
In reviewing his 30-year tenure as pastor of the church, Father Dajad, who was
born in Worcester and studied for the priesthood in Antelias, Lebanon, noted
with pride that over this period St. James has become the largest and most
active parish in the diocese.
In 1964-68 there were an annual average of 90 pastoral ministrations
(christenings, weddings, funerals), while in 1994-1998 that number had
increased to 150, a 52 percent growth (this while many other parishes have
declined for various reasons.
The demographics of the parishhave changed drastically also, the pastor
"When I came here, our community was basically centered in Watertown, Belmont,
Arlington and adjacent communities," he noted. "We were composed for the most
part of Armenian-Americans," either aging immigrants who had come to America
40 to 50 years before and their offspring."
In contrast, today, St. James parishioners have moved in many directions.
Singificant numbers live on the outskirts. An influx of new immigrants has
arrived from the Near East, Armenia, Turkey, Baku and other countries.
"St James is no longer a homogeneous community," he said. "We are a melange of
people from differing cultures, who come to us with their problems and
difficulties. This has happenedein other parishes and has created conflict
btween those different groups. We can take pride that such conflict has been
kept at a minimum here at St. James."
Father Dajad will officially resign on September 21, 1999,. exactly 30 years
years after he celebrated his first Divine Liturgy as pastor here, in
September 21, 1969.
Many years ago, Father Dajad recalled, when he indicated his desire to become
a priest, he was asked if he thought he could change the 'orld.
"My answer, then as well as now, is, "Maybe, but if I do not try, who will?'"
4) TCA Dickranian Students Give Group Piano Recital
GLENDALE, Calif. - The Church of the Brethren here was the setting of a group
piano concert on Sunday, February 21.
The program was a presentation of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Tekeyan
Taking their turns and talents at the keyboard were seven young artists, all
current and former students of the Arshag Dickranian Armenian School, ranging
from sixth to 12th grade.
After Parsegh Kartalian's opening remarks, sixth grader Mesrob Kyurkchyan
started the evening's musical entertainment by playing the Two Part Invention
# 1 by J.S. Bach, and Six Variations by Beethoven.
The second performer was Ellen Shilgevorkian. A ninth grader, who continued
the program by playing the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata #5, Opus 10,
followed by Andreasian's arragement of the melodious Garoun A by Komitas.
Mariam Danielyan, also a ninth grader, displayed her talent by playing
Mendelssohn's Prelude #2, Opus 104, and Arno Babajanian's Nocturne.
Ninth grader Elizabeth Kyurkchyan concluded the first part of the program by
her dexterous rendition of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
The second part of the keyboard concert was assigned to the older students.
Thus, one after the other, Gevork Mkhsyan, Hakop Timourian and Gayane
Mamikonyan took to their seats on the piano bench to delight the audience with
their music. Mkhsyan played three pieces from Beethoven, Mozart and
Babajanian. Timourian followed with pieces from Beethoven and Khachaturian.
The last performer was Mamikonian, who brought the concert to a dramatic
conclusion by presenting pieces from Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Harutiunian.
At the end, Kartalian invited the students to the stage to be joined with
their teachers Gohar Toranyan and Khachig Kyurkchyan, to take their bow and
accept the applause of the audience.
3) Reality to Fantasy
EXHIBITION FEATURING VAHE GHAZARIAN
Sponsored by the Tekeyan Cultural Association, Boston Chapter
To benefit ARMENIAN LIBRARY AND MUSEUM OF AMERICA and TCA Armenia Programs
Tuesday, March 16, 1999, 8:00 PM
Armenian Library & Museum of America (ALMA)
65 Main Street, Watertown, MA
Public is Invited
c) 1999 All Rights Reserved
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