Madison, Wisc. — The Armenian National Committee of Wisconsin, in conjunction with several other Armenian organizations, paid tribute to the more than 1.5 million lives lost in the Armenian Genocide with a series of events the past two months, the ANCA Eastern Region reported.
“The ANCA of Wisconsin has long been one of our most active local Eastern Region committees, and we are always impressed by their annual commemoration of the Genocide. The activists there mobilize quickly and are persistent in pursuing ANCA initiatives despite living in a relatively small Armenian community,” said Michelle Hagopian, ANCA Eastern Region Executive Director.
The first events were held on Sunday, March 17. Following a performance of Beast on the Moon at the In Tandem Theater in Milwaukee, ANC-WI representative Levon Saryan participated in a panel discussion on genocide Saryan recounted the experiences of his father, Sarkis Saryan, who survived the Armenian Genocide.
That same day, in Middleton, the Genocide Education Network (GEN) manned a booth at the two-day Wisconsin Council for Social Studies annual conference. GEN is a joint effort of the ANC-WI and St. John Armenian Church of Greenfield; their booth included samples of curricula as well as books and videos on the Armenian Genocide.
On Sunday, April 21, St. John Armenian Church held a special requiem service in front of their newly created genocide memorial in their church courtyard. On the same day, St. Mesrob Armenian Church in Racine hosted their annual Martyr’s Day program and Madagh dinner. The program featured Hrair Hawk Khatcherian, pre-eminent photographer of Armenian Churches in Armenia and historic Armenia. St. Mesrob also sponsored their annual Martyr’s Day blood drive on Monday, April 15.
Wednesday, April 24 began with a reception and program commemorating the Armenian Genocide at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. The purpose of the event was to thank the Wisconsin State Assembly and State Senate for adopting Armenian Genocide resolutions, in 2000 and 2002, respectively, which designate April 24 of each year as “Wisconsin Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1923” and to continue to educate and promote awareness of Armenia and Armenian issues.
The event was hosted by ANC-WI and Representatives Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee), Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake), Cory Mason (D-Racine), Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha), Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and Thomas Weatherston (R-Racine) and Senators Chris Larson (D- South Milwaukee), Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), John Lehman (D-Racine), and Bob Wirch (D- Kenosha). Additional state legislators and staff attended and, for the first time since the event was first held in 2001, they outnumbered the Armenians in attendance. The additional legislators included Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Fred Clark (D-Sauk City), Debra Kolste (D-Janesville), Tom Larson (R-Colfax), Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee), Sandy Pasch (D- Shorewood), Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), Chris Taylor (D-Madison), Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc), Chad Weininger (R-Green Bay) and Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) and Senators Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) and Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). Also in attendance were Kurt Schuler, Wisconsin State Treasurer, and Manny Vasquez representing Wisconsin US Senator Ron Johnson.
In his remarks, ANC-WI representative Zohrab Khaligian stressed that the ongoing crime of denial is as heinous as the original crime of the Armenian Genocide.
“Not only has denial allowed genocide to be transported to Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan and other places, but it has also returned to Armenia,” Khaligian said.
Khaligian explained that as the Soviet Union was crumbling in 1988, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabagh petitioned to be reunited with Armenian proper. The Azeri reaction was the massacre and deportation of Armenians and “Armenians world-wide witnessed first-hand the stories of massacre and deportation that they, to date, had only heard from their parents and grandparents who survived the Armenian Genocide.”
Khaligian continued to explain that as the Turkish lobby for years has tried to re-write the history of the Armenian Genocide on a national level, today both the Turkish and Azeri lobby are trying to re-write the history of Nagorno-Karabagh on a local and state level and, speaking to the legislators in attendance stated, “we will need your vigilance to prevent them from succeeding.”
Wednesday, April 24 ended with the annual joint memorial service held at Holy Resurrection Armenian Church in South Milwaukee. The memorial service included the participation of all four Armenian churches in Wisconsin: St. Hagop and St. Mesrob in Racine, St. John in Greenfield, and Holy Resurrection in South Milwaukee, as well as both Armenian churches in Waukegan, Illinois — St. George and St. Paul. The service was followed by a fellowship in the church hall.
Top: Representative Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), second from left, and Representative Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), far right, with (left to right) future ANCA-WI activists Arakel Khaligian, Alidz Khaligian, Luc Dadian, Leo Dadian holding State Assembly and Senate Armenian Genocide resolutions.
Bottom: Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) surrounded by (left to right) constituents Araxie Ketsemanian and Rose Shamshoian and ANCA-WI activist Holly Khaligian.