Dreamy Haleb (“Yerazayeen Haleb”)

By  Antranig Zarougian, A segment from the same book, translated and abridged by Vahe H. Apelian, 23 September 2012

“I have had numerous occasions to write and speak about Haleb Armenians in large halls, in front of hundreds of people. Let me say my real thoughts from the heart. However the number of Haleb Armenians dwindles, the root remains. I remain with deep conviction that the Haleb Armenian is the rose of the Diaspora. If we liken the Armenian Diaspora to a tasty fruit, its seed has come from Haleb.” Antranig Zarougian.

By  Antranig Zarougian, A segment from the same book, translated and abridged by Vahe H. Apelian, 23 September 2012

“I have had numerous occasions to write and speak about Haleb Armenians in large halls, in front of hundreds of people. Let me say my real thoughts from the heart. However the number of Haleb Armenians dwindles, the root remains. I remain with deep conviction that the Haleb Armenian is the rose of the Diaspora. If we liken the Armenian Diaspora to a tasty fruit, its seed has come from Haleb.” Antranig Zarougian.

The overwhelming majority of the Armenians in Haleb were Cilician Armenians; the Sassountsi Armenians were the second largest. Among them, the Aintabsi Armenians occupied a prominent and dominant position. Their numerical superiority was such that they had two schools, Zavarian (Tashnag) and Grtasseerats (the other kind). For some time they had their own church, next to the Cathedral of the Holy Forty Martyrs (Սրբոց Քառասնից Մանկանց Մայր Եկեղեցի). It was known as the “Aintabsis” church. When Catholicos Coadjutor Papken passed away, they did not let him be buried in Antelias. They brought the coffin to Haleb and with a large showing had him buried in “their” church.

Before the Genocide Aintab was considered the Athens among Cilician cities because of its schools, and American College. In spite of the fact that Aintabsi Armenians were Turkish speaking, love of learning and education were much stressed among them. The trustees of the schools naturally were all Aintabsi Armenian craftsmen who took care of the schools much like they took care of their households. However, they regarded that they had the same say in matters relating to education as they had in their own households.

I taught Armenian language and history for six or seven years at the Zavarian School. The middle school students were not as young then as they are now. The average age of the students in the 6th grade was 15 years then, while it is 10 to 12 years these days. It was a good school with a good teaching staff. One year three additional teachers in their twenties were invited. They were hard working and industrious teachers. The atmosphere of the school changed. Even though they were not experienced they animated the school. They became the favorites of the students who congregated around them during recess. The situation did not sit well with the former teachers, some of whom did not look favorably at the situation. Since some of the former teachers had family relations with the trustees of the school, they managed to work out so that these three young teachers were not to be invited the following year.

It was a scandal. These young men had carried their tasks without any blemish. There were no reasons to let them go. Our principal, a good and a humble man, could not defend them and hence unwillingly went along with the decision of the trustees. I objected. Aram, the father of Archbishop Datev Sarkissian joined me. Together we staked the reputation we thought we had and put our names on the balance. Either these three teachers will be invited next year, or the two of us will resign as well.

The trustees remained adamant in their decision. We also remained adamant on our end and thus were forced to leave the school. After all, we were not Aintabsis and they could easily do away with our services. Aram returned to his hometown Kessab where he taught. The Education Council gave me a position of “Education Inspector” to put the Assyrian school in the neighborhood into order. There was not anything to place in order in that school. All it was a kindergarten with one teacher. As to my “Education Inspector” title, it was the Prelate Zareh’s invention to give me a position and a salary.

The year became a fortuitous year for me. I wrote “Letter to Yerevan” (Tought Ar Yerevan) and decided to do away with teaching as a career and embarked on publishing Nairi instead.

What happened to three young teachers and who were they?  They did not remain luckless either. On the contrary, due to their innate talents they blossomed and shaped a lasting identity of their own. The readers will not be surprised when I name them. The first was Zareh Melkonian, a well-known name among the Diaspora Armenian writers. The second was Souren Basmajian who also published under the assumed pen name Aram Armand and repatriated to Armenia. The third, Alfonse Attarian, became a known writer in the modern Armenian literature and wrote under the pen name Armen Tarian.
 

12 comments
    1. Haleb
      Ara

      True, but on an optimistic note, quoting Antranig Zarougian, the root or the seed remains buried in the soil and has the potential of germinating again, which may very well explain the longevity of our nation.

      Vahe

      1. Thank you

        Sireli Vahe,

        Haleb is undoubtedly a milestone in the evolution of our Armenian Diasporan identity of the post-Genocide period.  I believe that it is there that the future community of Beirut was forged.  And from then on to the different realities of our existence in the West.  In the great migration of our people, Haleb was the first place of a Great Gathering after the initial murderous big bang of the Great Dispersion.

        The above applies to all aspects of community life, whether they be historical, cultural, political, artistic, literary and so on.  This is not to minimize the roles of other places.  Far from it. But, if there are temporal and geographic points of reference around which our existence coalesced after 1915, Haleb was surely the first.

        Dzarougian of course needs no introduction, but he needs to be brought to the new generation and his chronicles of what happened at what time and who was involved serve as important archival and historical sources; even if they are told not from the perspective of the academic or historian, but as a memoir of a journalistic legend.

        Thank you for bringing him back (in translation) on the pages of this website. And thank you personally, for doing so by including Dzarougian's reference to my own father. Although this reference to him as the young and progressive teacher was not unfamiliar to members of his immediate family, that aspect of his life remains an almost total unknown to others.   Dzarougian's tribute to him is, of course, a recognition which I cherish and now it is shared with all, thanks to you.

        Paregamoren

        VLA

  1. Optimism

    Vahe,
    Longevity of our nation?
    What if what we are experiencing is the death of a thousand cuts?
    I suspect all optimists because they promote and legitimize a passive stance.
    In effect, what they say is: "Let's do nothing because we are destined to survive and overcome."
    It is written!
    Allahou akhbar!

    Ara Baliozian

    1. Ara Baliozian Posting

      Ara Baliozian is a talented writer-translator-commentator, you name it. A contemporary one at that–not the antiquated ones who are in abundance, especially those writing in our Armenian-language press. With due respect to them, for their pains in writing articles, poems and books, they lack the urge/need of the moment that the Armenian nation requires and deserves.

      We need new blood, new spirited writers and activists to keep pace with the international intellectuals. Though I´m sure Ara is still young at heart and in spirit, thence his presence here among the aforementioned may be of some guidance and encouragement to produce more.

      Welcome dear Ara. We have differed a bit in the past as to Armenity (Armenidad,comunidad): but I too, like you, do not conform with some such expressions wrongly thrown in, which are Armenianism, Armenianness.

      Your quotes, I believe, still continue on another forum-site.

      Best  regards,

      Gaytzag
       

    2. Clarification on My Optimism

      Ara,
      I cannot say that my statement of being optimistic implies "let's do nothing because we are destined to survive and overcome." I presume from your commentary that it does for some Armenians and for all those who regard being optimistic means doing nothing. To them I offer my apologies for I never meant to imply that… on the contrary.
      And to those who are not optimistic about the future, lest they assume a do nothing attitude, good for you, as well for not being optimistic, so long as it becomes the impetus for you to do something out of fear of an otherwise bleak personal or national future.

      Vahe

  2. Optimism, Pessimism, or Realism?

    Friday, September 28, 2012
    *********************************************
    EASY QUESTIONS / OBVIOUS ANSWERS
    *********************************************
    With religious leaders like popes, imams, and rabbis, who needs religion?
    With Scriptures like the Bible and the Koran that legitimize divisions, intolerance, the persecution of heretics,
    and the murder of infidels, who needs Scriptures?
    With monarchs like the Romanovs in Russia, the VIII Henrys in England, and the French Louis who came by the dozen, who needs kings?
    With bloodthirsty dictators like Hitler and Stalin, who needs dictators?
    *
    Speaking  of blood:
    In the Ottoman Empire it was a capital offense to spill the blood of a present or future sultan, so they adopted a different method to eliminate the competition: they strangled all potential usurpers with a silk cord.
    (And they say Turks are dumb!)
    *
    With scary presidential candidates like Romney and Ryan who needs presidents?
    Gore Vidal may have been right when he said America will be better off without its politicians.
    To the question, who will run the country, he replied: “Swiss hotel managers.”
    With historians who cover up the criminal conduct and incompetence of the regime in power, who needs schoolteachers who recycle propaganda?
    *
    I am not just asking a question:I am predicting the shape of things to come.
    Neither am I a prophet: I just use my common sense and the lessons of the past.
    #

  3. Yerazayin Haleb

    For almost sixty years I have seen the same historical standard and mentality of leadership in our nation. History, for these leaders, is defined on short-term basis, reflecting their physical lifespan. No scientific evidence, evaluations, judgments have been applied to reshuffle leadership. It is next to impossible to shape correctly human beings when already adult. Leadership starts from early childhood education with highly qualified. We have failed in this domain and whence in preparing a dynamic social fabric.

    We have no statistical figures as to the thousands of Armenians getting higher education in hundreds of universities around the globe, their life plans and motivations for the specialties of professions they have chosen. We lack vision.

     

    1. What’s the Solution

      Shahe,

      Harut Der Tavitian, Ara Baliozian and you are addressing almost the same issue yet not providing a solution.

      For decades the Diaspora has been asking the same questions and finger-pointing at this and that, depending on which side of the divide one is.

      The tragedy today is that in a generation or two there won't be people asking these questions and hence looking for answers. However, the optimists amongst us, such as Razmig Panossian, whom I respect a great deal, think that Armenian "nation" has always been multicentric, non-homogeneous, and has survived without a state for so many centuries.

      The message in the previous paragraph, I think, is that we will continue to survive. Will we?

      1. To Neshan

        Neshan, the formation of a child is mainly in the first stages of his childhood and in his teens. The same applies to a nation. Our reborn nation is a child now. Luckily, perhaps (despite the Genocide and dispersion) we have been acquainted with many advanced cultures in our adopted countries. This fact, in many ways, has been advantageous for the reformation of our people–now a nation state. If we do not move fast and pass up the chance, we cannot forge ahead.

        We  need  to have a new statute in the Diaspora. The 160-year or so ¨Sahmanatrutyun", drawn up in Istanbul under harsh Ottoman rule by our amiras and clergy, is not compatible with a dynamic Armenian Diaspora. As to how this can be achieved now, I have tried to "suggest¨ in more than half-a-dozen articles, especially in http://www.armeniannews.info  . Thank you if you read the articles.

  4. To Neshan

    To Neshan,

    By mere chance, my father and grandfather were not at home in Marash, when they saw, on their return home, that all family members were slaughtered in their own house by their own neighbors of 25 years. He spent several years in orphanages and managed to earn his own living and school fees starting from the age of seven. His challenge was to pursue his education and obtained his PhD degree from Temple University, USA, in 1966 in education and pedagogy after his BA degree in 1944 from AUB, Lebanon. His dream was to have his own school which he achieved in 1974. His concern was to educate teachers to teach youngsters and new generations from early childhood. He was ahead of his time by 50 years in his approach. After his demise a center was established in his name, at the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon, with official recognition by the Ministry and qualified on a University Level, where teachers in Armenian schools are taught the methodology of teaching early-age children.

    The solution is inherent in the comment posted: to establish centers to teach instructors the methodology of teaching and to enhance and encourage professionals with extensive research and statistical experience and publications in internationally known magazines on the subject to come and lead the educational centers in the Diaspora. Teaching healthy methodology in dealing with early childhood supersedes enrichment knowledge at that stage. This process is achieved over several generations through long-range planning. We should be expecting change after 60 to 100 years to generate a flywheel effect based on establishing ourselves in a given social fabric of the Diaspora and not jumping from one country to another as immigrants where survival gets priority over loyalty and home nation-building. Once leaders, with social and financial influence, understand the value of building human values in our nation, we might expect change in the dwindling course of survival. For sure becoming immigrants in all countries other than Armenia is a negative course. Building a nation is achieved by taking part in its rebuilding on the ground and not only remotely. It is a process that is only achieved over generations through sacrifice and selecting the difficult path,the narrow path….

    1. Kaloustian School

      I remember the outlines of the school Mr. Kaloustian built on a hill. I also remember the talk in the community about his teaching methods.

      I can't follow the crux of the matter in these comments in allusion to "Teaching healthy methodology in dealing with early childhood supersedes enrichment knowledge at that stage. This process is achieved over several generations through long-range planning. We should be expecting change after 60 to 100 years to generate a flywheel effect based on establishing ourselves in a given social fabric of the Diaspora and not jumping from one country to another as immigrants where survival gets priority over loyalty and home nation-building."

      It is certain that we need Armenian teachers to teach Western Armenian in the Diaspora, especially in the West. We need them now to buffer the cultural and linguistic attrition that is grinding us as Armenians by the day, especially in the West.

      More than any other Armenian community, it is the Middle Eastern communities which are the best hope to prepare Armenian language, history, literature teachers.

      The call to assist our fellow Armenians in the Middle East is a call to help the Diaspora, especially in the West.

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