Review Saturday, May 11, 2019 10 Agenda Safe haven: members of the Armenian community in Taney parish, Dublin Having faced the ravages of genocide and deportation, many Armenians have made Ireland their home — yet our links go back many centuries Sarah Mac Donald A n exhibition on show at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin concludes with the statement: “Yes Ireland Can”. Despite its Obamaesque echo, it is, in fact, a call for Ireland to recognise the Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million people perished between 1914–23. The Armenian genocide saw the systematic extermination and mass deportation of Armenians from their historic homeland in eastern Turkey by the Ottoman authorities. The men were summarily executed while many of the elderly, women and children died on long marches into the Syrian desert having been treated brutally and deprived of the sustenance needed to stay alive. In the grounds of Christchurch Cathedral, tourists often get their photos taken alongside a large red carved cross, no doubt thinking it is an Irish high cross. It is in fact an Armenian khachkar (cross-stone) and its inscription explains it was unveiled on April 24, 2015 — Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Designed by Aram Hakhumyan, an Armenian electronic engineer living in Ireland, the cross was carved in Armenia by Artak Hambardzumyan, who incorporated into it Irish and Armenian motifs. The exhibition explores the similarities between ancient Celtic high crosses such as Muiredach’s Cross in Monasterboice, Co Louth, and the South Cross in Ahenny, Co Tipperary, and Armenian khachkars dating from the 4th century and later. As Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin tells “The crosses are instantly striking in their shared similarities.” This long connection between Ireland and Armenia is mentioned in the 13th century which references St Óengus Ceile Dé (the Culdee), who recorded the presence of an Armenian theologian bishop and scholar named as ‘Cerrui’ in Killeigh, Co Offaly a few centuries earlier. Irish architect HG Leask believes local architecture from that era in Rathan was influenced by Armenian motifs and, according to Dr Paul Manook, an Armenian engineer married and living in Ireland: “There were probably Armenian monks who taught the Irish monks how to write manuscripts as well as Armenian stone carvers. “At present I am looking at the (believed to have been created c800AD) and the (Armenian) Echmiadzin Gospels. One can easily see the similarities between them.” Manook’s family were victims of the Armenian genocide at the start of the 20th century. “My father was six years old when he, along with my grandmother and her five sisters, started their exodus from the village of Besni and walked to northern Iraq after the Ottoman gendarmes took my grandfather, along with thousands of Armenian men to be killed,” he tells “It was a journey of more than two years. My two young aunties, who were aged 10 and 13, were left behind to die as my grandmother could not carry them. In all, my grandmother lost four daughters. Only auntie Miriam, my father and grandmother survived.” On his maternal side, his grandmother, who married as the genocide began to unfold, lost her parents, her husband and other members of the family and witnessed “their beheading after which their bodies were thrown into the river”. The Armenian community in Ireland is small but it is growing slowly. According to Manook, they are concentrated around Dublin as most of them work in IT. The Church of Ireland has Keeping histories alive: Ireland’s thriving community Armenian Review: Book from a family of Armenian millers. When Oghidar’s parents were killed in the genocide, she, as a 10-year-old girl, hid during the day and ran at night with her younger brother and sister. The three children journeyed hundreds of miles on foot from their home in Palu along the eastern branch of the Euphrates River to Aleppo, a place of safety. The title of comes from the notion that water eventually erodes a stone and forms and shapes it. “I was thinking of stone being like denial of the genocide and water being the truth. Bit by bit, the dripping water on the stone will reveal the complete and full history.” She firmly believes recognising and commemorating the Armenian genocide is important. “We need to keep histories alive so that it doesn’t happen again. Every time we act as bystanders and let a genocide pass without condemning it — it opens the door for genocide to be perpetrated again.” Hitler’s infamous comment in August 1939, justifying his expansionist programme and antisemitic agenda, was: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Walrath believes the Irish Government should recognise the genocide, as France, Italy and Portugal have already done. This has drawn the ire of Turkey, which still denies that the killing of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide. Walrath’s view is echoed by Archbishop Michael Jackson. “The loss of life, the method of forced removal from a homeland where two cultures had lived peaceably for generations; the method of killing male Armenians and the uses and abuse made of female Armenians are terrifying. There is currently in certain countries an unwillingness to recognise the genocide as a genocide. Ireland is one such country.” reached out and offered Taney parish in Dundrum to the Armenians for their religious services. “We have a school on Sundays where a small number of children learn to read and write the Armenian language and learn about Armenian history,” Manook explains, adding that there are also pockets of Armenians in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Northern Ireland. The total number of Armenians on the island of Ireland is around 400. Sadly, the conflict in Syria has meant that the country where many Armenians sought a safe haven in the wake of the genocide has now also been ravaged. Syria, especially the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, is a “very sacred place” to the Armenians, explains Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, the primate of the Armenian Church in Great Britain and Ireland, because it is “the mother centre of the Armenian diaspora”. “After the genocide, Armenians settled in Aleppo and started their life there. Now they have had to leave their place once again and it is very painful,” he adds. One of those whose family sought shelter in Aleppo is writer, poet, artist and Fulbright Scholar Dana Walrath. A second-generation Armenian, she was born in the US. Walrath is a research fellow at Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Neurosciences, specialising in dementia. “I wrote a graphic memoir about my mother called and that brought me to the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity where people from multiple disciples from all over the world are trying to problem solve and come up with new ideas and solutions about dementia.” Her novel, written in verse, tells the tale of three Armenian children running for their lives during the genocide. It is based on her grandmother, Oghidar, who came of Leinster, ‘I was thinking of stone being like denial of the genocide and water being the truth. Bit by bit, the dripping water on the stone will reveal the complete and full history’ Like Water on Stone Book of Kells Review. Aliceheimer’s Running by night: Dana Walrath wrote a novel about children escaping the Armenian genocide Like Water on Stone,
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