BAYSIDE – The music, food, and friendliness would remind Hellenes of Greek festivals, but there is an extra dimension when Armenian Orthodox churches like that of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside welcome friends and neighbors.
In addition to celebrating the traditions of the old countries and the success of an ancient nation in the new world, remembrance for the 1.5 million people who perished in the Armenian genocide is always in the air, whether it is expressed in songs, conversations, moving memorials like the one in the narthex of the Church, or exhibits that tell the tragic story to their American neighbors not familiar with it.
The spirit was anything but somber is Bayside, however, thanks to the volunteers and vendors and the lively music and dancing generated by the Vosbikian Band on Saturday and the Onnik Dinkjian band on Sunday.
Edward, a vendor born and raised in New Jersey with roots in Constantinople’s Armenian community, helped support the parish and the homeland by selling products from Armenia, principally shirts and music CDs. Asked about the country’s leading exports he told TNH Armenia makes a top-notch brandies.
Tamar Kayserian, whose family is from Constantinople with roots in Caesarea, where Greeks like director Elia Kazan’s family and Armenians lived side by side for millennia before they were genocided by the Turks was selling deserts like baklava and ravani that Greeks would call Greek and still other groups would claim – and American brownies.
She has been part of the parish for 40 years and is very proud of its day schools and its Saturday language and Sunday religious schools.
Onnik Dinkjian came from Florida to perform. His last song was a moving tribute to the martyrs of the genocide titled Yerevan, which is the capital of Armenia. He said he also enjoys attending the Greek festivals at the Boca Raton and West Palm Beach churches.
As the festival wound down with its Sunday evening raffle drawing, its chairman Thomas Farounjian, thanked everyone who made it possible and hoped to see even more volunteers next year.
Past chairman Hrair Ghazarian, whose mother is from Armenia and father has roots in the large Armenian community, congratulated Farounjian.
Festival participants who visit the sanctuary are impressed by its glowing stained glass windows depicting the saints and heroes of 1700 years of Christianity in Armenia.
Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan is the current pastor of the parish that was founded in 1958 as the realization of the longtime dream of Armenians living on Long Island.
One benefactor purchased and donated the property while others made substantial donations and spearheaded the fundraising in the community, a story of dedication and love familiar to Greek-Americans.
When the relics of Armenian saints were transported to the parish, it was renamed for the Holy Martyrs.
Farounjian was pleased to note that when they needed to find a group of Greek dancers to perform. He emphasized that the Armenians want to create a stronger relationship with the Greek community.
CAPTION: One of the Armenian dance groups in traditional costumes that dazzled guests. The Samos Pythagoras Society was also invited to dance at the festival and delighted participants.