It was easy for me to single out Kourken Magarian as one of the leaders who played a significant role in the establishment of the ACC “ՀԱՅ ԿԵԴՐՈՆ”, especially the one at 18 Dupont street. But it will be harder to single out others. I will venture to name a few, without any sequence of importance, and especially without in any shape and form minimizing the contribution of hundreds and more other humble and dedicated people whose contributions were no less significant.
The few that I will mention, were people who apart from playing a personal role, also personified the ideals and dreams of many other like-minded members of the Armenian Community in Toronto. I will start with Antranig Artinian who had come to Toronto from Cairo via Switzerland where he had lived for a short while.
Antranig was a mild-mannered but “passionate” Armenian with good humor. He was loved and respected not only by ACC members and supporters but also by the other Armenian organizations and their members and the Armenian public at large in Toronto. He played a leading role in the establishment of both ACC centers and also “Homenetmen” and Boy Scouts, “Hamazkayin”, and the ARS School.
Antranig personified all of those who wanted to build an Armenian Cultural Center that will preserve, enhance, and promote the Armenian Culture in Toronto. (Maybe here it is appropriate to mention that, the naming of the first Armenian Community Center at 18 Dupont street “ՀԱՅ ԿԵԴՐՈՆ”, instead Սողմոն Թեհլիրեան Ակումբ was the “brainchild” of Antranig Artinan).
Antranig was a man of culture “Մշակութասէր”. At the time, unlike many other adults who came to Toronto as already members of ARF, he had joined the ARF organization in Toronto. Antranig was not a “Party man” Կուսակցական մարդ. in the true sense of the word. He seldom looked at the Armenian issues through “Party lenses” Կուսկցական ակնոցով. I will venture to say that, if he had stayed in Cairo, he would have played a leadership role in the Armenian Boy Scouts and Hamazkayin Cultural Association without joining the ARF.
During the planning stage of the current ACC at 45 Hall Crown Place, with Antranig we visited the Japanese Cultural Center then the most modern ethnic Community Center in Toronto to solicit some advice from the president of the center who turned out to be an art and culture lover as well. I recall seeing Antranig beaming with joy when touring the Center decorated with Japanese artwork, and pictures that made you feel like you were in Japan, and Antranig said “I wish we too can create a similar culture in our Center”. Երանի մենք ալ կարենանք այս տեսակի հայկական մթնոլորտ ըստեղծել մեր կեդրոնին մէջ.
The president of the center, a professional engineer who has been instrumental in building the center was a very courteous man, he gave much practical advice and concluded by saying “It will be easy to build and hard to maintain”.
(It was a totally different experience when with Viken Ajemian we visited a newly built Community Center in Mississauga either Polish? or Ukrainian? and the manager of the building an Anti Soviet nationalist intellectual, took us for a tour of the place that looked like an Armenian “Agoomp” with pictures of bearded revolutionaries, intellectuals, flags, maps, etc, everywhere.
The manager who knew about Armenian history lectured us about the communist atrocities and wished us success without hardly offering any practical advice. The only novelty idea at the center was the dual-purpose basketball court and the banquet hall for social gatherings and to rent for income. It looked like a real basketball court that could also be used for social gatherings. We tried to duplicate it but ours looked like a luxury banquet hall, with basketball boards and baskets as contrasting decoration).
With Antranig’s initiative, the famous Armenian painter Puzant Gojamanian of Cairo then living in California came to Toronto and stayed with the Artinian family and painted a series of large paintings, especially for ACC that decorated the hallways of ACC building at 45 hall Crown place. The concept and bold colors were unique but some members were not pleased with them.
I think also that it was Antranig’s idea to call the library Haroutyun Manougian Library in memory of another leader of the Toronto ARF who had come from Beirut Lebanon and played a leadership role to revitalized the ARF organization in Toronto and had passed away with a sudden heart attack before realizing his dream to establish an Armenian “Agoomp” in Toronto.
Antranig talked with great admiration about Haroutyun Manougian whose surviving wife Hayguhi, and children, Arpi Manougian Ajemian and Sam Manougian continued to uphold his memory by being very active members of the ACC, especially in ARS, “Homenetmen” and ARS School, and now his grandchildren are continuing the tradition.
Antranig died of a heart attack at a relatively young age in his late fifties or early sixties. At the time Antranig was the president of the ARS School board of trustees Ուսումնական մամնի ատենապետ and was vigorously pursuing his dream to make the Armenian program the role model for teaching Armenian language and culture for others to follow.
His surviving wife Nanig, and children Hagopig and Houry Artinian Mardirossian lost a loving and caring husband and father, and the ACC members and the Armenian Community of Toronto lost a great Armenian patriot Մեծ Հայրենասէր մը. I was privileged and humbled to have known Antranig not only as a friend but also, and especially, as a mentor for the Armenian culture and history.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian.