Viken Ajemian was one of the younger member of the first generation that built and expanded the operations of Armenian Community Centers in Toronto, both, at 18 Dupont street, and 45 Hall Crown Place. Viken personified the ideals and dreams of all those ACC members who wanted to create a social hub where young and old could come together and have good time as Armenians.
May be the idea worked better at 18 Dupont street where apart from playing backgammon and cards, also new games were introduced including billiard, ping pong, and other game machines. Being mostly, if not all, new immigrants, the need was there, and it worked.
Here I should mention that Mr Atikian, “Hyrig”, a newcomer from Jerusalem who managed the ACC at 18 Dupont street, was a very likable guy and his tasty “Lahmajune” and sandwiches were good enough to satisfy “hungry” young men who needed it the most. (Hyrig although from Jerusalem but his origins were from Kessab Syria, and was also intimately called Shbain “friend” in Armenian dialect of Kessab)
Viken had come to Toronto from Aleppo Syria that today unfortunately is ruined because of a devastating civil war that is going on for over four years. The one time prosperous Armenian Community of Aleppo is in the ruins and most Armenians have left and scattered all over the world as refugees. Since December 2015, they started to arrive in Canada with big numbers. Many are coming in Toronto and are going through many difficulties typical of all other refugees. Thankfully the Armenian community is doing a great job to get the refugees to settle and THANK YOU to all those many and many volunteers who are helping to minimize the difficulties and make them “feel at home”.
Viken was an “out of the box thinker” and daring person, and a no nonsense personality to match it. But underneath that bold looking veneer there was a loving and caring person with a BIG HEART. Viken was a problem solver if I may say so. Whenever there were difficult issues Viken always came up with logical and practical solutions. He had a habit of leaving the meeting room during hotly debated issues, to have a “cigarette break”, and during that break he “smoked out” good compromising solutions came back and helped cut the debate short with logical and comprising proposals and thus indirectly helped those who were going at it by repeating themselves. Viken was a man with strong ideas and opinions but never “hard headed”. He was a good listener and a man of the reason.
In late nineteen eighties, Viken was instrumental making a deal between ACC and York University to bring about twenty University graduates from Soviet Armenia to be trained by the University, and then placed in businesses in their fields for “hands on” experiences before returning back to Soviet Union. The program was about thirty days long. It was during the heydays of “glasnost” and “perestroika” of the Gorbachev era. This two Russian words that meant openness and restructuring captured the essence of the Gorbachev’s philosophy of restructuring the Soviet economic system that eventually brought the end of the Soviet Union rather than save it.
York University had created this program to help Canadian businessmen understand the workings of the Soviet Union. York University invited Academics, professionals, young University grads etc, from Soviet Union to inter act with Canadian counterparts and “feel” each other and hopefully make deals. The often used phrase for making deals were “Mutually Beneficial Joint Venture”.
At one of the lecture that we attended with Viken, the speaker was a representative of the cooperative union, and devoted all his time criticizing every thing except the co-ops, while saying hardly any thing about the co-ops, and what kind of business opportunities they offered. At the question period, Viken asked a question something like “you criticized every thing and hardly talked about what the the co-ops do “. Viken had a sharp mind, and spoke his mind boldly, if I may say so.
Later on while we were trying to do business in Armenia we found out that, criticizing others was the “norm” for Soviet educated people to promote themselves by criticizing every one else. It was repulsive to say the least, specially so, after meetings, where they glorify each other with lavish toasts Բաժակաճառ that they performed rather eloquently and immediately after the meeting, during private conversations, they did not hesitate to criticize the ones they glorified and warn you to be careful and not trust them.
During that time Viken was also instrumental forming an investment company with fife thousand dollar per share exclusively to invest in Armenia with a clause that any benefit realized will be reinvested back in Armenia for the first two years. It was called “Armen Trade”. Viken was Chairman of the board, and Kevork Kololian the President. There were about twenty fife shareholders and about one million dollar binding pledges were signed, and the initial seed money paid up front. But after two years and a serious effort, and despite all good intentions and patriotic feelings, it did not succeed.
It is hard to talk about Viken Ajemian without mentioning his contribution to the upkeep of the diverse accounting system of the ACC. As a successful Chartered Accountant, Viken was like an unofficial adviser/controller of the ACC accounting system and many considered him to be the accounting “wiz kid”and sought his advice to solve even their own accounting problems, and he seldom refused to give his professional advice free of charge.
Viken passed away in Cuba of a heart attack while on a business trip in relatively young age probably in his mid to late sixties. His wife Arpi, and children Nairy and Vahan lost a loving and caring husband and father, and his young grand children that he loved and adored, lost a loving and caring grand father, and the ACC establishment lost a great leader. Աստուած հոգին լուսաւորէ.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian.