Arthur Giragossian was part of the second generation of the ARF leadership in the USA when I got to know him. He might even be considered to be a first-generation immigrant to the USA since he had arrived in the United States as an orphan in his mid-nineteen twenties. He has been a founding member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) in the United States and its first president. He also has been a close confidant of Garegin Njdeh the founder of the Tseghagron”Ցեղակրօն ” youth movement that preceded the AYF.
ARF and AYF members called him Unger “ԸՆԿԵՐ” Giragossian and seldom Arthur. (ARF and AYF members call each other “ungair” (comrade) which is more than an adjective, it means friendship with full trust in each other). He best personified both the first and second generation of ARF members in the United States and due to his pleasant personality “blended” and interacted with both generations and especially with the youth.
He was a very friendly warm and sociable person and loved to congregate with the Armenian-speaking newcomers. He was like an older brother to Kourken Magarian of Toronto and they always called each other by their first names, Arthur and Kourken. They both had similar past experiences as Armenian orphans and as members of the Tseghagron youth movement. (Most probably these brotherly feelings between them were one of the reasons that Ungair Giragossian felt close to ARF members in Toronto).
At the time, Ungair Giragossian was probably the oldest member of the ARF Central Executive (CE) in Boston USA, and the most ardent supporter of the newly revitalized ARF organizations in Montreal and especially so in Toronto. (At the time the Canadian branch of the ARF was under the CE’s jurisdiction). He was very instrumental in getting a $10 000 loan from CE during the purchase and renovation of the first Armenian Community Center at 18 Dupont street in Toronto and was the guest speaker at the opening ceremony as well.
He was a passionate and emotional public speaker. He delivered his speeches without any notes and spoke from his heart and appealed to the hearts of his audiences. He especially loved to sing Armenian patriotic songs during the Armenian social gatherings and celebrations (like karaoke) and sang with passion and full of emotions.
I remember him in the seminar in Lexington, (near Boston) that I wrote about in my previous blog. Then he was a passionate supporter of the establishment of Armenian all-day schools in Canada and the USA, that we, the newcomers, were advocating, while most, if not all, American-born ARF leadership in Boston opposed it as an unnecessary luxury that did not justify the big financial sacrifices.
They based their arguments on their own experiences arguing that they although not fluent in the Armenian language but could communicate in Armenian (that they have learned at Saturday, Sunday, or evening schools), with their family members, and during the Armenian social gatherings, and they had hardly any need to use it in any other occasions.
They stressed the need to improve and expand the Saturday and Evening Schools rather than duplicate and pay for the American public school program that was free and they themselves were proof of its success and good quality. They reasoned that the one class a day of the Armenian language teaching did not justify the expenses.
The only day school they advocated that could be justified, was the pre-school nurseries that were not offered free by the public schools. (Probably this point was the reason that, in the Middle East, the Armenians had a derogatory saying “Amerqada mangabardez” Ամերգատա Մանկապարտէզ).
I think Ungair Giragossian was the only one from Boston-based former ARF leadership who was personally invited as a guest at the opening ceremony of the Armenian Community Center (ACC) in Toronto at 45 Hall Crown Place. (At the time, ARF Canada was independent, and was no longer under the jurisdiction of the Boston-based ARF Central Executive thus no need or protocol to invite any official representative of the CE in Boston that at the time was led by the newcomers from the Middle East).
I was delegated to pick up Ungair Giragossian at the airport and when we entered the building and walked into the atrium where all the lights were turned on and the place looked at its best, he was mesmerized, to say the least, and kept looking around saying “Չեմ հաւատար ասիկա Դաշնակցական ակումբ է” (I can’t believe this is a Tashnag club) and start hugging everyone.
At the time Vahe Mardirossian was the president of the ARF Toronto executive “Կոմիտէի Ատենապետ” and was seated at a table in the cafeteria going through his “things-to-do list” for next day opening ceremony while organizing committee members were all over the place. When we approached Vahe, he hugged him and keep saying “Աս ինչ պալատ շիներ էք ապրիք, հազար ապրիք” while everyone came to greet him.
The most emotional part was when Kourken and Arthur, the two Armenian orphans hugged each other and keep saying “Այս օրն ալ պիտի տեսնենք եղեր” (We had to see this day too) while tears were pouring from their eyes. (At the time I think ACC was the most luxurious ARF club “agoomp” in North America if not in the whole Armenian Diaspora). But the highlight of the evening was when we got to the main hall.
There was a big handwritten note on the door that read “ՄՈՒՏՔԸ ԱՐԳԻԼՈՒԱԾ Է” (NO ENTRY). Viken Ajemian, the chair of the organizing committee of the opening ceremony, said the guest singer Manuel and his band were practicing, and do not want to be disturbed, and since that was no reasonable excuse he added “Մէկ վայրկեան մտնեմ կարգադրեմ”. (Let me go in and arrange something).
He half-opened the door and squeezed himself in while we could hear Manuel yelling “ԴՈՒՐՍ ՄԻ ԽԱՆԳԱՐԵՐ”, (OUT DO NOT DISTURB), then silence. Within one or two “long” minutes, Viken pushed the door open and when we entered, all the lights were on, and the place looked magical, especially so, when the band started to play the ARF anthem. Viken’s ingenuity had no boundaries. We could not have done it any better if we had planned it in advance. The moment was a perfect fit for Ընկեր Կիրակոսեան. Աստուած հոգին լուսաւորէ
.Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian