BY DAVID DERSARKISSIAN Asbarez Staff Writer MONTEBELLO–They came to the United States at a time when the world was quite possibly at its most chaotic and destructive state ever–and they came from a country that many feel–to this day–was at the center of this very chaos and destruction.
But they came here from Germany nonetheless–and by the droves–having fled their respective countries of Russia–France–Greece and Romania in the aftermath of World War II–creating a close-knit Armenian community in a camp for Displaced Persons for several years within Germany before landing on American soil.
Saturday night at Baghramian Hall in Montebello–and some 50 years after the first Armenian displaced person came to the United States–more than 850 met again for a special reunion–coming together from all over the country to reminisce about old times–recall old memories and give thanks to the people and organziations that made their trek here possible.
"Tonight’s reunion began with many of us getting inspired-inspired by the stories from many of you over the years," said Vart Minassian–who was one of three co-chairpersons of the DP Reunion Committee. "We wanted to honor the memories of all DPs around the world–and so–organized this event to do just that."
With black-and-white photos from the camp adorning the walls of the hall–and with a replica of the Statue of Liberty standing guard over the participants at the south end of the floor–the theme of Saturday’s gala event was one of nostalgia and gratitude–and one of appreciation for where Armenian DPs had been–and where they were now.
"There are so many people who were responsible for bringing many of us to the United States so long ago–and I want to honor their memory with a moment of silence," said Michael Minasian–who was the evening’s master of ceremonies. "Let us honor our loved ones–and give thanks for us being here tonight."
After World War II–the Soviet Union made an attempt to return the Armenia’s in the camp to the USSR–but with the backing of then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt–the United States government and the Armenian National Committee to aid Homeless Armenia’s headed by George Mardikian–Suren Saroyan and General Haig Shekerjian–the DPs were able to come to the United States beginning in 1947.
Many DPs settled in East Los Angeles–Fresno–San Francisco–Chicago–Detroit–Boston–New York and Philadelphia–and after a mass migration to East Los Angeles to join their families thereafter–began forging a life as they had in Germany.
Aside from the enlarged photos hanging from the hall’s walls Saturday–a photo exhibit was also put together in an adjourning room–telling the story of the Armenian DPs in stunningly clear and well-preserved fashion.
With a backdrop of large Armenian and American flags draped behind him–Michael Minasian introduced the many public figures and dignitaries present Saturday–which included Montebello city councilmembers–Board of Trustees from the Montebello Holy Cross Cathedral and members of the Montebello school board.
A special video presentation was also made on a large-screen television near the stage–chronicling the DPs and their life in Germany and abroad.
Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian of Holy Cross Cathedral also delivered a special benediction just prior to dinner–and Asthik Dilanian–another co-chairperson of the DP Reunion Committee–spoke as well–recognizing all the people who made the evening possible.
Mike "Mgouch" Hagopian and his band provided entertainment throughout the evening as well.
The DP Reunion also received wide coverage in the Monday issue of the Los Angeles Times and other media.