RESEDA, Calif.—The Kessab Educational Association of Los Angeles named Hagop Manjikian “Man of the Year” for 2015 at the organization’s annual Armenian Christmas banquet on Jan. 11.
Born less than a decade after the Armenian Genocide, Manjikian grew up with the stories of the Turkish deportations and massacres of his people, and they left an indelible mark on his existence. So much so that he dedicated his life to making sure that the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the Genocide would never be forgotten.
Manjikian was born to Garabed and Victoria Manjikian in 1924. His youth in Kessab was very simple – they had no electricity, he read by candlelight and he had a long walk to school down dirt roads. He attended Kessab’s Ousoumnasirats School, then French technical school in Lattakia, which opened his eyes to the world. In December 1950, he left his cherished parents, brother, Vahan, and his beloved Kessab and set sail for America, arriving in New York just before Christmas and setting foot in California on New Year’s Day 1951.
While Manjikian worked as a precision parts subcontractor by day, every moment of his spare time was spent helping put together an organizational infrastructure for the growing Armenian community in Southern California. He threw himself into community work, writing letters to governmental representatives on behalf of the Armenian organizations of which he was a member, including the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia and the A.R.F. In 1955, California Governor Goodwin Knight and his wife accepted Manjikian’s invitation to attend the New Year’s Eve Celebration at the Armenian Center on Venice Boulevard.
Manjikian spearheaded committees to build the Soghomon Tehlirian Monument in Fresno and the Armenian Monument in Montebello’s Bicknell Park. He was one of the founders of the Kessab Educational Association of Los Angeles in 1957. He was founding chairman of the Armenian National Committee, Western Region in 1969, and founding board member of the Hamazkayin Cultural Association and Homenetmen Athletic Union in California. Manjikian founded the Armenian National Radio Hour in 1978, and for one-and-a-half years he and his wife, Knar, recorded the weekly show. The Manjikians have ardently supported the Asbarez Armenian newspaper by writing articles over the past 50 years.
Toward the close of the 20th century, Manjikian embarked on a massive project. In 1992 he and his wife produced the massive and epic Houshamatyan Commemorative Album-Atlas of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, 1890-1914. The companion volume was published in 2001, and in 2006 the English-language version of volume 1 was printed.
After that project, Manjikian began another: to bring the tragic eyewitness accounts of the Armenian Genocide to the fore of the English-speaking world by translating them. He and Knar started the Genocide Library Book Series and have published six memoirs in English.
Manjikian has received several honors for his life’s work in addition to the KEA’s Man of the Year:
• Catholicos Aram I endowed Manjikian with the Mesrob Mashdotz Medal in 2001 for his dedication to serving his people.
• The U.S. House of Representatives paid tribute on June 7, 2005 to the Manjikians for publishing Passage Through Hell by Armen Anush.
• On May 21, 2014, Congressman Adam Schiff honored the Manjikians for publishing 5 Armenian Genocide memoirs.
• On April 23, 2014, the Los Angeles City Council recognized Manjikian for his dedicated service to the Armenian-American community, most notably his endeavors to bring awareness and recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
While numerous projects have occupied him over the decades, Manjikian’s loyalty and service to his beloved Kessab have never ceased. At the behest of the Ousoumnasirats organization in Kessab, he headed a North American fund-raising campaign to build a high school in Kessab so that the youth would not go to school elsewhere in the Middle East. The committee raised $121,000 in 2008 – 9. He also is working on a book about the Ousoumnasirats School, which has produced one Catholicos, Karekin I, and numerous recognized educators, doctors and Armenian community leaders.
Manjikian, who is 90, spoke for 15 minutes about the importance of the homeland, and concluded his remarks by reciting the last stanzas of Hovannes Toumanian’s “Tmpkapertee Aroomeh” (The Capture of Fort Temuk).
Very Reverend Karekin Bedourian, a native son, presided over the evening program, which concluded with the singing of what has become the Kessab anthem: “Giligia” (Cilicia), based on a song by Gomidas).
The KEA of L.A. also acknowledged the following for their generous financial contributions to the Kessab Relief Fund:
Sevag Saghdejian and Nayeri Saghdejian Kassarjian of Specialty Car Craft Motor Group
Dr. Haig and Mrs. Hilda Manjikian and the Land and Culture Organization
Dr. George Apelian
Shogher Baghdoud Tilkian
Michael Bederian for his donation to the KEA Center Lounge.