I opened my eyes for the first time and what I saw was Hamazkayin, the Hamazkayin Vahe Setian Press, the Hamazkayin Nshan Palanjian Djemaran (Lyceum), Bookstore, Kasbar Ipegian Theater Company, Vasburagan Hall, choir, dance group, Armenian Studies institute, all in Beirut. I opened my eyes and saw Armenians. When, as a teenager, I moved to Toronto, I naturally gravitated toward the Hamazkayin H. Manougian Library. Taniel Varuzhan, Paruyr Sevak, Rupen Sevag, Metsarents, and Charents were there. Our literature and our language. Hamo Sahyan was right: What else do we have in the world that is so much ours? Naturally, I found myself with the Hamazkayin George Sarkisian Theatre, where I found Levon Shant, Shirvanzade, and Baronian. And I was with the Hamazkayin Erebuni dancers, listening to the footfalls of our ancestors, watching Charents’s “Yes im anush Hayastani” come to life. I was with the Hamazkayin Kusan choir, listening to Gomidas. I was at the Hamazkayin Arshile Gorky Gallery, the Hamazkayin Pomegranate Film Festival, where our imagination soared.
A vision of Armenian culture living on throughout the diaspora motivated the founders of Hamazkayin—Shant, Aghpalian, Ohanjanian, Ipegian, on May 28, 1928. That same vision motivated the founders of the Toronto (later “Klatsor”) Chapter, Jirair Hovhannesian, Apkar Mirakian, Vahe Mardirosian, Shoushig Boyadjian, and Nerses Gedikian in 1969.
Fifty years later, on December 8, 2019, at the Toronto Armenian Youth Centre, the community celebrated. The event was under the aegis of the Regional Executive Board for Canada. Blue, gold, and silver balloons decorated the entrance. Inside, we saw beautiful decorations made in workshops held for the younger and older members of the chapter. A dazzling selection of photographs is on the right. Also, flyers from past events, a curated mound of books representing over a hundred book talks. At the entrance of the theater, copies of a book prepared by Jirayr Petrosian, celebrating the fifty years of the chapter.