ACF Releases Second Edition of Armenian Orphan Rug Book

Special to the Mirror-Spectator – WINCHESTER, Mass. — On May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Winchester Public Library, the Armenian Cultural Foundation (ACF) will present an illustrated talk on President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug by Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian. The first edition, released in October 2013, coincided with an exhibition planned under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution. However, the exhibition was cancelled because the White House refused to lend the rug to the Smithsonian. After a year of relentless efforts by the American-Armenian community and widespread media coverage, the White House finally agreed to have the rug on display, November 19-23, 2014. The history of the rug and its journey is portrayed in the book.
The first edition sold out in six months, and in response to the demand, the ACF released a second, revised edition of the book in October 2014.
The book, tracing the origin of this historic rug and its journey from the Ghazir, Lebanon to the White House in Washington, sheds light on the odyssey of the Armenian orphans, the efforts of the Near East Relief (NER), the harbinger of humanitarian missions, and its major role in saving the lives of more than 132,000 Armenian orphans after the horrors of the 1915-1923 Genocide of the Armenians.
Successor to the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, the Near East Relief was established in 1915 in response to urgent pleas from Henry Morgenthau, the American Ambassador to Turkey, and through the efforts of industrialist and philanthropist Cleveland Dodge and the support of President Woodrow Wilson.
As such Near East Relief (NER) saved more than 1,000,000 refugees, including 100,000 Armenian orphans scattered throughout the Middle East and the Caucasus in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. Mor ethan $100,000,000, an astronomical figure at the time, was raised between 1915 and 1930; an army of 1,000 American physicians, nurses, civil servants and volunteers labored to save countless lives.
The result of over three decades of research, Deranian’s work traces the history of the rug and the Armenian orphans: their transportation from Urfa to safety to the present day Lebanon by the great Swiss humanitarian and physician Jakob Künzler (1871-1949), known as the “Father of the Armenian orphans.” Kunzler and his wife Elizabeth earned the titles “Papa” and “Mama” Künzler by the Armenian orphans, more than 8,000 of whom were saved through their heroic efforts and brought to the safety in Lebanon (then part of Syria).
Künzler details his decades of experience in Ottoman Empire as a missionary, physician and director of the NER Ghazir orphanage, housing 1400 Armenian orphan girls, in his book In the Land of Blood and Tears (1921). Deranian describes its journey to the United States, presentation to President Calvin Coolidge in the White House, several decades in the possession of the Coolidges and its return again to theWhite House in the mid-1980s, where it is stored to this day.
“The beautiful rug woven by the [Armenian] children in the [Ghazir] orphanage in the Lebanon has been received. This, their expression of gratitude for what we have been able to do in this country for their aid, is accepted by me as a token of their goodwill to the people of the United States. . . The rug has a place of honor in the White House, where it will be a daily symbol of good-will on earth.” These words of President Calvin Coolidge on December 4, 1925, were made in response to Dr. John H. Finley, vice-chairman of the Near East Relief Executive Committee, who presented the rug for the Armenian orphans who “have tied into it the gratitude of tens of thousands of children to you and to America. And what they have tied into it will never be untied. ..
It is sent to adorn the dearest of our temples, the White House of our President.” Born in Worcester in 1922, Deranian was the son of Genocide survivors from the town of Hussenig, Kharpert Province. He was named Hagop in honor of Hagop Bogigian, his mother’s uncle, who was a pioneer rug merchant in America and benefactor of education for Armenian young women. His mother, born Varter Bogigian, who died in 1929, lost six children, her first husband, and parents in the Genocide. His father, Marderos, who died in 1957, arrived in America in 1900 and operated a grocery store in Worcester. His father raised him from the age of 7.
Deranian, a graduate of Clark University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, served as lieutenant (junior grade) in the United States Navy (1951-53) and has been engaged in the private practice of dentistry while at the same time serving on the faculty of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.
His translation of his father’s memoir, Hussenig, The Origin, History and Destruction of an Armenian Town, was published in 1996; an earlier bilingual edition appeared in 1981.
His second book, Worcester Is America, the Story of Worcester’s Armenians, appeared in 1995 followed by Miracle Man of the Western Front: Dr. Varaztad H. Kazanjian, Pioneer Plastic Surgeon, which was published in 2007.
In light of interest internationally, the ACF has welcomed its publication in several languages.
The German edition of the book was released in May 2014 in Berlin. Copies of the new edition will be available for sale during the event at the Winchester Public Library, 80 Washington St., Winchester on May 20 at 7 p.m.