ALBANY COUNTY – The country of Armenia will celebrate 32 years of independence this year.
To commemorate, both the Town of Colonie and the City of Watervliet will hold ceremonies on Thursday, Sept. 21. The first will be held outside Colonie Town Hall at 9 a.m. and the second ceremony is outside Watervliet City Hall at noon.
On Sept. 21,1991, an independence referendum was held in the Armenia SSR to decide whether to break away from the Soviet Union. Armenia gained its official independence on Dec. 26,1991.
The Colonie ceremony will be led by Town Supervisor Peter Crummey, with Mayor Charles Patricelli leading the one Watervliet. Also present will be Assemblymember Phil Steck, Sen. Jake Ashby, President of the Italian American Museum Professor Phil Dinovo, Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian from St. Peter Armenian Apolistic Church, Father Michael Myschuk of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, Congressman Paul Tonko, and members of the Italian, Greek, Ukrainian and Armenian communities.
The entire Capital Region is welcome to attend, said Top Custom Jewelers Inc. owner Rafi Topalian.
At the commemoration, the Armenian flag will be raised and it will remain up for a week. Guests and spectators will sing the American National Anthem and the Armenian national anthem (“Mer Hayrenik” aka. “Our Fatherland”). In addition, there will be short speeches and at the event’s close, the singing of “God Bless America.” The singing at both ceremonies will be led by Topalian.
“We’re celebrating, essentially, democracy for a 4,000-year-old race.” Topalian said. “We know in America how precious it is and how probable it can be for us (Armenians) as well. But the other half of it, for us, is to raise awareness of impending famine and genocide.”
Topalian has been spreading awareness about his culture’s genocide and its independence for 30 years. A proud Armenian-American, Topalian serves as co-chair of an Armenian genocide committee and is active in Capital District Armenian cultural communities. He has spoken about the horrors of famine and genocide at the state Capitol, at Siena College, and events at both SUNY Albany and Russell Sage College.
“I was not born in Armenia, but Armenia was born in me,” Topalian said. “We will persevere no matter what because we have roots that go back for 4,000 years.”
“We’ve survived and we have thrived,” Topalian concluded.