Antranig Boghosian: “I will never forget our innocent victims of the Syrian war and our innocent children”

Director of the Sarkis Jemberjian Krtasirats Secondary School of Aleppo, member of the provincial council of Syria Antranig Boghosian can be seen in Armenia almost every summer, and the following is the reason why:

Antranig Boghosian: I always want to spend my summer vacation in Armenia with my children. Serop and Saro live in Qatar, while Sevag lives in Shushi. We can only gather in Armenia in the summer. This year, I stayed a little longer because I also participated in the Armenia-Diaspora Pan-Armenian Conference.

It is in the interest of the school that I stay in Aleppo. We always have to be in school. We can only leave for summer vacation.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Boghosian, the past couple of years have been years of trials and tribulations for Aleppo. However, in spite of all the hardships, Aleppo and the Armenians of Aleppo survived.

Antranig Boghosian: The reality is that things are better now. There have not been explosions or bombardments over the past three to four months, especially in the Armenian and Christian districts. Families can live in peace and safety. However, the fear has had such an impact on people’s psychology that many think the peace is temporary. This is why they are precautious. However, others are encouraged and are returning to Aleppo from Tartos, Latakia, Lebanon, Canada and even Armenia.

I would like to share a story. In the previous academic year, a parent came to our school and said the following: “We reached Aleppo from Canada at midday yesterday. Could you please enroll my two children at your school?” I was silent for a moment since this came as a surprise for me. The poor woman thought I was going to reject her and asked me again. I told her the following: “Dear woman, you returned to Aleppo from Canada, particularly the Krtasirats School. How can Aleppo close its doors in front of its children? How can the Krtasirats School not open its doors wide for its children?” She got emotional, and I did too since it was a very beautiful and touching moment.

I am certain that many will return to Aleppo.

Those living in Aleppo have started getting back on track. They have reopened their workshops and are trying to rebuild and renovate their homes. The government is also trying to help. One thing is for sure-the Syrian government can’t imagine Aleppo without the Armenians, and this is why it is creating all types of accommodations for the Armenians to return to Aleppo, a city that used to be the center for construction, the arts and crafts in Syria.

It is so beautiful that there are flights from and to Damascus and Yerevan. Let’s hope there is a flight from and to Aleppo too.

Hayern Aysor: Over the past years, what kinds of difficulties did Aleppo’s Sarkis Jemberjian Krtasirats School face?

In 2012, our school had 730 pupils. Every year, this number would decline by about 100. In 2016, we had 410 pupils, and today, we have 450 pupils. The parents couldn’t stand the situation in Aleppo.

One day, while we were at the school, we heard missiles dropped. After a while, a missile was dropped near the local church, and another missile was dropped on the backside. It was as if a voice inside reminded me to bring the pupils in the secondary section on the third floor down from the third floor. We had barely managed to bring them down when a missile was dropped. It damaged the school’s roof. Stones started falling, and glasses were broken. It is a good thing there were no pupils in the classrooms on the upper floor; otherwise, there could have been something like a massacre.

The next day, we weren’t able to open the school. Unfortunately, you can’t protect your pupils from all dangers. After this incident, one of our pupils with the Hindoian last name, whose house was located next to the school, died from a bomb that exploded near their store.

Unfortunately, some of the pupils of our school were killed. At least two pupils died in the area near the school. Our alumni – Levon Srapionian, Hrach Hagop and others – were killed in the Syrian army.

However, in spite of all the hardships and human losses, the school continued to operate and carry out its mission. It didn’t stop in spite of all the difficulties. Thank God, we have always kept and will always keep the doors open.

Hayern Aysor: What helped you stay, struggle and continue to live?

Antranig Boghosian: It is the duty of each Armenian to think about others and others’ interests, not only theirs. Today, all the Armenians have suffered damages in Syria. In 1915-17, Armenian mothers would teach their children the Armenian alphabet on the sands of the deserts of Deir ez-Zor. Today, we can and must do much more than that. We need to find resources in order to let our children feel the joy of learning Armenian and enjoying Armenian culture. It is our duty to continue our mission at any price. We will stay here as long as we live. This is my ultimate conviction.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Antranig, you were recently awarded with the Medal of Gratitude of the President of the Republic of Armenia. What does this award mean to you?

Antranig Boghosian: Another burden (smiling-ed.). I would like to express special gratitude to all those who appreciated my modest contribution and saw our work. This is an impetus for us and another reason to work harder and make more sacrifices so that we can perform our duty to our innocent children. I would like to express special gratitude to the Respectable President Serzh Sargsyan, Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan and everyone else. For me, this award is not only a joy, but also an honor and a stimulus.

Hayern Aysor: War itself is a great pain and a wound that never heals. However, which was the saddest day that you will always remember?

Antranig Boghosian: I can’t and will never forget our innocent victims and our innocent pupils. Why should a 3rd or 6th grader die? What is his or her crime?

I would feel great pain whenever I would hear that an Armenian had been martyred or an old Armenian man had been burnt in his home. I would feel that it is my duty to attend the person’s funeral, regardless of whether I knew the person or not.

It is hard to imagine all that happened to Aleppo. Out of the 40,000 Armenians who used to live in Aleppo, now there are only 8,000 Armenians left. We hope Aleppo is revitalized again. It must remain standing and continue to exist so that it can convey strength and vigor to the other communities.

Aleppo was not the only city that suffered damages. There used to be 10,000 Armenians in Kamishli. Today, there are only 1,000-2,000 families left.

Today, it is not easy to gather Armenians scattered across Europe and Canada in order to teach them Armenian. In Syria, we Armenians stand united as one. We can teach our children Armenian and help them learn about Armenian culture and history in schools so that they stay clung to their roots. Even if they go abroad, they can use their professional knowledge to contribute to the restoration and revitalization of the community in the given country.

Even though the Armenians leave Aleppo, they feel pain and complain that they can’t find the warm atmosphere in Aleppo that we used to be in. May God allow peace to continue and the dove of peace to return to Syria.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Antranig, what was the brightest spot that dispersed the darkness of the war for you?

Antranig Boghosian: I am optimistic, but I can never forget the great role of Armenian statehood. When you feel that your homeland is by your side and can extend a helping hand to you at any moment, you become more powerful. This is the brightest spot.

The second bright spot is the various kinds of assistance being provided to the Armenian community of Syria. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Armenian religious leaders who don’t spare any effort to provide material assistance to Syria.

I would like to see this support continue. As Catholicos Aram I announced months ago, this year is a year of restoration. Consequently, we need to do everything we can to make sure our schools are restored so that we continue our mission to provide our children with an Armenian education.

It is necessary to remember that there are Armenian children and families living in Syria and actions need to be taken to protect them. I would like to express gratitude to all Armenians of Armenia and the world for supporting us.

You feel blessed every time you hear that the lives of the sons of the Armenian nation will become better thanks to our collective unity and assistance.

Interview by Lusine Abrahamyan

Source: Hayern Aysor

Scroll Up