Wakefield’s Suzie Oliveira was among the group of marathoners
BOSTON — More than 20 runners in the 119th Boston Marathon proudly honored the history and legacy of the Armenian Genocide, which marked its centennial just four days after the internationally famous race on Friday, April 24.
Suzie Oliveira of Wakefield was one of those runners.
Each of the runners wore a specially designed emblem on race day to call attention to the genocide’s 100th anniversary and to salute how Armenians have not only survived but thrived in the generations that have followed.
This program is being coordinated by the The Knights of Vartan, Ararat Lodge of Cambridge. While planning the events for the commemoration of the genocide’s centennial on April 24, it occurred to its members that the Boston Marathon was a perfect opportunity to raise awareness.
Member Ron Sahatjian of Lexington started looking for runners of Armenian descent who were taking on the marathon this spring. Sahatjian scoured through the 30,000-plus names of runners looking for those ending with the traditional Armenian “ian” and made contact with them.
Through e-mails, briefs in various regional and ethnic newspapers, callouts on Facebook and word of mouth, the marathon runners started to appear — runners from Vancouver and California, a state trooper from Rhode island, a Harvard Law student and Armenian and non-Armenian supporters. More than 20 runners eventually signed on, all willing to give up precious space on their running shirt to wear a 3-inch-by-8-inch emblem to remind people not to forget the one and half million Armenians who were killed 100 years ago.
Runners in the group included Shant Hagopian of Los Angeles, Calif.; Tommy Tomasian of South Boston; Sarkis Chekijian of Belmont; Mary Demers of Uxbridge; Talia LaPointe of Jefferson; Roupen Bastajian of Greenville, R.I.; Steven Najarian of Belmont; Cera Adams of Brighton; Jennifer Sahatjian of Woburn; Jenny Konjoian of Andover; Oliviera; Marie Castle of Danvers; Laurie Nahigian of Watertown; Kristen Murphy of Lynnfield; Nicole Arpiarian of Sudbury; Apo Ashjian of Belmont; Mike Donabedian of Vancouver, Wash.; Christine Donabedian of Vancouver, Canada; Pat Lanagan of Newton; Mike Hovagimian of Hopkinton and Debbie Gilligan of Lowell.
The Armenian Genocide is the first mass murder of modern times, a still unpunished crime in which one and half million Armenians were taken from their homes and intentionally and systematically slaughtered by the Ottoman Turkish government under the cover of World War I because of their Armenian ethnicity and Christian religion.
The date marking the start of the Genocide is April 24 — the day in 1915 of the first mass arrests and later murders of more than 250 Armenian community leaders, writers, poets, educators and intellectuals.