Armenian community celebrates 30th anniversary of independence – Troy Record
Rafi Topalian, center, sings the Armenian national anthem.
The Armenian flag is raised onto the flagpole in front of city hall, where it will remain for the week.
The Armenian flag waves above Watervliet City Hall.
Members of the Armenian community in Watervliet gather at City Hall to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Armenian independence.
WATERVLIET, N.Y. — Members of the city’s Armenian community recently gathered with city officials in front of City Hall to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. The celebration was marked with songs, speeches, and a flag-raising ceremony.
On Sept. 21, 1991, the supreme council of the socialist republic of Armenia declared independence from the collapsing Soviet Union. The declaration allowed for the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Armenia and the US, which had been disrupted due to military and political conflicts in Europe. The country’s path to freedom has not been an easy one, and even today citizens are troubled by ongoing struggles.
“Armenia continues to have significant challenges to its freedom and independence, including an illegal war last September in Artzakh,” remarked Dr. Ara Kayayan. “We call upon the US Congress to continue to support and uphold Armenia’s hard-fought independence. We are proud of the accomplishments of the 30-year-young Armenian Republic.”
The independence celebration was attended by Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli and members of the city council, who stood beside the members of the Armenian community in support and solidarity.
“I have a great deal of admiration for their pride and their welcoming community,” said Patricelli. “They’re our residents and friends. Any time we can remember their history, it’s a plus for us and for them. It’s a way to keep their history alive.”
“It’s so good to see us standing in solidarity,” said Professor Philip DiNovo, a strong supporter of the Armenian community. “Every free-loving people should want to support democracy and freedom. We should stand in solidarity to support that freedom around the world. I hope that all people will enjoy the freedoms that we have someday.”
“It’s difficult to enjoy being an Armenian in 2021,” said Father Stepanos Doudoukjian, who offered a prayer of hope and guidance. “While we enjoy freedom here in America, back in Armenia our people continue to be persecuted.”
During the brief ceremony, the American national anthem was sung and then the American flag was lowered from the pole in front of City Hall. The Armenian flag was raised in its place and the Armenian national anthem was sung. Then followed some short speeches, including a brief history of Armenia, and the singing of “God Bless America.” The singing was led by local personality Rafi Topalian, known to many as Rafi the Singing Jeweler, who is of Armenian descent and very active in his community. Patricelli has stated that the flag will stay up for the week.
“Today is a celebration of democracy,” Topalian commented. “We are commemorating 30 years of freedom. We hope and pray for our country. We celebrate our Armenian roots and pray for them. We’ve endured, and we will continue to endure. God willing, we’re going to continue to thrive.”
The Armenian community of St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church invites the public to join them for their annual Festival this weekend, at 101 Spring Ave. Hours are Saturday 12-8 and Sunday 12-5.