Malvine Papazian Handjian

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Las Vegas Sun
April 22 2006

Armenian left a 'lasting legacy'

Genocide commemoration will go on, even though last survivor is gone
By Ed Koch <koch @ lasvegassun.com>
Las Vegas Sun

At last year's 90th annual Armenian genocide commemoration ceremony in Las Vegas, Malvine Papazian Handjian, a frail and ailing 92-year-old genocide survivor, passed four lighted candles to four local youths.

It was symbolic of lighting the way so that future generations will not forget the horror she witnessed as a 10-year-old Armenian refugee on the streets of Izmir (Smyrna at the time), Turkey, during the first genocide of the 20th century.

Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Empire tried to rid the nation of Armenians.

Handjian died a month after the ceremony.

"She left a lasting legacy," said her son-in-law John Dadaian, chairman of the local genocide commemoration ceremony. "She was motivated and articulate, and she long stood as a symbol of the truth against those who say the genocide never happened. She survived to tell her story over and over."

Handjian told of atrocities - an Armenian priest being pulled out of his burning church by his long beard before he was brutalized; teenage girls carried off by Turkish soldiers to be raped and killed.

"We must never forget - never forget," Handjian told the Sun in an April 24, 2004, story. "I saw these things with my own eyes. And I will never forget."

Commemoration services this year begin at 1 p.m. Sunday at Christ Lutheran Church, 111 N. Torrey Pines Drive. Dadaian called for recognition of the genocide, which has become a political hot potato. While Armenians have pushed for such recognition, Turks have argued against it and in many cases denied it.

Dadaian says no U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has formally recognized the mass slayings as a genocide.

Congress has twice passed resolutions - once in 1975 and again in 1984 - recognizing the Armenian genocide, but not recently. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has introduced a resolution in the Senate that would recognize the genocide.

Gov. Kenny Guinn issued a proclamation recognizing "the 91st anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire."

Among those scheduled to attend Sunday's commemoration ceremony, sponsored by the Armenian American Cultural Society of Las Vegas, are Ensign, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who met with local Armenian-Americans who want to build a genocide monument on city land.

An estimated 20,000 people of Armenian descent live in Southern Nevada .

Handjian was the last known genocide survivor in the Las Vegas Valley. She and her late husband, Kourken, also a genocide survivor, were the subject of the 2002 documentary film "The Handjian Story: A Road Less Traveled," produced and directed by their granddaughter, Denise Gentilini. The movie, which won an award at the Moondance Film Festival in Denver, is used in classrooms to teach about the genocide.


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