I found my phone conversation with Lovenia Gopoian of New Jersey very engaging. We became acquainted after she wrote me a letter about one of my columns, where I had mentioned Der Souren Papakhian, the now-deceased former priest of St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Detroit, who had baptized my two sons.
It seems our former beloved Der Hayr, a Mushestsi, was acquainted with her family, and she regaled me with stories of his visits from long ago. Somehow it seems all Armenians know someone who knows someone you know, and it goes on and on adding interest to our lives. Are we all connected? So it seems.
Thus began a lengthy conversation with this faithful Armenian Weekly reader. We talked about our extreme love of garden centers and propagating plants, and I finally got around to asking how she came to have what I consider an unusual name for an Armenian woman.
Lovenia explained that when she was born, the hospital nurse asked her father what the child’s name was to be, and he replied, “Seranoush.” Of course, the nurse was puzzled and asked for an explanation. In his imperfect English, he said, “‘Ser’ means love and ‘anoush’ means sweet,” and the nurse interpreted it—and registered the newborn’s name—as Lovenia. The nurse got it just right.
We soon discovered we both knew some of the same people. One described her as “the best,” and said many call her “Lovey.” It does not take a long conversation with Lovenia to substantiate their feelings. She is gracious, interesting, and very sweet-sounding on the phone. It was up to me to listen while she spoke.
Clearly proud of her parents, husband, and in-laws, she spoke about her family with affection.
A bright high school graduate at age 16, she took many college courses and turned them into a career as a food technologist, developing laboratory formulas for major food manufacturers. “I guess I had a discerning taste palate that served me well,” she said.
She mentioned how, in those days, the options for women were professionally bent towards becoming a nurse or teacher.
I have always said that, given the opportunity to an education, innately intelligent Armenian men and women of the survivor generation could have become whatever they wanted.
Lovenia had a father who certainly qualified. She told me stories of her childhood and how her father would take them to nearby mountains and rivers and explain the wonders of nature. He was a strong intellectual influence who stimulated minds. He must have been an exceptional person.
Lovenia recalled how, as a young girl, she was challenged by the mechanisms of the cotton gin. On hearing this, her father immediately went to the basement, and what she describes as a “tugh, tugh” sound was heard upstairs. He soon emerged with a contraption involving a piece of cotton and two seeds, educating his daughter of its function. She immediately understood.
I frequently find it is the daughter of these survivors who take an interest in their father’s story. In some cases, the parent kept diaries full of notes and details of their daily lives, including what happened in their villages during and after the genocide. Thus these survivors became historians, with their offspring keeping their valuable memories alive.
Lovenia Gopoian had her father’s book translated into a 550-page English book, not for publication but for her family to be forever aware of their history. A copy and photos were also given to Ruth Tomasian, the director of Project Save Armenian Photographs Archives in Watertown, Mass.
Never underestimate the importance of what Lovenia Gopoian has accomplished for all of us by having this translation done. It now is a permanent, factual account of an Armenian’s life during trying times.
Every story from the survivor generation is different, and yet the same. They somehow escaped Turkey, arrived to the free world, and established themselves in jobs, waiting for the arrival of young Armenian women from the ravages of the genocide to marry and establish homes. If they were traumatized by the tragic events that saw the eastern provinces subjugated by Turkey they seldom showed it. The memories were vivid, the sorrow and anger remained within, and the desire to maintain their ethnicity became their driving force.
Over the years a loyal band of Armenian Weekly readers from all over has developed into a wide network for me, resulting in sight unseen friendships (which are welcomed with good cheer). They stimulate my mind and I find myself richer for their interest in this column, spurring me on to create articles featuring my fellow countrymen and women, who lead fascinating lives of accomplishment.
Keep it coming and keep subscribing to the Armenian Weekly, which makes all this possible.