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St. John’s in Massena to celebrate Armenian National Day on Sunday

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MASSENA — St. John’s Episcopal Church is putting out the welcome mat Sunday for anyone who wants to learn about Armenian history.

The congregation will celebrate Armenian National Day at 2 p.m. in the parish hall with a film, “The Armenian Genocide,” along with personal stories from some of Massena’s Armenian citizens.

The Rev. Elizabeth Papazoglakis, church rector, said it’s an opportunity for others to learn about the rich heritage of Massena’s Armenian community.

“We invited all the Armenian people that were on our roll,” she said. “We invited them to invite the Armenian people in the community and anybody else in the community who would like to hear the Armenian story. We’re asking people to come together and learn their story. If they’re people of Armenian descent, they can come and share their story. It’s just a gathering to honor them.”

The 2006 film “The Armenian Genocide” is a 60-minute documentary produced by PBS. It explores the Ottoman Empire killings of more than 1 million Armenians during World War I and features never-before-seen historical footage of the events and key players.

“They use real clips with historians telling the story of what’s gone on,” the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said. “Their stories have not been told. When you hear ‘holocaust,’ you hear Jews. Yes, that was a horrific story that began in 1915.”

Genocide Remembrance Day is held April 24, but “it was more conducive on our calendars to honor this in September,” the rector said.

She said that when she and her husband, the Rev. Tom Papazoglakis, arrived at St. John’s earlier this year, they found a tapestry that had been a gift to the church from Armenians who worshipped there.

“We were very interested in learning their stories,” she said.

On Sunday, everyone will have an opportunity to hear those stories. Refreshments will be served during the event.

“It’s really important to keep these stories alive and have an appreciation for the citizens that live among us. We need to make sure people know what other people are capable of doing,” the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said. “If you don’t know what happened in the past, you can’t conceive that it’s happening again.”

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