5 November 2013
Oseni Khalajian, a pensioner living in Eshtia, belongs to a community of Armenian Catholics descended from Armenians who fled to Georgia to escape the Turkish mass murder. (photo: Molly Corso)
The Autumn issue of ONE includes a memorable look at life in Armenia, and Catholics who have true staying power — those who kept the faith alive despite years of persecution:
Older generations, while they maintained their Catholic identity, are still struggling to come to terms with their faith after decades of pressure to abandon it. Built in 1886, when the first Armenian immigrants started to trickle out of Turkey and into Georgia, the church in Eshtia was turned later into a warehouse when the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin went to war against religion in the 1930’s.
Armenian Catholics, however, went to great lengths to maintain their identity and faith. Villagers tell tales about elders baptizing the communities’ babies in secret, and Dr. Ovsepian remembered celebrating Christmas.
“During the time of the Communists, people were also religious,” Father Antonian recalls. “I remember well the holidays like Christmas — which were celebrated.”
But for men like Vano Gasparian, a local born in 1955, being an Armenian Catholic was part of his identity, even if he grew up knowing little about the faith.
“Catholics remained Catholics,” he says, adding, however, that for the older generations it can be a difficult transition from a culture that promoted atheism to a life of faith.
“For the young, they believe with their whole soul,” he says. For the older generations, “for us, it is harder.”
Read more in the Autumn issue of ONE.
Tags: Cultural Identity Armenia Village life Georgia Armenian Catholic Church