Alexandropol – “City of Orphans” – Photo From 1926

The photo above shows a line of thousands of orphans in the area of the orphanage “Cossack Post” in the “Orphan City” Alexandropol (now Gyumri). Taken from the bell tower of the Orthodox Church in the territory of the barracks on October 29, 1926, this photo tells about the activities of the American Committee for Relief in the Near East in Alexandropol.

According to the agreement concluded with the mayor of Alexandropol in 1919, the committee assumed responsibility for the custody of the city’s Armenian orphans.

The barracks and warehouses left by the tsarist army became a refuge for 20 thousand homeless orphans. The committee was engaged in educating the children – boys would study drawing, carpentry, tailoring, and shoemaking, while girls attended nursing courses and then worked in hospitals.

Orphans spent most of the day at school and the rest in the workshop. On Saturdays and Sundays, there were no classes at schools and workshops, but the children were engaged in cleaning the premises.

In the “City of Orphans”, great importance was given to the spiritual education of children. Every Sunday, they would visit the local church, and they would attend religious classes throughout the week.

The shelters also had theatrical circles and children’s choirs.

The life of the shelter was widely covered in newspapers.

“… I was taken to the orphanage of Alekpol, that is, Leninakan. There, we were kept in an American orphanage. Times were hard – hunger, epidemics… Half-starved, I grew up with other orphans.

With me were Shiraz, Nairi Zaryan, Khachik Dashtents, Samson Gasparyan, and others. Then, our women’s shelter was separated from them. I spent ten years in the orphanage.

Once a rumor spread in the orphanage that someone had arrived to pick students who had a good voice for a year of studies in the city. I was 13 or 14 years old when composer Nikoghayos Tigranyan and famous singer Tigran Nalbandyan expressed the desire to listen to me in the office of the head of the Alekpol orphanage.”

Shoghik Mkrtchyan, People’s Artist of Armenia, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

Photo Source: Collection of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, www.genocide-museum.am

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