Aurora Prize for Awakening of Humanity was established in honor of Aurora Mardiganian in 2016. The purpose of Aurora Prize is to recognize and express gratitude to individuals and organizations that devoted themselves to saving human lives and the promotion of humanism. Aurora Prize is awarded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide in gratitude to their saviors.
Aurora Mardiganian (January 12, 1901 – February 6, 1994) was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, as well as an Armenian American author and actress. Her name became known to the general public only in last the years of her life. In her teens, she witnessed the 1915 Armenian Genocide that was deliberately carried out by the Ottoman Government.
Having lost her whole family in the Genocide, Mardiganian went through unimaginable challenges. In her memoirs, she writes about the horrors she witnessed on her way to exile. She was sent to a slave market to be shortly bought by a Turkish pasha. But Armenian Joan of Arc, as she was called in the US, didn’t break under the terror of her slavery and found the strength to escape.
The book “Ravished Armenia” written by Mardiganian was published in 1918. “Ravished Armenia” is telling about Mardiganian’s experiences of the Genocide. The book’s printing comprised thousands of copies. In January 1919, a silent film based on the book and named “Auction of Souls” was shot by Oscar Apfel. Mardiganian played the main role in the film, becoming the first Armenian actress in history.
All the profit from the film would be donated to the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief. To raise funds for relief, “Auction of Souls” was shown in a number of American cities at an admission price of $10 per person, while a typical American theater charged an admission fee of $0.25 – 0.35. The ads would later describe the film as the “$10 per seat picture.” Approximately $30 million was donated to relief. Unfortunately, no copies of the 85-minute film made it to this day.
Aurora Mardiganian died in Los Angeles at the age of 93. Apart from her memoirs and the film, her legacy includes several photos from different periods of her life.