For many Armenians, the name Zabel Yesayan evokes the image of a fearless woman and an advocate for justice. A prolific writer, some of her most famous books include Among the Ruins, which describes the tragedy faced by Armenians in Cilicia following the Adana massacres; My Soul In Exile about the relocation of refugees and orphans following the genocide; and her autobiography The Gardens of Silihdar, which was published in Eastern Armenian for the first time earlier this year.

More than 140 years after her birth and in honor of the 100th anniversary of Yerevan State University (YSU), this year Holy Ascension Church of Trumbull, Connecticut has pledged $3,000 for a project to honor Zabel Yesayan’s Memory in Yerevan. Through FAR, the money will be used to renovate and dedicate a classroom to Yesayan at YSU, where she once taught. A dedication plaque, along with various photos of her life, and a collection of her literary works will be placed in the room.

“After finding that there are no schools or streets in Armenia named after this writer, we thought something should be done in her memory and honor. Yerevan State University was indeed the best place because she taught there,” said Father Untzag Nalbandian of Holy Ascension. “Besides being a great writer, for me this woman was also ‘Mother Teresa’ for Armenians before, during, and after the Armenian Genocide.”

Close to 20,000 students attend YSU, many of whom pursue Armenian studies. The classroom will help expose many of them to this great writer.

The congregation aims to raise the money by April 1st, primarily through an event that will be held March 24th in the church’s fellowship hall. Judy Saryan, an expert in Armenia’s literary culture, will present on Yesayan’s life and work. All of the proceeds from this event will be donated to this project.

Zabel Yesayan led an incredible life with a tragic ending. Born in Istanbul in 1878, she moved to Paris as a young woman to study literature at the Sorbonne. There, she also met her husband Dikran, and they had two children, Sophie and Hrant. Dikran passed away in 1921.

In 1909, she returned to Istanbul and was assigned to a delegation that helped orphans and other genocide survivors. When targeted for arrest and deportation, Zabel fled to first to Bulgaria, then Armenia and the Middle East, all the while continuing to document eyewitness accounts of the genocide and exposing injustices.

She and her children settled in Armenia in 1933 where she taught literature and French at YSU. Just a few years later she was arrested by Soviet authorities who accused her of being a spy for the west. She was sent to prison in Baku before being exiled in Siberia, where she is rumored to have died around 1943.

The new classroom will be unveiled in September when FAR’s Board of Directors will travel as a group to Armenia to honor the 30th anniversary of FAR.

To attend Holy Ascension’s event, please call the church at (203) 372-5770 or Father Untzag Nalbandian of Holy Ascension at (203) 526-0473.