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Mirak, whose family has a long history of giving, comments on Armenian genocide

When Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to declare officially that the World War I massacre of Armenians as "genocide," the reaction was swift and sharp.

Robert Mirak
Dr. Robert Mirak

Armenian-Americans praised the statement as helping to heal more than a century of national pain. Turkey, in whose territory the years of killings occurred, condemned it, acknowledging that atrocities occurred but declined to accept a word associated with the Holocaust.

Bob Mirak was clear where he stands. The man whose car dealerships that bear his surname and whose family donated so much to this town told YourArlington:

"On a personal level of someone who lost all grandparents in the genocide of 1915-1923, I am thankful for President Biden's courageous recognition of the terrible losses inflicted on the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.

"Further, his statements help the Armenians recover the history (if not the lands and treasures) which the Turkish government have sought to steal for over a century. Each and every Armenian is grateful."

These words recall those of Elie Wiesel, who has written so movingly about the Holocaust: “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time,” a 2018 remembrance at his death reported.

Father's legacy

Mirak, 88, has not forgotten the legacy of his father, Zaven Mirakian, orphan of the Armenian genocide, who became John Peter Mirak, a prominent business success of 20th-century Arlington. In Genocide Survivors, Community Builders: The Family of John and Artemis Mirak (Armenian Cultural Foundation, 2014), he bears witness to what his family has experienced.

Bob describes events that were not discussed when he was young. They were "too painful to bring up," he said in a 2015 interview.

John grew up in Revere and Malden, graduating from New England Automotive School in Boston. At his first mechanic's job, he made $3 a week. His Arlington history began in 1928, repairing trucks for Arlington Dye Works, at a Mystic Street shop where Armstrong Ambulance is now.

Four years later, he and three other immigrants launched Arlington Center Garage and Service Corporation, at 440 Mass. Ave. On the site today lie the Legacy apartments, which Mirak built. In the next 40 years, the family left its mark on Arlington.

Part of that came from the debt John felt to the town and society. In 1965, the 50th anniversary of the start of the genocide, his ad in The Boston Globe began, "Gratefully yours ...." Bob said his father offered gratitude to the region for allowing him to prosper.

The Armenian Cultural FoundationThe Armenian Cultural Foundation

The charitable work of the John Mirak Foundation includes establishing the Armenian Cultural Foundation along Mystic Lake, which marked its 75th anniversary this year.

The Miraks' generosity toward Arlington includes Bob serving on the board of Symmes Hospital, the donated main reading room at the Robbins Library and bequeathing the historic Jefferson Cutter House, moved from in 1989 to Whittemore Park, where the Chamber of Commerce and the Dallin Art Museum are now.

See a video showing, near the beginning, how the house was moved and including an interview with Bob Mirak >>

Behind the family's charity lies a religious conviction, Bob's book says -- that his life had been spared "for some reason .... from gratitude, wonder, and probably survivor guilt, he felt compelled to repay society through donation and service." 


Jan. 1, 2020: Ordinary origins: From immigrants, a foundation grew

April 19, 2015: Mirak family rose from ashes of genocide 

 


This opinion piece was published Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

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