Berdj and Rose Tanielian have been a foundation for the Armenian community in Toronto.
Rose and Berdj Tanielian were born to survivors of the Armenian Genocide who were fortunate enough to find refuge in Cairo, Egypt. They both have treasured memories of their childhood and youth in Egypt in the 1940s and 1950s when the Armenian community had a strong presence. Egypt, however, did not remain their lifelong home. Worried about possible persecution after Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power, the young couple moved to Canada in 1964 and made it their new home. In Canada, they immediately became involved in community organizations, including AGBU and the Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Toronto, increasing their engagement over time. Knar Basmadjian, a friend and former chair of AGBU Toronto, describes them as generous individuals devoted to Armenian causes. “Berdj and Rose Tanielian have been a foundation for the Armenian community in Toronto,” said Basmadjian.
Rose and Berdj enjoyed successful careers in Canada. Specializing in taxation, Rose worked at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) for 34 years and retired in a managerial position. For many years, Berdj was the go-to professional portrait photographer for the Armenian community and also shot for the corporate world. “I loved photography. It was very creative, especially before the digital age,” says Berdj who inherited his passion for photography from his father and uncle.
Now in their early 80s, Rose and Berdj are enjoying a peaceful life. However, over a century after the Armenian Genocide, its open wounds still torment them. Guirguis Manoushi Zada, Rose’s late grandfather, has a special place in her heart. Zada was one of thousands of Armenians from Mardin in Ottoman Anatolia who was killed in 1915. Rose never met him, saw his photo or heard stories about him.
Rose’s grandmother, a genocide survivor, was a quiet woman focused on her children and grandchildren. The trauma of loss kept her silent for years—she never talked about the genocide or about her late husband. For Rose, this silence was painful and haunting: “People cannot perish without a trace. There should be evidence of their life and presence. It has always hurt me that there is no cemetery or cross that bears his name,” she says. “It feels as if he did not exist.” As Rose and Berdj were thinking of a meaningful way to honor Zada and create a lasting memory, they decided to contribute to humanitarian efforts in the Middle East. “It’s a great idea to have his name written so that people will remember it,” says Berdj. In 2016, they established the AGBU Guirguis Manoushi Zada Memorial Endowment in support of the AGBU Humanitarian Emergency Relief Fund, which has provided considerable assistance to Syrian Armenian families since the outbreak of conflict. Thanks to Rose and Berdj, hundreds of Syrian Armenians have received the support necessary to start a new life.