As a child in the 1980s, I grew up watching Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” movies. It felt like Stallone and his movie wife Adrian, played by Talia Shire, were a part of our family.
Each punch Rocky took felt real and the series always got me teared up. The story of Rocky fits perfectly with the American dream and is similar to the stories of a lot of people trying to make it in this country.
Rocky seemed like he was ready for any challenge. But, as courageous as Rocky was, there is one fight that Stallone surprisingly backed away from in real life.
The story goes that in 2006, while promoting “Rocky Balboa,” another beautiful and touching Rocky film and presumed finale in the series, Stallone revealed to the Denver Post that he wanted to create an epic. The book that intrigued him was Franz Werfel’s 1933 novel “The 40 Days of Musa Dagh.”
Wefel’s book is based on a true story and is one of survival.
In the movie “The Promise,” the ending scene depicts the 1915 story of the Armenians living in Musa Dagh (known as Mousa Ler in Armenian) in Ottoman Turkey. They were alerted by clergymen that a genocide was occurring and they would be targeted next.
The villagers of Musa Dagh prepared to fight back and took to the hillside. After 53 days and numerous victories by the small Armenian population against a much bigger Ottoman Turkish military, the Armenians of Musa Dagh were evacuated by the French after their naval ships saw them.
In 1965, a group of Fresno Armenians founded the Forty Days of Mousa Dagh Commemorative Association USA, Inc. Today, the society remains committed to preserving and promoting Armenian heritage and culture, and to advocating for Armenian causes and issues.
Each September the society and community members hold a festival in Fresno with music, dancing, and great food to celebrate survival. During the festival, Armenian porridge (harissa) is made and distributed to attendees. The dish was eaten during the resistance and provided the necessary nutrition to stay alive and continue fighting.
This year’s festival is on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2-3.
In addition, there will be an unveiling of the monument dedicated to the Armenians of Mousa Dagh located at Masis Ararat Cemetery later this year in Fresno. The concept was born in 2018 when a member of the committee approached the cemetery with the idea.
The monument is almost complete. Half of the $150,000 budget has been collected through donations. The organization is looking at doing a little more fundraising to complete the rest.
In 2006, Rocky caved to Turkish pressure. Perhaps now that the United States has officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, it’s time for Rocky to fulfill his dream project and produce this epic story.
I’ll start the chants now: “Rocky…Rocky…Rocky!” Who is joining me?
About the Author
Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of “San Joaquin Spotlight” on TalkRadio 1550 KXEX and CMAC Comcast 93 and Att 99. He works for the County of Fresno, and he and his wife own a Clovis area spa.
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