Syria, AVC 2012-2013
I know that I was enough lucky to get a chance of becoming a volunteer with Birthright Armenia and Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) for the second time. That means sharing more experience, learning new things, meeting different people.
This time I didn’t want to stay in Yerevan meet some tourists because Armenia is not just Yerevan; it is all the places from Gyumri to Martakert.
My First night in Yerevan
I arrived at 2:00 am to Yerevan, the driver told me that I had to go to Gayane’s home. When we arrived there, we knocked the door but no answer. After a few minutes a young man and a boy opened the door. That was Araz, another volunteer and he said “We didn’t know about you” Gayane woke up and said “Oh who are you?” I said I am a volunteer too and she was surprised… Anyway she was a very nice lady, and, after all, this was the first night after a long time, that I fell sleep with no voice of bombs and arms.
So my first step was to go to Gyumri. It is a very nice and ancient city — you touch the culture, the history, and also the pain and unforgettable sadness caused by the earthquake. I had to do something I have never done before working in an NGO called Youth Initiative Centre (YIC). I can’t forget the first day when I had to go to my work place all I knew is that I had to stop the Marshoutka in front of the old town hall. All the people in the marshutka knew that I was a newcomer and that I wanted to go to the old town hall, because I was keeping on asking the driver where we were and whether I had to get off there. In the end, he refused to take money from me. He said, “Du Hyur es estegh, patk chi vjares”
Nelly, Arthur, Gurgen, Anni, Tamara, Kert at YIC… we used to spend all the day together having lunch together which I will never forget, especially eating watermelons. I learned so many things from them: I learned how to make others smile, how to bring joy and happiness to others, I learned how to help and love, to create things with small opportunities, I learned how to give while I had nothing and to feel that happiness and the satisfaction inside when you feel the people you feel their pain and bring a piece of smile to them.
Narine, my host sister, was a mother of two children, Hagpig and Ashotig — my host nephews. They were amazing! It was Hagopig’s birthday when I took him to the kinder garden with Narine all the children there knew about me. Narine and I used to sit at nights and share our issues, our dreams and traditions.
During my childhood Artsakh was inside me. All I remember about Artsakh is a video of the Armenian Soldiers who were fighting in Artsakh war and the songs of my Ante (she used to sing patriotic songs). I also remember how everyone used to joke of me when I was telling them I would become a soldier in the future to keep my homeland safe…
I was told I would work with a lady called Susanna Petrosian in Artsakh Youth Development Center and live at her house. Susanna was a nice lady; I used to teach English and organize round tables discussions. I met many young people there. Susanna had three children — Valero Maria and Ovsana, who were all so kind! Marian, who was 7 years old, used to teach me Russian words.
After 10 days I met Liliane de Cermadec , a producer from France and her work team. She told me they needed a translator and invited me to work with her. While I worked with her I had the chance to visit every place in Artsakh and be closer to my homeland. I will never forget Elada when she told me that they lost their three sons during the war. They were soldiers and the first one died in the prison in Baku. I don’t know if crying or shouting or even whining was enough to explain what I felt inside.
I will never forget Surig, the taxi driver we used to talk a lot about our families and customs. Each time he told me something that made me more certain about belonging to this place. We had almost the same traditions while I was in Syria and he was in Artsakh. Now he is one of my best friends. When we used to go to a village, Surig used to introduce me by saying “She is one of us. She is an Artsakhtsi too.”
The next step was working at Artsakh TV, where I met the director Mr. Noreg Gasbarian. He is very wise man. We used to speak a lot about Armenia and what it means to be an Armenian, what it means to live in Artsakh… I learned a lot from him and I will never forget our talks.
Dora, my host mom, was amazing. She used to wake up at seven for me, because of my work. She was a very brave and wise lady and she was a real mom to me. I used to tell her everything about me and how much that experience meant for me. I still call her for a talk.
Unfortunately my internship there was only for five weeks and it passed so fast! When I look behind I see all the friends and the people of Artsakh – they all are inside my heart, because they treated me as if I am a part of them. How can I forget them? What I wrote is such a small piece of what I saw and felt. The experience was so amazing.
Sometimes people ask me, “You love Artsakh what will you do if the war starts again? You can’t fight, can you?” I simply answer I may not fight, but I will not stay home and watch videos of the soldiers who are fighting I will do anything to keep my homeland safe.
My last three weeks as a Birthright Armenia participant and an AVC volunteer were spent in Yerevan, where I had a good opportunity to do some professional work, writing articles for an online newspaper. I was placed to work with an amazing team – they were people who believed in Armenia, and ,again, I learned so much from them.
Now I am not a volunteer anymore, but I haven’t left Armenia. I live in the place that should. I will not have to explain to my children why we are far away from our homeland. I may not be very rich, but I will be a part of the problem, a part of the solution, a part of the joy and a part of the pain…
A PART OF MY HOMELAND.