Diana Hovsepian: “Armenia’s independence brought the tiding to return “home””

Hayern Aysor’s correspondent sat down for an interview with repatriate and member of ARS Armenia Regional Committee Diana Hovsepyan.

Mrs. Hovsepian is in deep distress, seeing how people are leaving Armenia. She can’t imagine who will defend the land and how the country will be built after they leave. She thinks about the “sweetness” of foreignness and can’t understand it.

It was these thoughts that served as a basis for Diana Hovsepian and her family to move from Iran to Armenia.

Hayern Aysor: You were born in Iran, which is rich in traditions and has a large Armenian population. What memories do you have of your birthplace?

Diana Hovsepian: Iran is like a large ‘smithy’ for patriotism. I was born in Tehran. I have lived in Tavriz and Isfahan for many years. I have many memories there and a spiritual connection. My parents, friends and relatives live there. I have memories from my teenage years when I would participate in patriotic programs organized by the local unions, societies and associations. After getting married, I moved to New Djulfa.

I attended the Haikazian-Tamarian-Sahakian Armenian School of Tavriz. Since I was a child, my parents have instilled the feeling of patriotism. We were a large family. After classes, my father would gather his six children during the long winter nights to read the novels of Raffi, after which it would be our turn to read them out loud.

I have mainly been involved in community service. I have been a member of the Ararat Sport and Cultural Union of Tavriz and have supported the activities of the Armenian Cultural Organization. I have been a member of the Union’s board and various committees. I have also been a member of parents’ councils at schools.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hovsepian, Diaspora Armenians say they always look towards Armenia. Was it the longing that “looks” towards the homeland that made you repatriate?

D. H.: My husband and I had always dreamed of settling in the homeland. We had always thought of it. We see our future in the Homeland. Armenia’s independence brought the tiding of coming back “home”.

Our dream came true when our whole family moved in 2003.

Settling in Yerevan, my husband and I tried to build our future and the future of our two children. My children started going to the local school, received a higher education and found jobs. My husband worked on construction to earn a living.

Hayern Aysor: How did the children react to the decision to return to the Homeland?

D. H.: They came to Armenia with pleasure, and now they only want to live in Armenia. I have always noticed how excited they are. They have even participated in various school competitions. My daughter obtained her BA from the Faculty of International Relations at Yerevan State University and went on to obtain her MA in Political Science at the State Management Academy of the Republic of Armenia. Fortunately, after she graduated from Yerevan State University with honors, she found a job that corresponded to her profession. She is now married to a man who, as the people in Armenia say, is a ‘local’ (laughing-ed.). My daughter is part of the generation of Armenians born during the years of independence, and perhaps that is the reason why she is very patriotic.

My son is already serving in the Armenian Army. He had the opportunity to evade military service, but his position was that if he had returned to Armenia, he had to serve in the army to feel complete. He definitely wanted to fulfill his duty to the Homeland. After he returns, he will continue his studies at the American University of Armenia. Before getting accepted to AUA, he had studied in the International Bachelor’s Degree Department of Kvant School.

Hayern Aysor: Was it easy for you to adapt to the changes after being cut off from your familiar community?

D. H.: First, I must say that the Armenian community of Iran is a strong community. Raising children with the national spirit is one of the greatest responsibilities of parents.

When we were moving to Armenia, I thought we wouldn’t have any difficulties with this since we were finally coming to a place where everyone speaks in Armenian. Our knowledge of Eastern Armenian helped us a lot. The only problem with the language was the orthography, but we learned it easily.

I believe we have been able to overcome all the obstacles without losing hope for the past 13 years.

Adapting to the new environment was like an item on the agenda for my children. After all, they were going to be attending a new school and integrating into a new society. The teachers of the schools helped me a lot with this. They would show great respect to repatriates. They have always been tactical and have approached my children’s problems with understanding.

I would spend most of my day encouraging my son and daughter and helping them move forward. I would support them so that they wouldn’t feel alone and constrained.

I have also established cordial ties and have become close with the parents of my children’s classmates, and I still keep in touch with them. They have also shown respect towards me.

Hayern Aysor: What were your impressions in terms of human relations?

D. H.: When you meet Armenians abroad, you imagine them to have the greatest human attributes. As an Armenian, you want them to be perfect. There is a totally different approach to the description of Armenians abroad. If an Iranian knows you are Armenian, they believe you won’t tell a lie, or rob, or betray someone, meaning they trust you. When we would see such phenomena in Armenia, we would feel bad. Later, we started looking at those problems from a different perspective. Psychology helped me a lot in this regard.

We simply had different notions of the Homeland in Iran. We imagined Armenia to be a safe and ideal place and the most beautiful country where every Armenian would dream of living. After Armenia’s independence, we would visit Armenia as tourists for many years and would have a better notion. We were more or less familiar with the morals, people’s mindset and personalities. We didn’t feel like we were in a strange environment.

Hayern Aysor: How did you feel when you returned “home”?

D. H.: When we set foot on the homeland, we realized that being in Armenia was already a reality for us.

We all thought that we had to make our contributions to the country’s advancement. However, there were phenomena that we would see and feel sad, like the poor conditions on the streets, the darkness and the long lines for bread.

The people in Armenia weren’t able to differentiate between foreigners and Diaspora Armenians. They couldn’t accept the fact that we were Armenian and were amazed at how we were speaking in Armenian clearly. However, that stereotype was broken later.

Instead of discriminating, they simply need to understand that Diaspora Armenians live for Armenia and vice versa. The difference between us is nobody’s fault. After realizing this, our country will become the heavenly place that we all dream about.

Hayern Aysor: Have you ever thought about what you got out of repatriating?

D. H.: The most important thing that I ‘learned’ from repatriation was that I had a great desire to continue my higher education in Armenia. I believe all Diaspora Armenians dream of receiving an education in Armenian in the Mother Homeland. That’s a totally different feeling. Although I graduated from a university in Iran and am a geologist by profession, I followed my dream and decided to get my second profession. I got accepted to the Department of Psychology of Mesrop Mashtots University in Yerevan and went on to obtain my Master’s Degree at the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia.

I defended my thesis on “The Peculiarities of the Social-Psychological Integration of Syrian-Armenians Having Moved to Armenia”.

I have examined the psychological problems of Syrian-Armenian refugees. I was interested in the problems that people face when moving to a new location and how they manage to adapt to a new environment.

After repatriating, I started seeking my role in society. I am a member of ARS Armenia Regional Committee. I am also a member of the committees on handmade works and handmade arts and several other committees.

I am also part of the women’s council for the church being built in the Arabkir district. I have served as chairperson of the board of the ARS in the Arabkir district. I have also collaborated with the RA Ministry of Diaspora as a volunteer for a short period.

Hayern Aysor: What do you understand by saying ‘patriotism?

D. H.: I think patriotism means living for the homeland. Patriotism is teaching Armenian children living in a foreign country the Armenian language and helping them preserve the national identity.

Patriotism is the courage of the Armenian soldier on the border that words can’t describe. Recently we organized the “Letter to Soldiers” initiative through the ARS “Strong Border, Powerful Homeland” Program. Diaspora Armenian children also wrote letters to soldiers. If you read their touching letters, you would understand that Diaspora Armenian children are being raised as patriots.

Hayern Aysor: Do you make cognitive visits? After all, such tours are one of the best ways of discovering Armenia.

D. H.: There is no place in Armenia that we haven’t visited as a family. All the places are nice and close to our hearts. I want my children to recognize their country. By saying Armenia, we shouldn’t only understand the beautiful cafes, restaurants and other places of leisure. We need to see the fabulous nature, the high mountains, the ancient monasteries and other monuments that seem to ‘talk’ to us and ‘convey’ a message.

When we visit any city or village in Armenia, we definitely spend the night since we love to go out to the city in the evening, talk to people and see how they live.

That’s when we notice that when darkness falls, nobody is active and everyone goes home. I want Armenia to develop proportionately and to see the government keep the people living in the bordering villages in its center of attention.

Hayern Aysor: What advice would you give to Armenians leaving the country?

D. H.: When you live abroad, you understand that there is nothing good about leaving the Homeland. Now that we have settled in the homeland, I haven’t thought about leaving Armenia for even a minute.

After all, where will we go? Who will receive us with open arms? No matter where we go, we will be a guest and will feel constrained. By staying here, we must support Armenia and resist the challenges facing us.

I support youth studying abroad, but they need to use their potential in Armenia.

Today, our borders are targets for the enemy every day. Despite the dangerous situation, the residents of the bordering villages stay clung to their land. Even in these difficult conditions, they never think about leaving the Homeland. When I often ask them why they don’t move to Yerevan, they laugh and say that no matter how much their villages are bombed, they won’t leave their homes and won’t go anywhere. They feel so much belonging that you feel more than happy and take great pride in them.

I can’t blame those who emigrate. Perhaps they leave due to social conditions, but it would be better for them to have a comfortable life in Armenia.

By Gevorg Chichyan

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