Canadian-Armenian repatriate Shant Najarian: “There is no other country that can “talk” to my heart the way Armenia can”

The Najarian family repatriated from Canada to Armenia, becoming another Armenian family that has settled in the Homeland.

Amid emigration, many Armenians are repatriating to Armenia, considering the Homeland their final and only landmark. For many of them, in a foreign country, one is like a small sliver on a big ocean that sways to and fro on the waves and tries to reach the shore…Fortunately, some of our compatriots reach the shores and live and work in the Homeland and for the Homeland, satisfying their longing of many years. Shant Najarian has also moved from Canada to Armenia with his family. In an interview with Hayern Aysor, Shant and his parents, Susan and Kevork Najarian, shared their brilliant fairy tale that they created for themselves in the cold Canada and that has come true.

Hayern Aysor: Welcome to the Homeland! How and when did you settle in Canada, which is surrounded by the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, Mrs. Najarian?

Araz Najarian: The heated war in Lebanon became the reason why our family found itself in that distant country. At the time, Armenia was not independent yet. It was in that foreign country where I met my future husband, Kevork from Lebanon. We were both Lebanese and had left our native country, but we shared many circumstances in terms of the nation and family and had common ideas and views. Our family was built and hinged on love and such commonalities. We have lived in Toronto for over 29 years, and now Armenia has become our landmark.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Najarian, how did you find yourself in Canada?

Kevork Najarian: I had gone to Canada earlier. First, my brother left, then my parents, and I was the last. It was in Canada where I met Susan. Both of us had lived in Lebanon, but hadn’t met each other there. We met in a foreign country and started a beautiful family. I am a jeweler and would sell jewels in Lebanon. After leaving for Canada, I continued selling jewels. I fulfilled my dreams, and things turned out for the better over time.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Najarian, what were you doing in Lebanon and later in Canada?

Susan Najarian: In Lebanon I was working at the residence of the leader of the Cilician Diocese, and in Canada I was a teller. I have been closely linked to the Armenian community. I am a member of the Armenian Relief Society, and my husband and I have been very active in the community. Kevork is a member of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society and has served as the correspondent of the choir. Overall, he has carried out many activities in the cultural sphere. Our daughter, Tamar came to Armenia before us and has been living here for the past three years. She got married to an Armenian and works for Repat Armenia Foundation.

Hayern Aysor: Shant, wasn’t it hard for cordial Armenians like yourselves to live in the cold country  where there are almost no Armenians for so many years?

Shant Najarian: I was born in Canada. I never had problems with the cold weather, but whenever we would visit Armenia in the summers, we would feel the warmth of the sun in the Homeland on our faces and in our souls and would return to Canada with the warmth of the sun in Armenia in our souls. Now that we have finally returned to the Homeland, I know that no cold winter will have an impact on me because one’ s heart has to be full of warmth on the native land…In the beginning, when I was very little, my parents had brought me to Armenia a couple of times. When I grew up and started earning my own money, my friends and I would gather and visit Armenia. I have visited 19 countries, but there has not been, there is no other country that can “talk” to my heart the way Armenia can.

Hayern Aysor: Susan, you were born and raised in Lebanon, lived in Toronto for 29 years and have settled in the Homeland. Where do you aspire to be soulfully?

Susan Najarian: Lebanon is my birthplace, and I won’t hide the fact that I miss it. Throughout those 29 years, I only visited Lebanon once in 2000. Canada is the country where we lived safely, started a family and had children throughout all those years. As for Armenia, our souls have always aspired to be in the independent Homeland.

Hayern Aysor: Susan, what was the language of instruction for your children in Canada?

Susan Najarian: We lived in a very Armenian environment in Lebanon. We all grew up with the feeling of patriotism and were raised and educated with faith, with admiration of the Armenian language and traditions and viewed our national values as sanctities. It is so deeply rooted in our souls that nobody could take it away from us, no matter where we lived. It is in our blood, in our souls and in our hearts. My son and daughter were born and raised abroad as Armenians, and Armenian was the household language. In Toronto there is one Armenian school that our children attended, and that school is the ARS School, which makes great efforts to flourish and advance. After school, my children would be involved in different spheres. Shant gained experience in mechanics, acquired skills in business and is planning on receiving a higher education in that field in Armenia.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Najarian, you are the head of the family. I would like to ask you to tell us why you and your family repatriated?

Kevork Najarian: Of course, each person has dreams. Canada truly helped us fulfill our dreams. My wife had been dreaming of returning to Armenia for 29 years. I was thinking about the same thing, but I had problems with my job. There is a time for everything. The time had to come for this. Canada is a great country, but there are problems everywhere, and Canada was no exception. There are many robberies in Canada. The time and moment for everything has to come. The time came, and we decided to come to the Homeland and spend the rest of our lives here. Nature compelled us to make this decision.

Hayern Aysor: Susan, is that also why you came? Why did you decide to repatriate now?

Susan Najarian: In reality, I never wanted to go to Canada. I was little, but in the sense of the sanctity of the nation and the family, it was impossible for me to live there. Due to the Lebanese war and since my father had been kidnapped, my mother decided to move to Canada where my paternal uncle had already settled. After my mother left, we also went. A year later, I got married, but for 29 years, I would keep telling my husband and mother to move to our Homeland…We came now because, as my husband said, we were waiting for the right time.

Hayern Aysor: Shant, you got engaged to an Armenian girl. How did you find each other? Does she agree with your decision to repatriate?

Shant Najarian: My fiancé, Dalar is from Lebanon and lives in Los Angeles. We have an Armenian youth association. We met during a trilateral seminar for young Armenians of Western and Eastern USA and Canada in Montreal. I have been traveling to Los Angeles and Toronto for a year. Dalar came to Canada three times. We decided to get engaged and come to Armenia together. From the very first day we met, I told Dalar that my dream was to come to Armenia, and she told me that she had always dreamed of that as well. We shared the same view, and the problem with my fiancé’s move was solved. She is still studying. God willing, we will get married by the end of this year. We still haven’t decided the date or the church. We will discuss it and make a decision as the day approaches.

Hayern Aysor: Shant, how did you friends in Canada react to your decision to repatriate?

Shant Najarian: I have friends who are living peacefully in their residences and haven’t traveled to so many places in the world to be able to make a decision to move. They were asking me why I had made such a decision and told me that I didn’t have to move. I told them I was leaving so that I could set an example for them and to show them that one can live in Armenia. I am certain that they will all return someday.

Hayern Aysor: Have you all settled in Yerevan? Have you already chosen the district and street?

Shant Najarian: Yes, we have purchased an apartment. We live in the Yeraz district and are content.

Hayern Aysor: Shant, what did you think about Armenia during your years in Canada? You are already living here with your family. Is what you see in Armenia and Yerevan close to what you had imagined and heard about? Is it the Armenia of your dreams?

Shant Najarian: As I already said, I have visited Armenia eleven times and love the Homeland the way it is. A person’s dream is what he seeks, and if a person seeks Armenia, in this case, I must say that I have already seen the Armenia of my dreams.

Hayern Aysor: Shant, what does Armenia the Homeland mean to you?

Shant Najarian: Armenia is not only a piece of land. Armenia is an idea, the soul that has been reborn and has risen again like the phoenix. By coming to the Homeland, we need to be a part of this rebirth.

Hayern Aysor: And you, Mrs. Najarian…?

Susan Najarian: Armenia is the only place where Armenians are unwavering! No matter how much Armenians abroad try to survive, the generations can’t always continue to survive as Armenians. There might be one generation, but not the second…The Homeland is the only guarantor of our nation’s survival.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Najarian, how would you formulate the concept of the Homeland?

Kevork Najarian: Armenia is our blood and lymph from which we receive our strength. The Diaspora would be weak without Armenia.

Hayern Aysor: Shant, you have surely heard of the military operations that Azerbaijan unleashed on the Line of Contact of the Nagorno-Karabakh-Azerbaijan border in April. How did young Canadian-Armenians react to this? Did you want to go to the border during those days?

Shant Najarian: Of course, we heard about the military operations in the distant Canada and were ready to go to the border, if necessary. You can ask my friends. Now I am in Armenia and, in case of danger, my friends and I are ready to go. No matter where they may be in this world, all young Armenians must take weapons and fight for their borders and every piece of land until the last drop of blood. If not, we will be defeated, and we don’t have the right to be defeated.

Hayern Aysor: Shant, you were born and raised in Canada, visited your parents’ birthplace in Lebanon, have visited Armenia eleven times and have now settled in the Homeland with your family. Nevertheless, which country is the most beautiful for you? Let us exclude Armenia as the Homeland.

Shant Najarian: If we talk about highlands or seas or forests, different people will prefer different zones and climatic conditions. Beauty means something different for each person. My forefathers were from Cilicia, and the call of the sea is in my blood…Who knows, we Armenians might have a Sea to Sea Armenia someday…

The interview with this beautiful and patriotic family of three that was a combination of each phrase and sentence that Shant uttered in his melodious voice, instills infinite confidence in us in the reinforcement and bright future of Armenia, and I believe that we Armenians will definitely have the sea of Shant’s dreams someday.

Karine Avagyan

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