Lusine Nersisyan: “I can’t live outside of an Armenian environment”

On October 17, the family of Lusine Nersisyan, President of the Mesrop Mashtots Armenian Union of the Belgian city of Liege, received the 2nd Prize in the Best Armenian Family of the Diaspora category during the 2015 Pan-Armenian Awards “For notable contribution to the preservation of the Armenian identity” held at the RA Ministry of Diaspora. In an interview with Hayern Aysor, Lusine Nersisyan talked not only about her award, but also the preservation of the Armenian identity in the Diaspora and the recent visit of RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan to the Armenian community of Belgium.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Nersisyan, how do you feel after receiving such an award?

Lusine Nersisyan: Receiving such an award is honorable and binding for our family. We understand that Armenia doesn’t forget us, and this inspires us and gives us strength to work harder.

We received not only a certificate and symbolic award, but also a financial award. I have decided to donate the money as a small New Year’s gift to a soldier wounded during the Four-Day Artsakh War in April on behalf of my family. It will help me have peace of mind.

I must also add that the Mesrop Mashtots Armenian Union received the 2nd Prize in the “Defender of the Mother Language” category during the 2014 Pan-Armenian Awards.

Hayern Aysor: Do you preserve Armenian morals and traditions abroad? Do you celebrate national holidays and the holidays of the Armenian Church?

Lusine Nersisyan: We definitely preserve all national traditions. My children only speak Armenian at home. This is a major precondition for us. My daughter learns Armenian at school. My son has also attended an Armenian school.

I did everything I could to make sure they received an Armenian education and upbringing and stayed attached to their roots. When my daughter speaks French at home, her brother scolds her and urges her to speak only Armenian.

My daughter is currently reading a book presenting the eyewitness accounts of families that experienced the Armenian Genocide, and she gets very emotional. She always shares her impressions of the book with me.

We prepare for the New Year, Easter, Tyarndarach and the other holidays with great excitement. We design our home correspondingly, and there is a lot of commotion.

One can always feel the Armenian environment in our home. There are pictures of Lake Van, Armenian cross-stones and other sites on the wall, and they help us feel close to Armenia and dispel our longing to a certain extent.

We have created “a small Armenia” in our yard. We have a bakery. We also have grape twigs, as well as fig, apricot, plum and mulberry trees. In fact, we picked the first mulberries from the tree this year. I can’t live outside of an Armenian environment.

Hayern Aysor: I know that your husband is non-Armenian. Have you managed to “Armenify” him? What is his opinion of the Armenian people?

Lusine Nersisyan: My husband, Didie is Belgian. He is a public servant and works with notaries to look into the heritage that people have left. He always asks me about the history of the Armenian people, their sufferings, the horrors they have experienced and the victories they have achieved. He is very well aware of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

I haven’t made any great effort for him to love and respect the Armenians. We achieved that throughout the years. We visit Armenia several times a year. He has even visited by himself. My husband wants our family to live in Armenia where we have already built a house on the plot of land that we had purchased in advance. Didie speaks and understands Armenian. When people ask him about the Armenian language, he says it is a beautiful language.

Out of all Armenian dishes, he likes barbecued lamb the most. When we paid our first visit to Armenia, we were treated to barbecued lamb, and my husband liked it so much that he decided to take an oven from Armenia and build a bakery in our yard where he often makes barbecued lamb for us and his Belgian friends. He likes homemade vodka distilled with various Armenian fruits. Basically, my husband has great respect for the Armenians.

Hayern Aysor: What do you do in Belgium?

Lusine Nersisyan: I work as a nurse. When I was living in Armenia, I was also working as a nurse during emergencies.

I am also involved in community service as a member of Mesrop Mashtots Armenian Union.

The Union also has a one-day Armenian school and a dance group named after Mesrop Mashtots. We also organize Holy Masses. Since there is no Armenia church in Liege, we lease a hall of the Catholic Church and invite pastor of the Armenians of Belgium, Rev. Fr. Archimandrite Zatik Avetikyan to serve a Holy Mass.

The Mesrop Mashtots Armenian Union organized a fundraiser to support the families of Armenian soldiers killed during the Four-Day Artsakh War that Azerbaijan unleashed. With the support of the community and the Union, as well as with the active participation of Gaiane Sargsyan, who held the fundraiser, we raised 1,200 Euros from the Armenians of Liege, Bilzen and Tongeren and transferred $400 to each of the families of three deceased soldiers, including Aram Abrahamyan (Artimed village of Armavir Province), Adam Sahakyan (Yerevan) and Manvel Gevorgyan (Yerevan).

Hayern Aysor: You also collaborate with the RA Ministry of Diaspora. Have you carried out any joint projects?

Lusine Nersisyan: The Mesrop Mashtots Armenian Union is always in contact with the RA Ministry of Diaspora. The Union’s teachers have participated in the Training Course for Teachers of Armenian Language and History and Organizers of Education (part of the Ministry’s “Diaspora” Summer School Program), and the schoolchildren have participated in the “Ari Tun” Program. In 2017, my daughter will also participate in the “Ari Tun” Program and can’t wait to visit Armenia.

I have participated in the Course for Young Leaders and Community Activists (part of the “Diaspora” Summer School Program) and the 5th Armenia-Diaspora Conference held on 19-21 September 2014.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Nersisyan, RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan recently had a meeting with representatives of the Armenian community of Belgium during her visit to the country. What reactions do you think the Minister’s meeting sparked within the community?

Lusine Nersisyan: Generally, every visit to an Armenian community is encouraging. The visits help strengthen the bonds with Armenia. Everyone was very content and impressed with the meeting with RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan. Mrs. Hakobyan gave exhaustive and meaningful answers to the attendees’ questions, and everyone liked her sincerity and straightforwardness.

The meeting was held in a warm atmosphere, and it seemed as though we were one big family. The Minister also told us about the “What are YOU doing for Karabakh?” pan-Armenian movement and called upon all of us to stand united and show active participation.

The Mesrop Mashtots Armenian Union will also be joining the movement and has decided to dedicate all of its activities to Karabakh next year.

Gevorg Chichyan

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