Father of repatriate family: “I want my children to be filled with so much patriotism that it bursts out of their souls”
Kazakh-Armenian businessman Vahan Avetisyan considers his Russian wife’s and their seven children’s repatriation to Armenia one of the major decisions that he has made in his lifetime. Living abroad for many years, he has always been concerned about the preservation of his children’s national identity and has sought paths to help them repatriate to Armenia as a way of fighting against assimilation.
The staff at Hayern Aysor hosted Vahan Avetisyan and his 15-year-old daughter, Naira, who charmed the staff with her sincere feeling of patriotism and smart and balanced thinking.
Hayern Aysor: Mr. Avetisyan, let’s go back to your sources a little. When did you settle in Kazakhstan? What made you want to return to Armenia?
Vahan Avetisyan: When I moved from Yerevan to Kazakhstan in 1987, I became involved in community life and worked on road construction. Currently, I have cocoa fields in the Dominican Republic.
My wife, Yekaterina is of Russian descent, but she soulfully feels Armenian. We have seven children, including five daughters and two sons. Although I am Jewish from my mother’s side, I feel fully Armenian, and I want to provide my children with an Armenian upbringing.
With the desire to introduce my wife and children to Armenian national traditions and the sites to see in Armenia, I brought them to Armenia last year. We stayed for a short while, and this became crucial. My children loved their homeland so much that they decided to stay. Unfortunately, besides my elder daughter, none of my children speak Armenian, and I am concerned about this. I will do everything I can to make sure they learn their native language. They are currently attending a Russian bias school until they learn how to read and write in Armenian.
Due to her great ability to learn, my elder daughter, Naira started speaking in Armenian after a year. Naira also knows English, Russian and Kazakh. I am happy that she also learned Armenian. She is currently studying at Yerevan State Medical University.
After our move, we planned on acquiring Armenian citizenship, and we are currently working on that. I want my children to be filled with so much patriotism that it bursts out of their souls.
Hayern Aysor: Naira, were you able to create a circle of Armenian friends in Kazakhstan before repatriating to Armenia?
Naira Avetisyan: I have always considered Armenia my homeland. When I was in school, I proudly talked about Armenia and the Armenian people during events devoted to international relations.
That is why I listened to the call of my soul and decided to stay in Armenia. I want to spend the rest of my life here.
My father’s support was very important for me. Since our childhood, he has been telling us how kind, talented and hospitable the Armenians are.
After we moved, our expectations were truly met. For me, Armenia became the best country in the world. Everything here is close to my heart. What impressed me first was the nature of the Armenian Highland. Later, I started studying Armenian history since it was important for me to know the history of the Armenian people. I have read various books devoted to the Armenian Genocide and experienced deep pain.
Hayern Aysor: You speak Armenian fluently and beautifully. Was it really that easy for you to learn the language?
Naira Avetisyan: It was my love for Armenia that helped me learn Armenian very easily. While I was learning the language, I had inexplicable feelings. I also use words that have become close to my heart, including “homeland” and “Armenian”.
Now I help my brothers and sisters learn their lessons. My mother also wants to learn Armenian. Whenever she has free time, she reads the Russian versions of novels devoted to Armenian history. She is also well aware of Armenian cuisine and makes dolma with leaves, gata and other Armenian national dishes for us.
Hayern Aysor: Naira, have you already integrated into Armenian society? How did you make the psychological transition?
Naira Avetisyan: I didn’t face hardships since there were other children from abroad in my classroom. The teachers and my classmates were kind to me.
Student life is also going well. I have cordial ties with my peers. When we talk, they ask me about my life in Kazakhstan and how I had managed to preserve my national identity in a country that was far away from Armenia.
I have decided to participate in this year’s “Ari Tun” Program of the RA Ministry of Diaspora for homeland recognition with my two sisters and am certain that I will be able to make new friends and rediscover Armenia.
To get a full picture of the program, I had read all the terms and conditions on the Internet. I can’t wait to tour the historic and cultural sites in Armenia.
Hayern Aysor: Naira, you have undertaken a publically beneficial initiative, that is, the Clean Armenia at the Initiative of Repatriates campaign. Could you provide details about the significance of the initiative?
Naira Avetisyan: Walking on the streets of Yerevan, I would see piles of garbage and feel bad. That was when I thought to myself that it is our duty to keep the land that our heroic soldiers courageously defend, clean. So, I decided to make my contribution by launching the Clean Armenia at the Initiative of Repatriates campaign.
Currently, I am carrying out this initiative with my brothers and sisters. We select the place that needs to be cleaned and then start cleaning. I hope this movement gains momentum over time and more people join the initiative so that we can clean more and more areas. For that purpose, I have opened pages devoted to the movement on ВКонта́кте and Facebook.
Hayern Aysor: Have you ever thought how you can contribute to Armenia’s development as a doctor?
Naira Avetisyan: First of all, I want to help people. However, when choosing this profession, I have taken into consideration the fact that after reaching a high level of professionalism, I can go and work in the bordering zone of the Armenian Army, stand with our soldiers and provide them with medical assistance, if necessary.
Hayern Aysor: Naira, let’s end our conversation with a “note” that is as bright and optimistic as you. What kind of Armenia do you dream of?
Naira Avetisyan: I want to see Armenia truly independent. I want Armenians to live well and rely only on themselves. The new generation of Armenia has to shape a new and strong homeland and be proud to be Armenian.
Interview by Gevorg Chichyan