Armineh Panossian
''I took a deep breath as I came out of the airport, held my son's hand, and confidently walked forward, knowing that I have burned my bridges behind me''
Armineh Panossian moved to Armenia in 2014 from Lebanon. Having a conversation with her is a real pleasure. Her optimism and professionalism amaze me, her love towards her homeland is unconditional, her path to Armenia is difficult, yet inspiring, her devotion to her family is mind-blowing! Enjoy the first part of her repatriation story:

”My earliest childhood memories in Aleppo are related to nationalism. My father Aram, a prototype of a patriot, raised me and my three other sisters with Armenian nationalistic songs, poems, and stories. When we were young, we spoke our mother tongue so well that sometimes other Armenians did not understand us. In 1984, we moved to Lebanon, and the same patriotic spirit filled our home.

As I write these lines, my father’s voice with his poetic tone rings my ears,”Վերադարձ դէպի Հայրենիք, այս է Հայու միակ օրրանը,” which means, repatriation is the only way that Armenians can settle. Despite this strong love of our country, we continued to live in Lebanon, survived the wars, witnessed chaos, took our university degrees, and pursued our careers.
My eldest sister, Betty is the bravest of us all, she got married and moved to motherland in 2005, and that was the time when I paid my first long-awaited visit here. Of course, I loved our country, enjoyed my stay, and explored it entirely. Yet, Yerevan seemed to me still developing compared to Beirut, and as a result, it did not occur to me to leave my comfort behind, and start a new life there until … 2013

During the last ten years, I paid a couple of visits to Armenia, and always loved its beautiful nature, refreshing weather, and juicy, sweet fruits. I also noticed that year by year, it has been growing considerably while the situation in Lebanon has been moving backward, making for the Christians a vulnerable place to carry on. Nevertheless, I needed an initiative to start thinking of becoming a repatriate. Moreover, it was not I this time, it was we: my husband, my son, and I. We were hesitant because so many questions were left unanswered. How to let go of our newly built home? How to leave behind a convenient job that I have finally found? Would my husband be able to find a job in Armenia? Would the school education there be up to our expectations? On the other side, if we decided to stay in Lebanon, could we provide safe, relaxed childhood to our son? Would we like to see him growing up and living the endless battles that we have lived? After some thought, it turned out that the last two issues weighed heavier on the scale.

Luckily, the kernel of the idea of repatriation ignited in April 2013 when my husband and I applied for Armenian citizenship. On hearing this, my manager, the co-owner of World Heritage Publishers, Ltd. came up with the idea of starting a bookshop in Yerevan, having me as the company representative to promote our English books there. This idea gave me some hope, and we began a careful business study. During that time, we heard of Repat Armenia Organization and attended their seminar in Beirut. It was quite informative and helpful; however, our project was postponed, and as a result, we put aside the idea of moving to Armenia.

Upon returning to Lebanon from our last year’s visit, my husband and I finally made up our minds; our moving plan slowly began to perform.

Having English language as my specialization, being a teacher, and a writer of coursebooks give me the flexibility to practice my job anywhere, but I chose my motherland, the land that inspires me the most, the land that we were raised dreaming of and being taught to be so hopeful of. I also look forward to starting my own center of education in the future, and once more, I will choose that to be in my homeland.
With the help and guidance of my sister, we began studying the settlement procedures, job possibilities, and finding the best school for our son. She always encouraged us, talked of her experience, and gave us positive, practical ideas.

She said, “I’m glad that I started my family in Armenia, and not even once during the past ten years, I have regretted that I left Lebanon for good.” She also made us aware that the first two years could be challenging, but eventually we will overcome them wisely. Besides, it was also promising to see many of our friends from Lebanon settling here, and some launching their own businesses. It was even admiring to hear the move of many Armenians from Canada, France, and other highly developed countries, who simply, proudly say, “We moved here because we love our homeland.”

Exactly one year later from our last visit and getting citizenship, we took the brave step and made the big move possible. About six weeks ago, my son and I entered motherland, not as tourists this time, but as repatriates, in the hope that my husband to follow us soon. Although we came here not exactly the way we have planned it to be, we did it. I took a deep breath as I came out of the airport, held my son’s hand, and confidently walked forward, knowing that I have burned my bridges behind me.”

Posted byRima Yeghiazarian
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