Caique Gudjenian is a Brazillian-Armenian who moved to his homeland in April 2019. His great grandparents were forced to settle in Brazil after being exiled from their homes in Sis during the genocide, where they became the pioneers of the Armenian community in Osasco, the first city to welcome Armenians in Brazil.
“I was active in the Armenian community of Osasco. The first Armenian church was built there, it is where I was baptized. The church is what unites all Armenians, every event revolved around it. Armenians there made sure to preserve the strength of the church, because it’s what kept the community alive.”
The family later moved to another city where, unfortunately, the activeness in the community sort of died down. Caique and his family did all the usual Armenian things; eating Armenian food, going to church, but what they missed the most was the language. His father knew a few words, but not enough to hold a conversation. And as a result, Caique’s generation had almost zero contact with it. The only people who made sure their identity was alive was his grandparents, who had remained back in Osasco.
Moving back to Osasco, Caique reconnected with the community and this time around, he was involved more than before. The community was flourishing and was becoming stronger than before. They organized festivals, started a futsal team, but dance was what captured Caique’s attention.
“I saw Kilikia Dance Ensemble performing in my city and it was love at first sight. I was hesitant to join in the beginning, but a few months later, I decided to go for it. I was head over heels. The movements were beautiful, and dancing made me feel closer to Armenia.”
Graduating with a degree in Economics from Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Caique worked at a bank until he decided to finally visit Armenia through the Birthright program in March 2018. The results? Remarkable.
“I wanted to know more about my homeland; there’s more to Armenia than remember the genocide. I wanted to explore it myself. I expected nothing and I fell in love. My favorite trip with Birthright was when we went to Artsakh. It also happened to fall on my birthday. My friends threw a surprise party for me and my heart was filled with so much love.”
Caique did not have intentions of moving to Armenia during the program; he thought he was just a boy trying to see the world. His friends and family were in Brazil, he barely spoke Armenian, it seemed impossible.
“Towards the end of it, I started thinking, you know, it wouldn't be so bad if I move here. And I realized, Armenia doesn’t need a person who speaks the language at all, it needs someone who does something with passion. The time to move is now. I want to see and help Armenia develop and, on the other hand, I know Armenia will help me improve both as a man and as an Armenian. So I decided to come.”
Caique’s main issue is language related, but he is very optimistic about improving his skills. He now works at The Crowdfunding Formula where he previously volunteered through Birthright. He practices his Armenian with his coworkers on a daily basis. He tells us that in a few years when he looks back, he’s sure that he’ll be proud of his progress.
No visit to Armenia is complete without a funny incident. For Caique, his experience was mostly puzzling.
“I was walking towards my friend’s house trying to find it, but I was lost. I called him and he tried to explain, but it was in vain. There was a bunch of men playing backgammon in the neighborhood where I was trying to find the apartment, and for some reason, they got very defensive. They asked what I was doing there and I apologized for invading their territory because I had no idea where I was. They basically told me to get out because I was disturbing their peace. I was very confused about why they acted like that, people are usually very nice here. I thought “next time, I should mark my territory so I don’t have such encounters”.
Caique says his stay in Armenia is very calm and relaxing. He doesn’t stress about being in danger at night, he enjoys walking to work. He likes the simplicity of rural life in Armenia. He likes that villagers are hardworking and humble. He says they have a lot of room to make demands, but they’re very modest.
Following Caique’s footsteps is his younger brother Caue, who aspires to become a football player in Armenia.
“I think my parents are very proud of me and my brother. I’m sure they already were since I was the first person in my family to visit Armenia. I’m very grateful for my grandparents for shaping the person I am, and I would like to say one thing to my grandmother: Մեծ մամա, դու շատ լավ ես պատրաստում ուտելիքներ, և ես շատ եմ կարոտում դրանք... և քեզ:”Annie Akkam