My Way Home
14.12.2015Armenian by Birth
| From London, United Kingdom | Moved in 1997
Alan is an Armenian who was born in Cyprus, and moved to England in 1960 after the independence of Cyprus.
“There were about 6000 Armenians in Cyprus, but after its independence, the number decreased to 2000. Everyone either moved to England or any other European country. I was among the Armenians who left the country and moved to the UK. That same year I attended primary school. My parents had acquaintances in the UK, so I wasn’t really alone. I was studying at a boarding school, so it wasn’t a burden for them either. Every 3 months I’d go back to Cyprus to visit my parents; this routine lasted for the next six years. At the age of 18 I moved to London and I attended the Institute of Chartered Accountants. There was an Armenian community in London. There were activities and clubs, and so I was a part of it all, and later I became a member of the Tekeyan Cultural Association committee. We would mainly organize cultural events such as plays, concerts; we would invite artists from Armenia to perform.”
Though Alan claims he never attended Armenian school, they always spoke Armenian in their family.
“We have always spoken Armenian at home. My mother tongue is always present. Back in Cyprus, I took private lessons in Armenian for a while, thus, when I moved to London, I never forgot my language. And then when I moved to Armenia in 1997 my Armenian improved greatly, not that I had forgotten it, but my vocabulary increased, and so did my reading.
In 1960 my grandfather visited Armenia from Cyprus for the first time, and in 1965, he took me with him for his second visit. I was very impressed, my first visit had a great impact on me, especially the fact that it was during the Soviet Union, but nevertheless, I immediately fell in love with my homeland. We went to Lake Sevan, Garni-Geghard, Etchmiadzin Cathedral, The Opera House, and I was simply swept away. I also had distant relatives in Armenia and I met them too, it was just breathtaking.My wife-to-be, Narine, was Armenian. She had moved to Moscow, got married there, moved with her then-husband to London, got divorced, and later, met me. Two years later, we were married. We went to Yerevan together to meet my in-laws, and then continued to frequently visit Armenia, usually in summer, up until the 1988 earthquake. I spent 8 years going back and forth to Armenia, but I never saw any changes in the country. We had a lot of friends who wanted to move out of the country as they didn’t like the way things were operating, but I never quite understood that. I found Armenia very good."
Alan had been thinking a lot about changing his job in the UK, he had been looking for new branches that would have a connection with Armenia. Since the country was independent in the nineties, businesses would have had new job openings. He eventually decided to open an accounting firm. He got in touch with a couple of accounting companies in London, and one of them agreed to open a branch in Armenia.
“When the first company I got into touch with said that it wasn’t the right time to open a new branch in Armenia, I contacted KPMG and unlike the first, they agreed. We cooperated with each other, and thus, in 1997 I became the founder and the director of the KPMG audit firm in Armenia. For 10 years I worked in Yerevan’s office, and it became a 2 million dollar turnover business. The company is like an institution for training, and that was not widespread in Armenia. You can say that KPMG established the International accounting and audit profession in Armenia, and for 10 years, we trained Armenian accountants who either continued working for the firm or decided to work elsewhere.” KPMG continues to operate in Armenia. In 2007, Alan established Tower International Consultants which is a financial consulting company and provides advisory services in accounting, tax and legal to international companies doing business in Armenia.
“Since I had been to Armenia several times, and my wife’s family was also in Armenia, it was easier to integrate into the society. When I moved in 1997, there were difficulties, but I was prepared to overcome all the obstacles along the way. I love the fact that everyone around me speaks the same language, my mother tongue. I love the fact that our country has a rich culture. The art, the music, the theater, I absolutely adore it. Our nature is to die for. Our country is simply irreplaceable. But like any other developing country, we have issues. Since the country is small, and the population is small, I hope we can overcome the issues at a rapid pace. The economy is a big issue, and so are the taxes. We can arrange all these in a way to make changes for the good. When the economy of Armenia improves, the country will develop faster. The diaspora will want to return. Our neighboring countries will pay more attention to us. We need the right education to feed the economy, and with all of these things, I believe our economy will improve in no time. We just need the correct strategy and the will to do so.”
Prepared by Annie Akkam, Boris Yatsenko
Edited by Amy Gavroian
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