My Way Home
| From Aleppo, Syria | Moved in 1997
While many Syrian-Armenians in Yerevan came due to the war, there are a handful that have been living here for many years now. Aline Sarian and her husband are one such family who came to Armenia from Syria in 1997.
“Basically, it was a sudden decision for me, but my husband had always wanted to live here because he graduated from Yerevan. However, the Soviet atmosphere and the limits on free movement didn’t allow him to come earlier. And then it happened. There are three main reasons why we decided to move when we did: first, it became clear from our visit in those days that while problems did exists, everything seemed pretty normal, the air of a fresh new country intoxicating; second, the quality of life is very much in accordance with our own values, especially considering the fact that everyone searches for a place as similar to his or her own lifestyle; and third, we really wanted to raise our children as true Armenians, within a society dominated by Armenian values, something very hard to do in another country. Living here, we could raise them as Armenians.”
Aline was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. She went to Armenian school and graduated from the faculty of civil engineering at Aleppo State University. After finishing her studies, she worked for six years for the City Hall of Aleppo in its construction section. She worked on a project initiated by Germany to restore old Aleppo and its old culture. Aline’s husband is also specialized in construction engineering. They met while members of the same charity club and are now married with two children.
”While working in Syria and especially with that project, I learned a lot about Syrian culture, spices, plants, soaps, and oils. I have a lot of knowledge about these things, but when we came to Armenia I couldn’t find a job appropriate to my skills, though I had a three- and five-year-old who needed care. I needed work outside of an office job, because I didn’t have that kind of time to spare. When I couldn’t find certain spices I wanted to buy, that was when I decided to try opening my own shop.”
In the beginning, these spices were strange for Armenian tastes, but Aline was confident that everything would simply take time. Syrian spices are very popular all over the world, so Armenians would learn to enjoy them with time and patience. ”Only by believing in our business did my husband and I endure,” she comments. Their shop called “Haleb” isn’t named after the city they came from or due to the fact that the spices are from here. The actual reason is that Aleppo was the first colony after the Genocide. “It was like the mother colony and the nation that helped us a lot, protecting us during that time period; naming it after our home city was a show of gratitude for all that had been done for the Armenians for years on end. It is one way the history of what Syrians there did for our nation can be remembered.” Currently, their spices come from Lebanon because of the tense situation in Syria. Some of their initial challenges after starting their business included society’s lack of taste for the spices, their need to learn Armenian business laws, and the need to monitor monthly taxes. However, the fact that Aline’s husband graduated from university in Armenia greatly helped this situation. He is familiar with the Armenian mentality in Yerevan, in terms of what to say and do in a variety of situations, and most especially how to avoid conflict in general. Aline says she is mostly responsible for what she calls “the inner kitchen.” Her attention to the quality of the spices and each spice’s health certifications contributes to her care for each client. She and her husband largely administered all parts of the business themselves in the beginning, but after growing, they now partner with LC.
“Because I live on Mashtots Avenue, I clearly witnessed how the youth acted and continue to act in response to the tense situation in Artsakh. I was sitting for hours in Mashtots Square as they collected many things for our soldiers and I was very proud, heart swelling with pride for our younger generation. Even young teenagers were ready to go and fight! We are like this regardless of who is in power. Today, I am a citizen and don’t like when people treat me like a refugee. I’m a citizen of Armenia; I’m not an ‘Armenian from Syria’ anymore. I notice the way the youth feel that they are the ‘lord of their land’ and that their strong faith gives them courage. In this way and in those days, I saw a true nation.”
When they first came, Aline and her husband certainly found themselves feeling anger and culture shock all at once. They blamed the country but soon came to realize it was not Armenia’s fault. Rather, these are normal feelings for someone getting used to new surroundings and conditions to live in. Although a person might bring new opinions and want to change what’s around him or her, Aline believes that it is the individual who must adjust to a new place or country. “You should be flexible,” she advises. “You may struggle and of course speak your mind, but you shouldn’t place negativity in your heart.”
Aline is grateful for organizations like RepatArmenia Foundation who inspire positivity in those like herself who come to Armenia to remake their lives. She shows her love for homeland and all that it entails, encouraging others to also follow in her footsteps. It may not always be easy, but it most certainly is worth every second.
Prepared by Hayarpi Ziroyan
Edited by Danica Harootian and Tamar Najarian
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