My Way Home
| From Baghdad, Iraq | Moved in 2006
“I was born in 1987 in Baghdad and grew up there. We left Iraq when I was 19 years old in 2006 to flee to Armenia,” says Gidigyan.
Ara’s family had been living in Iraq for generations. Iraqis had demonstrated hospitality towards Armenian immigrants for decades and support from abroad aided Armenians in maintaining their identity in Iraq. “We didn’t experience any discrimination or racism from the Iraqi people, not even my great grandfathers when they first came in 1915 to escape the genocide,” says Gidigyan, “The Iraqi people were very generous and kind to us. We were free to observe our traditions and speak our language, to have our own church and clubs (Homenetmen, AGBU) exclusively for Armenians. This was all made possible by the Iraqi government which supported Iraqi Armenians.” Gidigyan continues, “Learning our language and religion was the only way to maintain our traditions and preserve our identity in a foreign country. Additionally, our families urged us to speak only Armenian in the house and become well informed on Armenian history.”
While Ara’s community strived to maintain their Armenian identity as a minority in a foreign land, they struggled to stay connected with the motherland itself. “Staying in contact with Armenia was very difficult due to the tumultuous political situation in Iraq during that time, and it was especially difficult to travel to outside countries from 1990-2003, so we had very little information about what was happening in Armenia,” says Gidigyan. When the war in Iraq during 2003 escalated it made life unbearable for Ara and his family, but the departure would not be without its own complications. Ara says that “making the decision to totally abandon Iraq was very difficult for us, but we had too, and we chose Armenia as our country for asylum. The first issue was arranging how to move our money from Iraq to Armenia. It was also very difficult, especially during the war, because we had nowhere for us to live in Armenia, no work arrangements, and nothing to do at first. Further, it was emotionally challenging to leave behind family members and friends we had made in Iraq.”
The Gidigyans were unsure of what to expect in Armenia, having never set foot in the republic, but were pleasantly surprised after their arrival. “We almost had no clue of what to expect of Armenia and what was awaiting us here, and it was a little discomforting for us. However, after arriving we noticed the generosity of the local people and their warm approach to welcoming newcomers. Also, it was amazing that everybody spoke Armenian!” observed Gidigyan, who was able to find work and eventually start his own business.
“I worked a variety of jobs for a while, and in 2011 my friends and I started our own small business. We supply sewing materials to tailors and also sew small fabrics ourselves. At first it was difficult to get the business up and running, but after some time it became profitable and exciting. I don’t know if what I am doing is directly contributing to the prosperity of my country, and I am sure there are a million things I could be doing instead. So, I am motivated to one day be able to contribute something significant and useful to my motherland.”
Prepared by Boris Yatsenko
Edited by David Tashjian
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