My Way Home

Armenian by Birth
Arpine Qtoyan
Arpine Qtoyan
| From Moscow, Russia | Moved in 2015

It was in the month of August of 2015 when Arpine Qtoyan moved to Armenia from St.Petersburg. Before taking that leap, however, she had gone through the Birthright Armenia-Debi Hayq program back in 2014, inspiring her immensely. Born in Javakk, Arpine lived there for 8 years before her family relocated to St. Petersburg, Russia.
In her new hometown, Arpine attended a Sunday school, over time becoming more and more active in the community, particularly the youth organizations.
“It depends on yourself and your family to what extent you will preserve your Armenian identity.  It is possibile not to be Armenian even in Armenia, isn’t it? When we moved to Russia, I had already completed my second grade in school, and my mom used to make me and my elder brother write dictations and read in Armenian. We really enjoyed it. My mother is a math teacher, and my grandpa was a teacher of Armenian language. At home in Petersburg, we always spoke Armenian.”
Every repatriate has his or her own background story. Arpine states,
“At the same time, I have never considered Javakhk to be a part of Georgia, regradless of its terrotoral location. While I was living in Javakhk, I felt like I was residing within the boundaries of Armenia: everything was Armenian there, from the schools to the people, and other regional administrational entities. Only Armenians used to live in our village. At that time, there were no other ethnic groups or even Georgians there. The same applied to several villages around us. Nowadays a lot has changed. After Saakashvili came to power, he decided to spread the Georgian culture and language over to our villages as well. As a result, many Georgians have been resettled in Bogdanovka, my birthplace.”
Russia, however was very different. “In Russia, I did not feel the same way: I did not know the language, so it was quite difficult for me to study in school. Besides, there were too few Armenians living next to us. The majority were Russian, and they would not talk to us much. Then we moved to the capital city, Moscow, where I got to know my best friends from my school.” Yet, there only seemed to be three people she could get close to for a while, until she entered university, her relatives being her biggest comfort.
She states not having any troubles regarding her nationality while she was in school or otherwise, though she was lucky. Others in her family had many problems. “I had no idea why it was so. Perhaps, I was a girl and studied well, and they wanted me to help them out in studying. Besides, I would often witness racism towards most others, not just necessarily Armenians. At this point in time, I only used to attend an Armenian Sunday school and since I was the only older pupil there I did not communicate with others much.”
Arpine has always had the goal of moving to Armenia in mind. ”I cannot explain why I have always though about moving to Armenia; I am not sure whether this is because of my past, my blood or anything else connected to my history. I had not been to Armenia before moving, but my brother and I have inheritied these partiotic sentiments from my mother.”
Arpine first visited Armenia in 2008.  ”At that time, I had been dancing in the Nairi Armenian Dance Ensemble and arrived in town to give a performance. I have always loved Armenia, but when I came I immediately fell in love with Yerevan. I really enjoyed being here. In Armenia, I feel comfortable and I am living a full life here. In contrast, I felt like a guest who had not even been invited in St. Petersburg.” Arpine visited Armenia a second time in 2013 in the frames of a summer school program initiated by the Ministry of Diaspora called Ari Tun. “We went to Tsakhkadzor for two weeks, and it was fantastic. It was really very interesting due to the fact that different people from different parts of the world were gathered together in one place and we all had something in common –ethnicity; we all were Armenians. Due to this program, I became even prouder of my heritage. I have always possessed these nationalistic sentiments. This is not to say I disregard other nations, but rather, I am simply proud to be Armenian.’’
With these thoughts fresh in mind, on August 11, 2015, Arpine decided to finally make the move to Armenia. ”Before moving to Armenia, I believed I had carefully considered all the details. I was wrong. For example, I was considering getting Armenian citizenship even before my arrival in Armenia, as the double citizenship is allowed in Russia. However, I have just recently applied for a citizenship and have to wait for 6 months even though I needed to find a job here. My parents were completely for my decision to move to Armenia. However, I moved alone. It is a good thing I have many relatives here.”
Arpine now lives in Yerevan and works in a dental clinic. She shares a flat with an Armenian girl volunteering for Birthright Armenia – Depi Hayq. “I would not say I am yet a resident of Armenia; I have been living here for 5 months only and can barely distinguish the advantages from drawbacks of living here. I really appreciate how people behave and treat me here, though: every time I ask something, people gladly answer me, helping me out with whatever I may need. If they, for some reason, do not know for sure, they turn to those around them for the answer instead. The most important thing is that people are warm here and happy to give you a hand.”
As with any other country, there are the negatives to be considered as well. Though in this case, for Arpine, those negatives lie in the tendency to complain among her own people. It seems to her that they complain a little too much and do not seem to appreciate what they have, viewing life abroad much better than it actually is. “I sometimes argue with these people, especially given the fact that they have never been to those countries they are speaking about. They simply make assumptions based on what they have heard from others. However, you will never know for sure unless you go see it for yourself. Besides, here people do not appreciate small things which are so important in our daily life. For example, one may have a great time with friends without spending much money. This is not something you can find easily in other places, especially bigger cities.”
When asked about whether others should also come to live in Armenia, she smiles and states with certainty that it is a big recommendation on her part. “I have a Russian friend who also wants to move to Armenia. If someone wants to move, he/she should try to plan everything beforehand properly, including making connections, learning about documentation procedures, etc. This will allow you to avoid any inconveniences you can potentially experience while moving.” Arpine recommends that those who want to move, should give it a try. It is a safe and truly great place to raise children, it is sunny most days of the year, and the food tastes delicious.
Prepared by Gayane Baghdasaryan

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