My Way Home
09.11.2015Armenian by Birth
| From Moscow, Russia | Moved in 2013
Many people were stating to Mara Abramyan that she wouldn’t live in her homeland for even a month, but despite those discouragements, she proved that it is possible to live in Armenia as easy as in any other country. She arrived in Yerevan nearly two years ago and so far has not regretted her decision to move, although having lived the major part of her life in Moscow, where she made a successful career in Television and Radio.
“I was born in Yerevan in 1988. I lived here only 6 six years. When the difficult times began to grow my parents, like many Armenians, left. The main reason for the move was that I was becoming very seriously ill. In those times it was impossible for me to be cured here, and I almost no chance to stay alive!” (laughing) “In fact, in order to save my life and ensure a future for me my parents decided to leave Armenia at a rather old age. They intended at the time to only leave for a few years, and those ‘few years’ turned into almost 20. We had moved to Russia and settled in Moscow. There I attended school, studied at the institute, worked for many years, but was not simply feeling myself as an Armenian girl while living in Russia. I was considering myself, as I like to think of me, a person of world peace.” (laughing)
For the first time after moving to Moscow Mara came to Yerevan after 10 years. She did not gain the best impressions of her homeland. “I was brought to Armenia with my mother. At the time I did not enjoy it here at all. It was unbearably boring. Most of my time I was spent sitting at home and reading books, while my mother was attending some institutions.”
Mara is a professionally a journalist. She completed her education at the Institute of Modern Art in Moscow. “I did not choose my profession; my profession chose me.” (laughing). “I remember everyone wondering at school; where to go, what to do. I had options: to apply either for RSFI, for the Acting Department, or for the Faculty of Sociology. But when it was time to send in the documents, I made a decision to apply for the Faculty of Journalism. I don’t even know why. It just felt it was right for me.”
Regarding her years at school Mara tries not to reminisce. Her childhood was in the nineties in a residential part of Moscow, which was a very trying time for her. But according her words, “The school years tempered my character and taught me not to give up in spite of anything.”
This characteristic has aided her much in her future years. ”I made a great career for myself; when I was 18 I was a managing editor on TV; I was managing eight-hour talk-shows live. By 19 I was the managing editor of a program named «Speaking in Russian». It was very funny: a 19 year old Armenian teaching Russians how to speak in Russian!”(laughing).
Mara has lead the TVARMRU (the first Russian Armenian TV channel for the diaspora) as well. She regards this project to be the most important in her life. Actually, in fact it defined her future, guiding her in a positive and fortuitous direction. And after all, it was an incomparable experience and interesting working with the group, which she refers to as her “Dream Group.”
“In the scope of my job I often had to go to Armenia and Karabakh to delve into the history of Armenia, gaining insight into everything concerning Armenia. Due to the experience with this TV channel I became familiar with a wide range of interesting people. I was interviewing politicians and businessmen, and that was very enjoyable and rather interesting. But one of the most important acquaintances I made was with Garik Poghosyan, the producer and sponsor of many of my films. This man did so much for so many people, for Karabakh. He didn’t shy away from any challenge or complication, and it was amazing me. But the most important lesson that he taught me was to look at my nationality correctly.
Poghosyan brought her to Stepanakert for shooting a film about the Independence Day of NKR. She fell in love with Karabakh. Furthering her infatuation with the country, she had opportunities to visit Karabakh often due to her work obligations.
“Oh, it’s an incredible country. I have so many memories of the first trips! The meeting with the president, with Komandos (Arkadiy Ter Tadevosyan), and with Ter Grigor- the abbot of Gandzasar Monastery. These people change your consciousness, your outlooks and opinions, you learn from them. Consistently, these trips have strongly changed me. Seeds of patriotism arose in me, though, however, I would rather call it the beginning of accepting my identity, my nationality.”
It happened that Mara left the television channel and continued her work at the radio program The Voice of Russia. She led an hour long program live, again the main theme of the broadcasts were Armenia and Karabakh.
“It was a difficult period for me, a difficult departure from television. Hard film shootings, the first and the last were feature films, which proved challenging for after all I am a documentarian. (laughing) There were storms of stressors. The job in radio became a breath of fresh air for me. But with only one breath per week, it was too little. (laughing) Honestly, I spent a year in depression. I didn’t simply like the direction in which my life was moving. One wonderful autumn day I realized that I need to radically change my life. And I need to start right now. I called Garik and told him that I no longer found my job interesting, and I did not want to waste my life on one. Order me a film, Garik! So we made a short film about Levon Gurgenovich Hayrapetyan, a patron from Karabakh: ‘World Peace Begins With A Smile’. I can’t say that it is my greatest work. (laughing) When we showed the film to Levon Gurgenovich, he said that the film is a good one, but it needs to be made up of 2 parts, and also showcase some of the other patrons of Karabakh. The film we had made was focused solely on Gurgenovich.
So, I had to fly to Yerevan to come back to Karabakh. But, I decided to take a risk and bought a one-way ticket, and I arrived. While the shootings were happening, I was offered a job at the Yerevan Edition of “Interlocutor of Armenia.” It was a pleasant surprise and proof that after all there are jobs in Armenia. We had shot the film, successfully released it on discs, and I gave a couple of interviews. Then suddenly, during all of this running around for the movie release, I realized that I have actually already been living in Yerevan and I am not so eager to return to Russia. Moreover, I had a job already. It was exactly what I needed to ensure my life in Armenia.”
Despite this Mara admits that the first year of living in Yerevan was very hard.
“I was coping with the resettlement rather roughly. Whoever says that it is easy is lying. I was conveying my worries and observations to a column, “The Notes of A Repatriated Girl”, and the people who were reading it helped me at great extent to acclimate. I mean, I had 6000 readers that were psychologists alone; so many people were reading my articles in the newspaper and in my blog weekly. Due to the readers, bloggers, and my friends as well I was finally cured, standing firmly on my feet.
“Interlocutor of Armenia” was unexpectedly closed and the rumor that I was jobless quickly spread among my friends within a couple of hours. I didn’t need to mourn for much time. In two days I was called to an interview in the advertising company BBmedia. Many Armenians were stating that it is very difficult to find a job, so I don’t know how it happened so quickly. (laughing) I was offered a position as the the account manager of one of our agency’s largest clients: Dalma Garden Mall. It was an entirely new experience for me. I now am engaged in marketing and all that it entails, including organizing events in the mall.
Of course, it isn’t television or radio; it is totally different profession. I had to read and learn new skills, but I enjoy it. I don’t think I could work in television or radio again now that I am in Armenia (I have recently begun to learn Armenian), but I don’t have many regrets. It was a great phase in my life, but it is over and that’s alright with me.”
Mara Abramyan never foresees the future, she simply knows that now she is going in the right direction. She knows that she is in her place, and that the life she lives will be the way it is to be. Here she feels herself free, powerful. She confesses that first she liked Karabakh, and after, Armenia.
“I adore Armenia, but Karabakh is something different. Armenia is my home; Karabakh is the place where I will run, where I can rest, where I can see the mountains that are lacking here. I am a tremendous fan of this country; practically all my films are about Karabakh, and I have delved into it so deeply that it will never be withdrawn from me.
“There was once a moment that I was excepting the opportunity to go and live in Karabakh. But the thing is, Yerevan is my home. I have chosen this life for me. I can just leave for Stepanakert at any time for work, and do just that for several months. For me Artzakh is like a chocolate cake: imagine eating it every day, then after some time you won’t even be able to look at it.”
“To Be A Human” is one of the films made by Mara, the one for which she came to Karabakh. It is dedicated to benefactors, patrons who play a role in the development and prosperity of Karabakh.
“The project for ‘To Be A Human’ is temporarily suspended, as it is quite expensive in terms of production costs. We are currently looking for sponsors. When the moment arrives with the help of those sponsors we will be able to shoot a good film, designed for a specific audience, with a specific message. It will be interesting to watch for a person, who is familiar with Karabakh, what is a destroyed school, a house without heating, destroyed roads.
“I have unforgettable memories about the shooting in one of the villages, Sarishen. The driver, who had agreed to take us to the destination, stopped on the way and said that he wouldn’t go on to the mountain, and we were still an entire 18 kilometers away. So, like a proper film producer, I said that we would go on foot and that we would still shoot the film. With great difficulty we found another driver whose car was able to cross that terrible road. At some point we seemed to be above the clouds. There was only the mountain on which we were standing. To put it in perspective, you are standing and there is not a world beneath. There is only wind, empty houses, two cows and an old woman wearing a blue headscarf…
“It turned out that only two families lived in the village. In winter time, when they need to buy something, they have to come down from the mountain along the serpentine path, on foot, as at this time cars don’t travel here at all. Once they make it down, with half the day gone, they can’t go back. They will wait till the next day comes to go back home. In Armenia there was a famine while the war was happening over Karabakh. There are many villages similar to this one. The children of Karabakh up to 3 years old have lived in cellars, some of them have gone days without seeing daylight. They have never played in streets, haven’t even ever known the taste of candy. It breaks their psychology. If we up to the moment can’t forget those severe years, imagine the people there that wake up from any single loud noise, reminding them of gun and rocket fire. Together, with the director Kostas Che, we put our emotions and impressions in this film. We just locked ourselves in a house for two months and we all felt the pain, joy, delight and anger we conveyed in this film. The film turned to be heartbreaking. I know that adult men have cried watching it.
“Of course, there were many people who gave feedback after seeing the film. I think if anyone is touched by the film even bought a single copy-book and sent to the children of Karabakh in need, it means that the film has been a success.”
Mara likes when her work is fruitful. No matter if it is a film about charity, work with the Red Cross, teaching programs on television or her blog about the life in Yerevan, she feels satisfied. “With my example, I actually encouraged a few people to move to Armenia. They were reading my posts and understanding that here it is not as horrible as it is believed to be, that there are jobs here. I remember when I was working for the newspaper I mentioned that I could get three other jobs within a week during an argument with the chief editor. (Laughing)
I want to say that the Armenians are not ‘a poor, hungry nation’, it is not a musty country, and anyone can have fun and work here. Enjoy the life here and be happy. I want people to be as happy I am. Despite the complications in life, and the hard work, I love my life so much. Just a month ago my mother moved to Yerevan. My father will move here in the summer. I am going to be here for a long time. Show me a country where there is no need to work and still get money, and I will buy a ticket and leave Yerevan. That’s the only way.”
Interview by Mariam Mkhitaryan
Translated by Siranush Taroyan
Edited by David Tashjian