My Way Home
| From Barnaul, Russia | Moved in 2013
Milena Bazinyan was born in Georgia but moved to the southern part of Russia from a young age, where she has lived for 15 years before her move. Thus, she never got the chance to get to know Armenia. It was only in the summer of 2012 when she finally had the opportunity to make her first ever visit to her motherland, during the busiest season in the country – summer.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t really commemorate the Armenian genocide in my family, and we mostly spoke with each other in Russian. When I first came, I barely spoke Armenian; and when I did, I spoke in the Tbilisi dialect. In my family, it was difficult to communicate in Armenian, because everyone around us spoke in a foreign language. We would come home from school, work, and our surroundings would have a strong effect on us. But thankfully, we preserved the customs and traditions, and our food always had an Armenian touch. Another thing I can say about my family is that the way I was brought up and educated was in a very Armenian manner. By ‘Armenian’ I mean the way our girls are taught is different, there is a big gap between Armenian boys and girls, and the behavior is supposed to be different. You can say that the Armenian mentality had a strong presence in my family, which is probably why I never thought of Russian men as, roughly speaking, ‘candidates’ for a husband. I wasn’t even a bit interested in being in a relationship with a Russian man, because I thought it was impossible to have a family with a foreigner.”
Milena was a member of her local Armenian community, where they taught children how to read and write, but she never quite felt as at home as she would in Armenia.
“When you stay in a place for a very long time, the influence becomes greater. If I had lived in Russia for 15 years, everyone else had been living there for 25 years. They had changed more than I had, and they were more Russian than they were Armenian. I couldn’t quite understand them. For example, we would have events and we would learn traditional dances: every time music was played we would all dance to it and the atmosphere would be very cozy, but the minute it was over, everyone would go back to being Russian.”
Her first impression of Armenia wasn’t fully compatible to what she actually thought. The first thing she noticed that the appearance of Armenian men was rather untidy. She imagined it completely different; she assumed that it would have been the same way it was in their family. But on the emotional level, they lived up to her beliefs. Milena was always told to think realistically and not to have great expectations, but she visualized the way Armenians looked a bit differently.
Two years before she came to Armenia… it was at that point in her life where Milena felt that she wasn’t in a comfortable environment.
“When you understand that people around you don’t share your views; for example, when you tell people about things that are considered normal for you, they react to it with mockery and it makes us feel isolated. We would always try to break that habit, because, as an independent adult, I don’t like to be told how to live. I wouldn’t want other people’s principles to interfere with the way I live. My dad’s side of the family lives in Georgia, and whenever I brought up the subject of moving away, he’d tell me to visit Georgia first and if I liked it they’d help me move, but Georgia was never my goal. True, it is a beautiful country, but I didn’t like the way people were there. In Armenia, it is very different. People have a better attitude towards the elderly, women, and children. I now have Armenia in my heart.”
In Armenian families, when a girl decides to move away from their family, it is a bit of problem. Milena’s father, however, was fine with her daughter realizing her dream of living in Armenia. Luckily, she had cousins who had moved to Armenia back in 2010, and through them she knew about the inner workings and conditions of Armenia. She believed that if those family members were still in the country, it is probably a pretty good sign.
“It was very difficult in the beginning. I wanted to study architecture, and when I was taking my mathematics exams, it was a disaster. Not that I’m bad at it, but everything was in Armenian and I couldn’t understand any of the terms that were mentioned, and I couldn’t explain to them clear enough for them to understand me. Thus, I changed my major to design and I do not regret it. You can say that I am quite satisfied with my life. I study and I work, freelance mostly.”
“One of my pet peeves is when people judge each other for their appearance. Thankfully, there aren’t such people in my circle of friends, because I wouldn’t tolerate their behavior. People like to dress differently; they like to find their own sense of fashion, and we shouldn’t be critical about it. We should think outside the box. Another stereotype: Armenian girls are taught to be housewives instead of working women. As I mentioned, my family was like that but it wasn’t as extreme as it is among locals. For example, my father would ask me to make dinner, to help him here and there; but here, they are ordered to do so. They are treated as objects more than they are treated as humans. You can easily ask them to do something instead of commanding.”
As an artist, Milena aspires to embellish and beautify her homeland. There are a lot of things to change, according to her, but the nature of Armenia has an indescribable beauty. If she would compare Russia with Armenia, they’d be two different worlds. Armenia’s nature is relatively tinier and tidier. She would like to introduce better industrial design in Armenia. Most of the time when such opportunities come up, the pay is usually low. But, she doesn’t think it’s an obstacle because, if she wants to be “somebody”, she has to do all types of projects, whether it pays well or it doesn’t.
“In the end, Armenia is my home. This is where I feel I am myself. I hope the warmth in my country is always there, and will always keep radiating that warmth for everyone.”
Interviewed by Boris Yatsenko
Edited by Tamar Najarian
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