My Way Home
17.12.2015Armenian by Birth
| From Vitebsk, Belarus | Moved in 2013
Nina Mehrabian is a 28-year old Armenian from Belarus. She was born and brought up in Belarus, Minsk. She went to school, graduated from her university, and then worked at the Ministry of Culture of Belarus. Later, she founded the Armenian youth community group of Belarus called “Miasin” together with her 3 friends, and then moved to Armenian on December 1, 2013.
Nina’s parents moved to Belarus in 1980. Nina was never involved in an Armenian environment simply because the Armenian community in Belarus is rather new and not well-organized. She did not attend an Armenian school. Nina speaks fluent Armenian due to her parents and she thinks that overall, a family plays a crucial role in the child’s life.
“I am Armenian because my family made me Armenian. It’s all about mindset: everybody identifies himself/herself according to his/her mindset. It means that if I were to think I am Armenian, I would become Armenian, and if I were to think I was someone else, I would become someone else. My parents were very strict: in the presence of my father everybody had to speak only Armenian and could say even a single Turkish word. My brother and I suffered a lot since it was easier for us to speak Russian. However, now I am very grateful to my parents for this upbringing”.
Nina and her brother visited Armenia in 2008 to participate in the “Baze” festival, and that is where the idea of establishing “Miasin” (which means “together”) came to her. “The idea of “Miasin” was based on the very “Baze” festival I participated in and was driven by the necessity to organize the Armenian community. Miasin first of all was aimed at unifying the separate parts of the Armenian community across Belarus. There were many Armenians engaged in promoting the Armenian culture in Belarus, and our aim was to bring those people together and contribute to a joint and well-structured Armenian community in Belarus”.
Before the creation of their organization, Nina and her family had connections only with a few Armenian families. Their relations were limited to conversations over a cup of coffee or so. There was no structure or so where Armenians could get together and undertake community activities. “There is no single Armenian school or church, nor even a place where the Armenian religion can develop: we have no conditions to carry Armenian religious rites in Belarus, we have to invite a priest from Moscow or Kiev every time we need one, which is quite a complicated procedure”.
“After returning in Belarus I decided to organize a similar festival called “Armenian National Festival Miasin”. We were lucky to get in touch with the so-called “Armenian business club” which appeared to be established in Belarus by that time. This community consisted of the Armenian businessmen eager to support the Armenian youth by all means. They supported our idea of “Miasin” and provided financial assistance. We invited Armenian children all over the country through the social media. As a result, 300 people got together and took part in a 3 day festival. People were divided into groups and participated in various competitions. The festival became a tradition: during the next years not only Belarusian Armenians, but also Armenians of Moscow and Kiev came to participate”.
The festival had a big success and resulted in the emergence of a school also due to the financial assistance provided by the Armenian Business Club of Belarus. “It is a Sunday school for kids, children and other age groups that includes lots of activities: singing, dancing, courses of Armenian language, art, history, literature, etc. We used to organize lots of event in our school in honor of the Armenian culture. We even have had a 67-year old Armenian academician who did not have any idea of what it meant to be Armenian; He was really happy to attend our school and to learn about Armenian traditions.”
According to Nina, it was of crucial importance to address all layers of the target group that made them able to create a sort of connection with the Armenians living abroad and prompt them to come and participate in the events organized by this community. “It was important to arrange events for different age groups and of different topics. With this, we could get different people involved, contributing to the creation of a stronger community.”
It has been almost two years since Nina has moved to Armenia. Along with Nina’s participation in the Baze festival, she visited Armenia before for working purposes. “I was working in the Ministry of Culture of Belarus and used to be a Ministry representative for the non-material cultural heritage program in Armenia. Step by step I became more interested in Armenia and the Armenian culture and began to participate in various events”.
Nina never really thought about moving to Armenia and living here. “If I were asked three years ago whether I wanted to live in Armenia or not, I would reply as following “are you kidding me?”. Everyone had the idea that we were all going to leave Belarus some day and return to Armenia. However, due to work, education and other reasons, this idea remained uunrealistic. Nina’s decision to move to Armenia was rather unexpected. “On my way back to the airport after another “Baze” festival I suddenly thought of moving to Armenia. I asked my friend what she would say about it and got an affirmative answer. I already had lots of friends and connections in Armenia by that time, so the opportunity to live and work in Armenia came about. Nina immediately told a friend sitting next to her in the car about her deliberations and got an affirmative answer. “I was confident that there were people in Armenia who would at least guide me. It is very challenging to move somewhere where you have no friends.”
At the same time, adapting to Armenia is not that easy for Nina: “Here in Armenia, the private space is very limited. It seems that anyone can lout you for no reason: sometimes you enter a shop to buy something, and the shopkeeper behaves as if you came to ask for a favor. Another thing is that people lack responsibility: for instance, I make an appointment for the week-end and start to make preparations for it on Friday. Then I call my guest on Saturday morning to know when exactly he/she is going to come and get the following response “oh, sorry, we are on vacation in the countryside”. You are never sure of what to expect from people when arranging an appointment.” However, Nina does not consider all these things real challenges, but according to her, there are many cultural challenges that one can face while adapting to Armenia.
Nina thinks that this is all a part of the experience. “It is an interesting experience which significantly differs from the life in Belarus. I would not say that all these things are negative, but rather I am not used to them. Speaking about the advantages of living in Armenia, I would say that Armenia is warm, the food is good, and people help each other. This, in turn, is a positive side-effect of limited private space that I have talked about. Although people may often step into your private life, you never feel alone and know that someone, even a stranger, will help you in time of need. There is a community here, and you feel safe.
According to Nina, if you want to contribute to improving your country, moving there is not merely enough.
“You can move to Armenia but live a bad life which, according to me, does not contribute to the wellbeing of the country. It is not about the quantity, but rather the quality. You need to be socially active. I think that the diaspora does not love its motherland, but rather is in love with it. When we are in love, we do not notice the drawbacks, while to love the country means that you consider both the advantages and disadvantages of your country. Everything seems so appealing to you while living abroad unless you arrive and engage in the daily life. If you continue to love your country together with its’ drawbacks you are truly experiencing it, and it means you love your country. If you want to see your county strong and developed enough to move and live in, you should stand for it without waiting for someone to come and do so instead of you.”
Prepared by Gayane Baghdasaryan
Edited by May Gavroian