My Way Home

Armenian by Birth
Sona Saakyan
Sona Saakyan
| From Irkutsk, Russia | Moved in 2016

Young professional Sona Saakyan left Armenia when she was 3 years old since her family decided to raise their children in Russia. Sona and her sister, a fellow repatriate, had no choice but to spend their childhood there. After many years spent in Russia they finally made the decision as adults to move back to their motherland in 2016. Being a Chinese translator in Armenia makes Sona a unique treasure, and she really enjoys her life as a repatriate.
How did your repatriation story begin?
My family was very disappointed with Armenia. They wanted better living conditions, education and new opportunities for me and my sister. We were kids, so no one asked us what we wanted. I went to kindergarten, school and university in Russia. I got my second diploma as a Chinese translator in China, so my life was going on as planned in my parents eyes. It is interesting that I’ve visited Armenia four times before my repatriation, but all those visits were spent with relatives and a close circle of friends, so I did not have a chance to see what Armenia was really like.

The monumental visit was very different from others: my sister and I rented an apartment in Yerevan, planned various activities and were very happy with our independence. We met Vartan Marashlyan, who introduced us to different repatriates and showed us the development Armenia had undergone for the years we had been out of the country. This was the start of our new found relationship with Armenia. We participated in Repat Armenia events, we felt very welcomed and most importantly we understood that this is not the Armenia our parents decided to leave all those years ago. We felt needed here, more needed than we were anywhere else in the world.
What was your parents’ reaction?
You know, as the days to your departure grow closer and you don’t want to leave, you start to think about your actions more seriously. Apparently, no one gave us the last cup of coffee as a guest, so we couldn’t leave (she jokes). The most difficult thing was telling my mother about our desire to stay. She was crying on the phone telling me that we can’t find anything here, we are wasting our time, our futures will be killed and we will be back home very soon. Armenia is our home and that was our final decision. Things are much different now, my mom has come to realize that Armenia is a perfect place for young, professional and enthusiastic people. It’s not only what we see on TV or hear from our relatives who left.
Was it easy to find a job in Armenia?
I have two specializations: marketing manager and Chinese translator. This last part made me an exotic phenomenon here (she laughs). At first, I was working at the Embassy of China in Armenia. They were such incredible people and I had so many good memories during my time there. I found my current job thanks to a Repat Armenia Meet & Greet event, where I met Amalia Akopova. She was behind the idea of ‘’Vartanush Grandma’’, which caught my attention and interest.

Frankly speaking, I truly believe that I moved to Armenia with one particular mission: to contribute to the growth of Armenian-Chinese relations in any way possible, and I have many ideas for how to make it happen. During my studies in China I introduced Armenia to my Chinese friends who used to ask me where and what Armenia was. I initially pointed out their lack of geographical knowledge, but deep in my heart I knew there was something I could do to bring them, and others like them, more knowledge of the country I hold so dear. I told Amalia about my intentions and she was ready to take on this monumental task with me. Now I’m a director of ‘’Vartanush Grandma’’ and I’m concentrated on bringing Armenia to China’s tourism market. This is far from being an easy task but if you are a determined professional you will strive to open the doors previously closed to you.
Do you have any advice for our repatriates?
Everyone speaks about difficulties or about their success here in Armenia. It is really hard to leave everything and come back to your roots. It is a gradual, step by step, carefully thought-out, and life changing experience. My professionalism in Chinese and knowing the right people to work was the pathway to my success. Everyone is different, every different way is acceptable. The most important thing to have is the desire and strong will. If you really feel yourself to be independent, happy and satisfied you will overcome all the difficulties, misunderstandings, uncomforts, etc… It’s just you and Armenia, it’s not an easy relationship, but if your will and passion are strong, you will discover the treasure of your Armenia.
Prepared by Rima Yeghiazarian

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