My Way Home

03.11.2017
Armenian by Choice
To live in Armenia means to have self-esteem!
To live in Armenia means to have self-esteem!
There is something we should admit to ourselves: Diaspora cannot be governed. One cannot control it let alone exploit it. We are able neither to learn all languages and dialects of Diaspora nor to maintain contacts with all its communities. Even the application of our brothers and sisters’ professional experience into our daily life is possible only through a very complicated and arduous process of integration to our realities.
 
It is impossible to publish and deliver educational books to our compatriots in the required quantity so as to ensure the necessary level of Armenian education of the Diaspora – the way we would desire. I am deeply convinced that for our compatriots the authenticity and preservation of national values can be achieved to the full extent only in our native country.

The aspiration to communicate with the Diaspora at a distance will lead us to "Armenia without Armenians". We have been through this, have not we?  

When speaking about building relations between our country and multi-million Diaspora, I would like to refer to an extremely important topic for us, our country and its future, and which, unfortunately, receives such little attention from the public, media and, unfortunately, the government - we will speak about Repatriation.

I’ll clearly foresee skeptics’ perspectives who view the question on the return of compatriots through the prism of emigration: they say, first stop the emigration, and only then start working towards repatriation. To my personal ponit of view, those are "the sides of different coins." The intial fundamental issues of emigration and repatriation largely differ, although, of course, there are some common root causes, especially in the economic aspects of life in our Homeland. Figuratively speaking, when we catch a cold, it seems to us that we sneeze in the same way, however, flu and cold treatment will always differ.

When pondering over the return of compatriots to their Homeland, first of all, we should start developing a powerful and effective program of repatriation. And the repatriation should be for everybody regardless of age, sex, profession or any other kind of rankings. "Package" solutions should be made for families as well as for each family member separately. There should be no trifles in this work. Today, saying that Armenia needs repatriates means we should be ready to start creating programs from the very beginning: from language training courses to employment assistance. We should be consistent and diligent and demonstrate maximum care and attention to details.

These integration programs for families or individuals can be urgent and focused on clearly targeted indicators. Such indicators may embody the main aspects of human life: housing, standard of living, constant income, social welfare and the degree of contentment. We should guarantee that all our compatriots will gain the right to repatriate to Armenia. This policy should become an ideological doctrine of all Armenians, which will become a foundation for the further development of the country, as an Armenian national state.

In the basis of this doctrine there should be laid not only a 5- or 7-percent annual economic growth, but also goals that can encourage Armenians to return. This is also a pragmatic strategy for restoring historical justice on territorial issues, and changing foreign policy: from the course of seeking diplomatic solutions to the art of imposing one's own interests. Achieving the right to demand.

People who returned from Diaspora call one main motive for their repatriation: the indefeasible right to live in a secure country and, Armenia is undoubtedly secure, as well as the essential opportunity to raise children in an authentic environment preserving their ancestors’ national traditions. For those people, it is important to be able to realize their dream of a strong, independent and free country, by passing their knowledge and culture to the Motherland. It is important for them to love the country as it is, to work for its good, strengthening the economy and defense capability.

However, there are those for whom everything mentioned above is not a determining factor in their individual value system. For those people, the idea of leaving the country and settling down somewhere far away is an obsession, which should be strived for selflessly. As a rule, "somewhere" stands for the cities of neighboring Russia or distant "overseas" states, where "it would be better to have many Armenians so that they did not have to learn English".

For most of our fellow citizens, the idea of "everything beautiful is far away"   often turns into serious hardships. Accustomed to spending on the road maximum 20 minutes in Yerevan, our compatriot faces a tough bourgeois regime to get up at 6 a.m. and spend 2 hours in traffic jams, which often leads our seekers of a better life into a dead end. Let alone the fact that there, far away from Armenia, many people have to do the hardest and often work that doesn’t require qualification and barely make both ends meet. But our compatriot often does not do the same work in his Homeland, believing that he has a special privilege to live at home ... And besides, what would his relatives think of that?

I have recently published a post with photos on my Facebook page, - talking about Asidorum, an employee from “Sanitek” company, who came to Armenia from Bangladesh.

Asidorum makes a living by sweeping the streets of Yerevan. Our friend from overseas receives 300 dollars a month for this work. Asidorum couldn’t even presume the flurry of various discussions over his job and salary in the vastness of Facebook: some comments are filled with suspicion regarding the sum of his salary, while others express indignations like "should I go to work as a janitor now?!"

Of course, I do not suggest our citizens, who have higher education, to sweep streets, although the fact that “Sanitek” can hardly hire employees in Armenia, while offering a salary in the amount of 200 thousand drams (about $ 420) for working on special equipment leads us to serious thoughts. And I think you should agree with this.  We are used to living up to stereotypes, and one of which is: "There is no work in Armenia". I won’t, of course, claim the opposite, or convince anyone of anything. However, let's not forget that we have a clear example of a young guy from Bangladesh who proved to us that actually there is work in Armenia. Is it dirty work? - Yes, maybe it is. The salary isn’t high enough? - Perhaps. It doesn’t correspond to your level? - Obviously. But there is work in Armenia.

This is a weighty moral argument to resolve the issue with beggars. Something to think about! Some people say: "Beggars are everywhere: in London, Paris, anywhere." Well, I think that these European countries cannot serve as an example and, heaven forbid, a guide to ethical values. A person who knows his own people will claim for sure that the last thing our compatriots would do is begging.

I personally know a few people who are ready to sweep streets of Yerevan for gaining the right to live in Armenia. One of them is Asidorum! And if I have hurt someone's self-esteem, I'm very happy about that! The point here is that in order to live a successful and happy life in Armenia, one must have self-esteem. A decent amount of healthy self-esteem! Otherwise, tomorrow Asidorum would defend our Homeland in the trenches, but already as a citizen. There are many other examples. If you do not personally perceive Asidorum as an implementer of a work that doesn’t demand a qualification, particularly a street cleaner, then it becomes obvious that there are certain stereotypes and prejudices in our society. 

One should also admit that nowadays there is a complex psychological background around people who sow panic on the emigration issue. We constantly hear everybody talking about how many people left the country, how bad the situation is in our country, that everybody will leave the country soon and stuff like that. Sometimes after this "munat" in the spirit of the national "duduk", it seems that if we go outside now, we will face only emptiness and devastation... Fortunately, this is not the case! For some reason, no one with the same enthusiasm notices or talks about how many people return to their Homeland, and how they come back, by overcoming all the difficulties, and, nevertheless, achieve success here.  

It’s quite another matter, when speaking about this issue, we should ask ourselves one important question: why and, above all, how should our compatriot leave his comfort zone in the foreign country and endure a difficult path towards successful integration into the life of his Homeland? In the end, the recent history gives us real-world examples of repatriations of thousands: one doesn’t have to go far afield - in the late 40s and early 50s of the last century the population of Israel increased from 600 thousand to 1.5 million people. A lot of people have the right to be indignant, pointing out that at that time the population growth was ensured by the expense of those citizens who fled from Arab countries, and they will be absolutely right.

However, let us keep in mind that some time ago we had an aggravated military situation in Syria, from where, in fact, we had a huge flow of refugees. And now let’s compare some of the most obvious facts: in what condition was Israel then? The whole country was in war, and the socio-economic situation of the people was extremely bad. Although that place wasn’t a country at that time – there was only desert, war and uncertainty about the future. Nevertheless, the people of Israel still managed to build the country and get it back on its feet, literally and metaphorically.

What do we deal with in the situation with Syrian refugees? According to various sources, by the beginning of the war in Syria there were about 70-80 thousand of our compatriots, and there are about 20 thousand refugees in Armenia now – the majority of these people are ethnic Armenians. About 15 thousand people from the Armenian community of Syria left for Lebanon during the war, another 2-3 thousand people fled to Jordan, the rest moved to Western Europe and the United States. We must find the courage to admit that we have failed the repatriation of our Syrian compatriots. 

Recently our people have started to use expressions like: "we have to leave this place," "there is no work here," "it’s impossible to develop business in Armenia" and "children do not receive quality education". These expressions have already become some kind of mantra. Needless to say, that after leaving Armenia, these natives will spread similar myths in the host country.

So, what does a potential repatriate hear? : “the situation is awful in Armenia, all people are fleeing from there, there is neither money nor work, so, do not even think about moving there… ” . And here we need a tangible built-up policy for mass media, Diaspora communities and the State to introduce the objective situation in Armenia.  People, who do not have perfect command of the Armenian language, must be sure that after moving to Armenia, they will be provided with the opportunity to master their mother tongue in a short period of time. University entrants and their families should be fully aware of the fact that modern Armenia is able to suggest them higher education institutions taking into consideration the country, from which a repatriate comes.

That is to say, if a future student comes from Russia, he/she can easily enter Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University, where after finishing studies; he/she will be awarded two state diplomas: Russian and Armenian. If a potential repatriate is from an English-speaking country, then Armenia can offer education in the American University of Armenia. For French speaking people, we are able to suggest programs in the French University of Armenia, where they will get two diplomas, one of which will be from the University of Leon.  We have to show and speak up about all these opportunities. Nowadays, as never before, Armenia is in need for reforms in its collaboration with Diaspora.  By supporting Diaspora, we will also be able to raise the employment level of our nation. 

And what do we actually do? “RepatArmenia” is the only private fund, which in fact implements the work of the whole ministry and is a good example of the work with repatriates. Today, only this fund professionally focuses on the issues regarding the return of Armenians and on presenting the actual image of Armenia to Diaspore, and besides, this fund provides certain help to our repatriates.  Their office is visited by 500 people per year, and we should say this number is not small.

According to its founder Vartan Marashlyan, still in 2015 Armenians from conflict zones continued to ask them for help: “Our compatriots from Ukraine joined Syrians, and we try to do our best to help them”. Of course, it is good, however, we should acknowledge that the number of people, who are interested in repatriation will be more, if we realize institutional approach to the repatriation.

I think that today, as never before, our country faces an important task- to realize a complex state strategy of repatriation for our Diaspora, with the help of which each of our compatriots will be able to fulfill the dream of living in their Motherland. And we should be honest to ourselves: this task is going to be realized in the conditions when Diaspora has a very low level of trust to Armenia. 

At the same time, it’s important to realize that it’s necessary for Diaspora to, in its turn, deeply rethink of its responsibility for the future of Armenia and for its own one. They have to understand that without their knowledge, skills and experience there is no prosperity for our country in the future. This is what needs to be the driving force for repatriation. The relationships between Armenia and Diaspora are in need for complete reformation. 

For some objective reasons, regardless of the fact where and how long we live, we got used to think that the country and the authorities are obliged to provide with specific conditions for us to live in our Motherland. Many people do think so. And it is preferable to take high positions.  Well, this is if we are talking about the life in Armenia, of course. As when we move to another country, we are usually satisfied with what they can give to us. Having lived in a foreign land for a couple of years, we already feel disconnected from our country, and  this is here that we start meeting with our compatriots around the table with a glass of cognac, and of course, raising toasts, praising our Motherland in never relating it to  the authorities of the past, the present, or the future.

While one part of our people is deeply sure that they have nothing to do here, the other part strives to find opportunities to move to their historical Motherland and makes the decision to come and have an input in the development of their young but, at the same time, ancient country. And those are people, who we should give a helping hand today. 
The most valuable thing that we can do is to establish honest and honorable relationships based on trust and complete mutual understanding.

And in this rapprochement, above all, we need to work on ourselves. We need to change our approaches and work for the reestablishment of trust-based relations with Diaspora. I am convinced that the right sequence of steps and the clear state strategy will lead Armenia-Diaspora relations to success.        

Being cautiously enthusiastic I would like to mention that the majority of repatriates, who have permanently settled down here, are quite satisfied with the life quality. Despite all difficulties, they have managed to stay here, and not just to stay, but also to succeed in their fields. I think we can all agree that it is great. Nowadays, they won’t change their happy life in the Motherland and the idea of their significant role in the process of the country’s development, economic growth and prosperity with anything else. These people are completely convinced that in the right time they made the only right decision.      
 
Mher Terteryan
Adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia

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