My Way Home
Tsoleen Sarian's Inspiring Repatriation Journey
In the fall of 2021, Tsoleen Sarian embarked on a journey that many would consider a bold move—a one-way flight from Boston to Yerevan, Armenia. But for Tsoleen, this journey was the culmination of a dream she had nurtured ever since her first visit to Armenia in 1994. Her decision to repatriate was driven by a deep sense of hope, pride, and the desire to contribute to a vibrant Armenia, especially in the wake of the 44-Day War in Artsakh.
A respected leader with a strong background in nonprofit work and political campaigns, Tsoleen brought a wealth of experience in community development, which she aimed to share with Armenia. Before arriving in Yerevan, she connected with the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC), an organization facilitating volunteer opportunities in Armenia for people worldwide. Her volunteer work with AVC allowed her to acclimate to Armenian professional culture and provided an opportunity to make meaningful connections.
Throughout her volunteer service, Tsoleen collaborated with various organizations, including the Women's Fund Armenia, the Center for Rights Development, and Artsakh's Permanent Representative's Office. Leveraging her community development and nonprofit expertise, she worked to create policies and strategies for better engagement between these organizations and the Armenian diaspora in the United States. Her goal was clear: to bridge the gap between the diaspora and Armenia, amplifying positive grassroots initiatives.
Exploring Heritage and Building Connections
Tsoleen's exploration extended beyond Yerevan's bustling streets as she ventured into Armenia's diverse regions, visiting tranquil rural villages, exploring mountains and gorges, and hiking to historic fortresses, churches, and monasteries in remote areas. These moments of discovery deepened her appreciation for Armenia's rich history and natural beauty, and she joyfully shared them through social media to amplify the wonders of the regions.
"Armenia's history, particularly the fortresses and monasteries from the Middle Ages, resonates with modern challenges, whether natural disasters, internal conflicts, or external pressures," she reflects. Exploring these remote structures showcases their enduring beauty, craftsmanship, and longevity–a testament to the hands that crafted them centuries ago. “It instills in me profound awe and appreciation for our cultural heritage, which perseveres across the ages."
As Tsoleen delved into her heritage, she also cultivated unexpected family connections in Armenia. "Despite making this move alone, I was delighted to discover distant relatives in the local church congregation, who themselves had repatriated from Syria and Lebanon. I found family here where I was not expecting to have any, and so I deeply appreciate them." Within the Armenian Evangelical Church's warm embrace, she found faith, family, and a familiar sense of belonging.
Purpose and Commitment
For Tsoleen, Armenia is more than just a holiday destination; it's where she has chosen to put down roots. "One of the significant milestones in my repatriation journey was buying a home in Armenia," Tsoleen emphasized. "This decision, alongside my one-way ticket and becoming an Armenian citizen, illustrate my commitment to Armenia."
Tsoleen enthusiastically attends conferences and expos, including Starmus, Feminno, Digitec, Sevan’s Seaside Startup Summit, and Gituzh, all of which amplify Armenia on the global stage. “These events are like a vitamin to me; they showcase innovations and leadership in various fields, which are directly contributing to a strong Armenia.” Similarly, choosing to purchase Armenian products is strategic, to know that the money supports local artisans and industries. “I take every opportunity, when wearing an Armenian-made colorful dress or a unique piece of jewelry, to declare with pride its quality and high value. I also make a point to choose locally produced beer and wine not only because they are delicious, but also to do my part to contribute to these industries in the regions.”
Sharing a Wealth of Experience with Armenia
Tsoleen's journey is about more than finding her place in Armenia; it is about actively participating in its growth and development. Her transition from her PR role at the Armenia Tree Project (ATP) to her current position as the Managing Director of DiasporArm is a testament to her dedication to the Armenian cause. "At DiasporArm, our mission is to unite Armenians worldwide and contribute to advancing global Armenian interests. We believe that by harnessing the collective power of the global Armenian community, we can make a lasting impact on Armenia's future,” she shares.
Tsoleen Sarian's remarkable journey of repatriation and dedication to Armenia reminds us that repatriation is not just about returning; it's an opportunity to actively participate in a thriving culture and a nation's growth. She aptly says, "My perspective changed since I arrived, I realized I was not here to serve but to participate. That nuance is important."
Tsoleen carries a sense of responsibility to counter the rhetoric of Armenia’s precarious fragility following the 44-Day War and Artsakh's loss. With intent, she utilizes her professional roles to showcase the country's steadiness, opportunities, and growth and crafts articles to attract visitors and investors. Her personal social media channels also carry a similar intent: “Sharing the wonders, beauty, and warmth of Armenia’s people and places” to provide an alternative to the negative perceptions widely held.
Certainly, Armenia is facing major challenges internally and externally, but it’s a personal responsibility to not only sit safely in Yerevan but to visit the regions and border villages, enjoy their warm hospitality, and to continually share about the viable future Armenia has.
Hope Amid Uncertainty
In these challenging times for Armenia, Tsoleen's example calls for participation in a land where life is verdant, cultural preservation thrives as youth are embracing heritage by playing traditional instruments, and learning our dances, and the spirit of resilience endures, even amidst one of the worst humanitarian crises the nation has faced in recent memory. "Come participate now. Life is thriving; innovation in tech and science is abundant; Armenia is resilient and persevering; there is no better way to amplify that than by repatriating here," she says with hope for a vibrant future.
Tsoleen's story encourages us to see repatriation as more than a return; it's an opportunity to engage in a nation's progress and transformation. In Tsoleen's footsteps, let us recognize that repatriation is a multifaceted journey of rediscovery, reconnection, and revitalization. It beckons us not just to return but to actively engage, contribute, and find our purpose in a land rich in history and culture.
Tsoleen's story also reminds us that Armenia's future is shaped not only by those born and raised here but also by the hearts and actions of those who have chosen to call it home.
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