- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 August 1, 2003 

Drawn to Stay: Young Diaspora finding a home in "the homeland"

Left to right: Hakob Panossian, Sam Samuelian, Stepan Panossian.

"There is some sort of magnet here. I believe it is the 3,000 year old history that continues to draw us to Armenia. No matter what reason brought you here, you end up discovering your roots."

This history watches you as you walk down the streets to your job, your internship, or to your next tour.

For 27 year old Sam Samuelian from Lebanon, moving to Armenia was a natural choice. He didn't give a second thought to leaving everything at home, and suddenly moving here.

Sam is one of the many young Armenians from the Diaspora who choose to come to Armenia to either start a business, do their internship or even establish their own families in an Armenian environment.

They come to re-claim ethnic roots, or maybe to find out if today's Armenia is the one they've heard about over family dinners and in Diaspora clubs.

Each has personal reasons, unified in a constant theme:

"It is a country getting its own identity, and so are the people. They are trying to build a country for themselves and as an Armenian I feel inspired to contribute and help in this process".

"There is no logical reason why I left everything and came here. It just made sense to me," Sam says.

For Sam, there was nothing connecting him to Lebanon. "I didn't want to start a business in Lebanon and I couldn't find my place there. In Armenia, everything is attractive and you give your maximum effort because you like the country. Only in Armenia, you can find your inner energy and therefore, you can work from your heart".

Sam sees business opportunities in Armenia for anyone that is willing to search for it here. After extensive research, he selected the service industry because he believes that it is easy to be competitive in it for those coming from abroad.

Maida Kaderian

"The primary industries are secured by the locals, leaving the service sector open for development and success," he says.

Sam came to Armenia two and a half years ago and is opening a diner. And while it provides Sam a reason for being in Armenia, he also finds satisfaction in creating jobs for the locals.

He works and speaks with confidence because he believes that "the best decisions are the ones that I have made by listening to my heart and I have never gone wrong doing so. For me, coming to Armenia has been one of those decisions."

At work is where you get your personal experiences. Whether working as an entrepreneur or as an intern in Armenia, you have the opportunity to interact with the people on a deeper level.

"They see us working for them and they feel good that you are Diaspora helping people. As opposed to the tourists, we leave our names behind as those who helped and added something", says Karine Palandjian, an 18 year old intern from Rhode Island, USA who works in a local orphanage.

As an intern working at an institution for the poor, 19 year old Angela Deese from Virginia, USA, believes that her internship gives her the opportunity to help preserve her homeland.

"No matter what you do in the Diaspora, it is important to let the locals know that Armenians around the world care about them. For me, making one child happy is sending them this message."

Ani Jerikian, a 19-year old intern at Armenian International Magazine believes that she would not have had the opportunity for personal growth if she had only come as a tourist.

"Last year as a tourist, I wanted to move here. This year being here as an intern, I don't think I want to do that because of the different life style I have experienced. However, living in Armenia has given me more confidence and a chance to develop my independence".

What motivates her to work to better Armenia either from abroad or from here is the inspiration she gets from watching the development and progress of her homeland.

Like Ani on her first visit to Armenia, Krikor Yeremian, a 19 year old from Pennsylvania, USA, has similar feelings while touring the country.

Left to right, interns: Karine Palandjian, Angela Deese, Ani Jerikian.

"I like to go to visit the churches, the monuments and the sights. But, I would want to live here some day. Visiting the country makes you want to do more to help it."

As compared to those living and working here, the tourist coming to Armenia for discovery and relaxation sees another kind of lifestyle reflected.

Shant Aghajanian, a 19 year old tourist from Pennsylvania, USA, finds life in Armenia exciting.

"You experience a different environment than abroad. There are lots of things to do during the day such as visiting museums, churches, monuments, and enjoying the Kebab. I see the night life as livelier than at home, and feel safe walking down the streets at any time of day".

For Shant and Krikor, the most interesting characteristic of the Armenian people is their hospitality, friendliness and generosity. They find it interesting that people invite you to their homes and present you all they have, taxi drivers offer you Armenian food and tour guides join you during lunch while interacting with you.

Maida Kaderian a 32 year old graphic designer from Massachusetts, USA, says that there are many things for her to take back home after her tour here.

"First of all, I am inspired to be more active for our Cause. I believe that this inspiration came from the discovery of my connection to the land, my experience with the people and the process of sharing stories with them".

Before her touring experience in Armenia, Maida had an abstract idea about her homeland through the stories that she had been told about it. Now they have become real for her because of her first hand experience. This has inspired her to continue her relationship with Armenia from home, even through her work.

Similarly, for Hakop Panossian, a 30 year old architect from Cyprus, coming to Armenia was something that he always wanted to do in order to form his own impression about the country.

"When you are living in the Diaspora, people try to show you their impressions of Armenia, but I wanted to create my own opinion. That is my reason for being here."

Besides forming his own view of his homeland, Hakop's ties to Armenia are in the form of helping friends with their business venture. This duel role provides him the unique opportunity to interrelate ideas about tourism and life in Armenia.

Experiencing the struggle to remain Armenian in the Diaspora as well as the attachment to one's roots seems to underlie the motivations for all of these travelers to Armenia. These stimuli are so strong that they give some the strength to permanently move here.

"The main reason that I am here is that I have always wanted to have a family. I didn't want to think of raising children in the Diaspora and have them experience the same struggles that I did until now" says Stepan Panossian, a 27 year old businessman from Cyprus.

The reasons for coming are varied. At heart, however is a common theme: the magnet of one's ancestry is too strong to resist.


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