My journey with Birthright Armenia began in 2018. At that time, I was studying at Saint Petersburg State University. Sevan Kabakian, the director of Birthright Armenia, visited our university to introduce the program. Listening to him, I imagined what an amazing opportunity it would be to spend time in Armenia, gaining experience and knowledge for the future. Unfortunately, at only 18, I was too young to apply. So, as we say in Russia, I put it on the back burner.
Fast forward to 2022, I graduated with my degree and began preparing to apply for a master's program in Italy. I thought it would be beneficial to become a professional, someone who could make a difference, before going to Armenia. My hard work paid off – I found myself in Parma (not the supermarket in Yerevan!), eating gelato and studying international relations.
But how long could I wait for the right time to return home?
What happened next might sound crazy – and maybe it is – but it’s also the truth. After nearly a month in Italy, one morning, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I belonged elsewhere. It was a place I had never been to, yet it felt incredibly familiar.
My heart was screaming that someone was waiting for me there. I decided to trust my intuition. That very day, I packed my bags and headed for the airport. I called my parents with this shocking news and applied to Birthright.
I had planned to stay in Armenia for six months, but just three weeks in, I realized I was home. I had never felt better in my life.
In Armenia, I found so much: new friends, the warmth of people, and a sense of security. These experiences made it crystal clear – Armenia is my home.
The people I met through the program shared their inspiring and unique stories, captivating me further. Sharing life experiences with individuals from all over the world is pure joy. Our forums and gatherings deepen our connection to Armenia’s past, present, and future. A recent trip to Yeghvard, where each participant shared their story with local kids, stands out. It was a moment when I saw how similar our stories were despite coming from Russia, the US, France, Lebanon, and many other countries.
We have weekly forums where we meet and converse with incredible and resilient individuals. One that comes to mind featured veterans of the 2020 Karabakh War sharing their experiences. Their stories showcased the great strength of the Armenian people, a strength that allows us to find beauty even in the midst of war and resilience that helps us rise from the ashes, time and time again.
I am infinitely grateful for the opportunity given to me and to hundreds of other volunteers. 2023 has become the best year of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!