About my life in Armenia, about being a mom and an activist, working for women's rights.
The challenges and benefits of raising a family in a post-soviet republic.
Finding a place, my place and calling it HOME.

8.2.19

Letter to my daughter who is leaving for college



My identity as a mother started with you 18 years ago. I was young then and you happened like a big surprise! I wasn’t much prepared to all the changes and new feelings. The amazing ride over the years even though joyful was also full of bumps. I learned many things with you; how to love unconditionally and care for another human being completely dependent from myself, how to expand my heart to the extreme to fit all the overwhelming emotions, how to let go from time to time so you start exploring but fearing at every step that you might fall or hurt yourself.
No one really prepares you for motherhood but you learn through lots of laughs and many tears.

I remember when you were born. That day, I really understood how strong humans we are as women. Through the pain, the stitches and several medical interventions, I learned to appreciate this magical body of mine, which connected me with you.

I remember the first days, at home when back from the hospital with you wrapped on my chest. Overly anxious, I couldn’t sleep much the first weeks; I would wake up every hour to check if you were still breathing. You looked so fragile and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be careful enough, that something tragic would happen…

Years passed. You were almost 3 when we decided to move to Armenia as a family. It was a huge change for all of us. We spent the first years exploring the old streets of Yerevan, when there were not so many cars around and you would dance all the way from our rented apartment near vernissage to our favorite Artbridge café, the haven of repats at that time.

I remember how I used to tell you stories about the small “talans” where little elves would hide and every time we crossed that small entrance between two buildings you would play along and say “SHSHSH mom, gardses hon en klkharge desa” – Yerevan was so magical for a 4 year old in those days.

I remember how years later, at 7 or 8, you would walk again with us but in a more critical mood with your little scrapbook, taking notes of all the things that needed to be restored and renovated in this small city and that you were planning to rebuild them once you became the mayor of Yerevan: old parks with shabby playgrounds, broken pipes, holes on the sidewalks, destroyed doors, devastated buildings.

Then, you suddenly grew up to become a beautiful person inside out, a free spirit. Of course the road was even bumpier the last years… school… high school … where you were discovering yourself, your identity, your style and questioning every single thing. We had some rough days, and some better ones. In this very conservative society, we had to fight together at school, with inadequate teachers, insensitive pedagogues, prejudices and stereotypes. And sometimes you had to fight alone, on the streets, in the marshrutkas or the doctor’s offices to counter discriminatory remarks from passerby about your looks or hair or piercings.  And I would listen to your stories, hurting and feeling guilty, questioning myself often if moving to Armenia was the best option for my kids.


We also continued the struggle on the streets for justice, for equality and for better Armenia. You were there all the way, accompanying me in protests against domestic violence from an early age, and up to recently during the velvet revolution, closing the streets with your friends and making together with many other young ones this revolution possible.

It was tough sometimes but you were growing stronger and wiser and eventually Armenia became your home, a place you cherished and where you belonged. Sometimes, I look at you thinking how much talent is in that amazing body of yours and the great paintings that come out of your fingers, displayed here and there in every corner of our house, the music, the songs, the colors…  all inspired and created in this place, this country, with many kind people you met.

But the day has come and you are leaving soon to start university. You will be going away for a while to start a new chapter in your life, in a new country, a new adventure. You have found something that really interests you and you are going after it. No matter how challenging it might look now, you are ready to try and move out of your comfort zone and experience real independence.

I am so proud of you.

My heart is a mix of sadness and joy and I am holding myself to not go into panic mode right now, as most mothers would feel. I am repeating in my mind “she is going away, away, away…” and tears are ready to burst any time. I know you are not moving to Katmandu but just 3-4 flight hours away but still, my “normal” is going to change from next week on. Your room will be empty, at least for a while.  It will be hard to adjust to your temporary absence but life is like that; a series of goodbyes and reunions.

I will miss your smell, your hugs, and your voice. I will miss the changing colors of your hair with every season. I will miss the dirty cloths that you insist on leaving on the floor, your messy room. I will miss the long discussions, the weird cakes you bake and every single thing, but I am so happy to know that you are taking this brave step in your life.

We don’t know what life will bring us and how busy you will get with new projects. The world is yours to discover, go on, spread your wings but one thing is sure and that you can rely on is that I will always have an empty space next to me for you to come back to. Whenever you need to, no matter when and how often, that space will remain there and ready to welcome you and let you go again as many times as you need to.

Love,

From a proud mom.

27.1.19

The revolution as we lived it!

This year, we will be celebrating our 16th year in Armenia.
closing the streets with feminist activists
It was quite an adventure full of so many discoveries, joy, anger, many frustrations accompanied by nurturing experiences and growth.
A few months ago, we were on the streets of Yerevan together with thousands of people, full of hope and protesting. I lived through the Velvet Revolution together with my kids. The older ones (18 and 16) were outside all the time, for almost a month. There were school strikes and from early morning people would gather on the corner of different streets to close it down and self-organize for sit-ins and civil disobedience peaceful actions.

 So each morning, the older ones would gather their backpack filled with necessities (in case of emergencies) for example some snacks, water, vinegar in case of tear gas by police, money, cloths, extra batteries and a book which was useful during long sit-ins. I would go over security measures with them each morning (what if they were faced by police, what if they were arrested, or stuck somewhere or in case of violent riots...) each situation was reviewed discussed and we agreed on specific measures for each. And we had to keep contact and call each other from time to time to be on the safe side. Their dad was traveling during that time and it was a little bit scarier to be the sole parent responsible during these unstable circumstances.

Pots and pans action at night
During the day, I would either monitor the peaceful actions as a human rights defender, or join my feminist friends and colleagues to hold our own protest actions and walk around the city together with my youngest one, who also was eager to be part of the exciting movement on the streets. At nights, we would open the windows and start our collective pots and pans action, banging and making noise to alert the Serj Sargsyan's regime to leave. This was an initiative which started by one of the team members of Pashinyan, Zara Batoyan (who is the present minister of Social affairs and Labor). She thought that this will make the revolution more inclusive and diverse, reaching out to those who couldn't leave their houses and encouraging them to join with these kind of alternative actions. So every night at 11pm the whole city was making noise with all the pants and pots they could find at home.

I had also some though moments, the day I was arrested and taken to the police station with other protesters. I stayed there for 3 hours and finally was released but all the time thinking about what my kids would do, feeling angry at the police with their illegal actions, thinking if i will be able to make it home that day. But it all ended up well and i have a very funny story of that event which i will share with my grand-children for years to come :)


in the police car, the day i was arrested
After some depressing times with all the political realities in the past decade or so, I was finally feeling a genuine hope for a change towards a real democracy and rule of law.
At the beginning of the past year, I was ready to move out from this place, thinking like many here that things would never change and we were going slowly moving towards a deeper authoritarian regime, where i wasn't feeling safe anymore.


So, one day, it happened and the whole world was amazed on how Armenians were able to put an end to an oligarchic republican regime and give the power back to the people. Nikol Pashinyan and his team, together with civil society actors were able to peaceful transition to a new Armenia, where the fight against corruption and restoring democratic processes were of outmost priority.

People started smiling again, they were kind to each other on the streets, they started believing again in themselves and in their inner power. They regained their dignity, took over the streets by the thousands, conducted a free and fair elections for the first time in such a long period. And today the process continues with many challenges; some from the previous regime trying to sabotage, others trying to discredit everything this new government is doing, and a few who lost their privileges or can't find their place in this new reality try to criticize almost everything non-stop, making presumptions, manipulating informations, trying to find any excuse to prove that this new leadership is not as good as we think it is.

Civil disobedience with the students

Despite all this, I am still very positive regarding these new processes. Of course there are many challenges, flaws, problems but they seem so much less significant compared to those we used to have during the previous regime that it seems to me we should be more on the constructive/supportive mode without losing our sense of justice. So watching out the new government step by step is a must, but so is choosing our battles wisely, since the most important thing was achieved which was finally having a government with a genuine political will to create a democratic country where human rights, equality, dignity and law are priorities.

But some people forget that all this takes time, continuous will and dedicated work.
So let's see what will come next! we still have many worrying issues to deal with as a state; relations with Russia, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh and the economic hardship.
Things will be ok, i see the change in my daily work. I am witnessing the small steps. I am also trying to cope with the extreme negativity and hateful content on social media; filtering the good criticism and constructive analysis by many from all the trash. 

Here is maybe our last chance for a better country, let's see how we will use it.




3.7.18

Summer with teens

Finally summer is here in Yerevan! Which means NO school for a long time! Which also means more patience needed for parents to cope with the heat and non-stop arguing siblings at home.

This year is a little special, since we have three official teenagers in the house and one 7 year-old teen-wannabe who thinks that he can talk like the others and who just recently asked me if he can go take a walk in the city alone to see his friends :) too cute!

Tbilisi with kids

(From January 2018)

The best part of traveling with kids is that you get to be once more amazed at the simple things through their eyes. And the challenging part is to not get exhausted by all the questioning non-stop, the never-ending energy to try everything, touch everything and take risks. 



I am becoming more and more exhausted with the years and it seems with the forth child sometimes my energy level is down to minus 5. Of course having to balance the day and adventures with 2 teenage kids and a third who is almost 13 plays a major role on how much energy is left for the 4th child, a 6-yr old very active one. But overall it is going well and between two parents, we are managing to keep it together and enjoy the journey. 


4.1.18

Trip to Tbilisi

We arrived yesterday in the afternoon. The bus ride was a little tiring but we made it safe at around 4pm. Friends were accompanying us. It is their first trip to Georgia, they are really excited to discover the place.     





Even though it is not my first trip to this city, it is going to be interesting to explore it once more through my kids. I often travel to this place for work, since it is the most neutral space in the region where we can meet with our partners from Azerbaijan and Georgia, all together. So Tbilisi has been over the years, a place of meetings and conferences, but this time i will enjoy it this time as a complete tourist.