“Do not think that everything is so rosy here”: Armenians about life in America - ForumDaily
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“Do not think that everything is so rosy here”: Armenians about life in America

As overseas Armenians say about themselves, for many of them the second home has become the American continent, namely the United States of America, where one of the largest Armenian diasporas is located. And although today it is customary to talk only about the three stages of migration of the twentieth century, however, according to legend, the first known Armenian immigrant to this country was Martin Armenian, who arrived in Virginia in 1618 year at the invitation of the state leadership as a specialist in silkworm breeding.

Фото: Depositphotos

Currently, according to official data from the US Census Bureau, there are about 483.500 Armenians in the country. However, the reality of the number is immediately negotiated, since many emigrants are taken into account at their own will as "Americans" or "white" - according to the racial-ethnic gradation that has survived to our day. According to other sources, between one and two million Armenians live in the United States. Moreover, a rather significant stream of immigrants fell on the last quarter of the last century, that is, after the collapse of the USSR, the massacre in Sumgait and Baku, as well as the socio-economic decline in Armenia. About how their fate in distant America, our compatriots told in an interview "Noah's Ark".


Documents from the American Embassy we waited three years

Karina Pshenichnaya-Nalbandyan. Baku refugee now living with her family in Jacksonville, the most populous city in the state of Florida:

- I never thought that I would live on the other side of the earth, on another continent, in another country. Raised in the best traditions of Soviet international friendship, I was a big patriot of a big country. Until the events in Baku. My husband, Vitaly Pshenichny, is Russian, but he grew up in the Caucasus, and therefore in spirit, in the way of thinking, even more Armenian than me. It is not by chance that in our community they say about him that “the most important of Armenians is our Vitaly Tzorenian,” quite accurately adapting the Russian surname to the Armenian way. And then, in Soviet Baku, we could not believe that pogroms could occur on ethnic grounds. One evening the precinct came to us. It was an adult who quietly said: “Get out of here, daughter. I'm afraid the time will come when I, a man in uniform, cannot help your family. ” I remember that I was very indignant, and later I learned that he had also visited our other neighbors. Only much later I realized that our precinct went to Armenian apartments at my own risk. Many times, going back to that time, I mentally thanked him for such a bold act. After all, if the Azerbaijanis had learned about it, he would not have been good. And although I did not want to believe the rumors, nevertheless my husband fraudulently sent me to Moscow, ostensibly to fill out a questionnaire to leave for America, which was then actively receiving refugees. I thought I was leaving only for a few days, but it turned out forever. I learned about the pogroms in Baku by phone. Her husband called, threatened. Thank God, there were no victims in our family. But I was also shocked by the fact that we lost a new apartment, furniture, things ... As the Tatars' neighbors later told us, a gang of thugs, having broken into our house, plundered everything. And I, like every Armenian girl, had a good dowry: carpets, crystal, dishes, a piano ... So our family remained, in fact, with nothing.

We waited for documents for three years from the American Embassy, ​​all this time interrupting in the Golden Ear Hotel in Moscow.

It was a difficult time for us and for the country. When 4 January 1992, we finally boarded a plane of an American airline, I wept. It hurted me. It seemed that I was losing my homeland.

But it was not our choice. So ordered life. In Moscow, we could not get a job because of the lack of registration, and for us, city dwellers, it was unrealistic to go to the village. There were even more problems at that time in Yerevan: war, blockade, earthquake, energy crisis ... And also the contempt for the Russian language, when I could say to my face: “Why do you speak Russian?”. Of course, they didn’t wait for us in America either. From those who left earlier, we knew that Soviet diplomas did not matter, that there would be difficulties with language, acquaintance with foreign culture and customs. However, at first it seemed that we were different. Slightly accustomed, we realized that people are the same everywhere. Is that they are easier to look at life.

Having settled in Florida, I immediately went to English courses. And although I diligently studied it for three or four months, I nevertheless began to speak only when I went to work as a beautician at a salon where my clients were not only Russians or Armenians, but also Americans. I had to forget about an economics degree and for two and a half years to relearn a new profession. Still had time to help her husband at work. And in the evenings, we drafted toilets in the toilets of the local sports complex. I repeat, we initially knew that it would not be easy, but still it was psychologically difficult to accept it. I want to note that we came to America under the refugee program, which means we could continue to live on benefits without the prospect of any positive movement in life. So did many, and therefore still so drift. We initially decided that this was not our way. Once my husband met a Ukrainian who had his own business for buying, repairing and selling housing. That is, he bought old houses, put them in order and sold them.

So my husband became a builder, and after some time we bought the land, and Vitalik himself built our house. Naturally, it cost us much cheaper than the real price. After all, we gave money only for materials. Here in such matters, worries and troubles imperceptibly flew more than a quarter of a century. The daughter grew up, married an American, lives next to us, so I have the opportunity to constantly communicate with their grandchildren. And she, having received the profession of a physician, works as the "right hand of the doctor." There is such a post in the table of ranks of American medicine. This is a responsible and well-paid job that she likes. Perhaps in the future she will be engaged in advanced training, which is important for a career, and financial changes will be substantial.

America is a country of order. I always remember this phrase with a funny incident that happened to me a year or two after my arrival and which, due to the American law and order, could have ended very sadly for me. I then got lost on the highway. It is understandable. I almost don’t know the language, I’ve recently got behind the wheel of a car ... I am driving at a speed of 30 km, passing cars honking. I'm all on the nerves. And suddenly I saw a road policeman. I slowed down. I jump out of the car shouting: “Help!”. Happily running in his direction, waving my hands. A law enforcement officer severely stopped me, forced me to get into the car, put my hands on the steering wheel and demanded rights. Finding out that I was new, I began to patiently explain to me how to get to the right place. I went again, got lost again, and again went to the same road patrol. Seeing me, now he began to laugh. In the end, he told me to ride behind him at a low speed, which I did. But the effect was different. I was accompanied by a solid motorcade of representative cars. After all, none of the drivers in this situation wanted to overtake the police, even on the highway. The sight was impressive. I regretted that my friends did not see this honorary escort.

Gradually, we are accustomed to the orders of a foreign country. Overgrown with new acquaintances. We are not as big a community as in California.

But if a quarter of a century ago we were the first Armenians who came to this city, now about two hundred families of our compatriots, including from Syria and Iran, now live here.

Unfortunately, we do not yet have our own church. But with donations we bought a two-story structure, which is now being repaired. On the first floor there will be a hall for various community events, and on the second - a church. In the meantime, the liturgy once a month takes place in the Greek church. In addition to ours, there are still Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish communities. And we all get along well. Today we are citizens of America. The country that sheltered us, the refugees, who at that time did not need Armenia, nor Russia, nor the collapsed USSR. But at the same time I will not reveal the secret if I say that we all miss Armenia very much. Closely watching the news on TV. We see how people are dressed, how young people confidently behave, how many modern models of cars appeared on the streets, how prettier the capital is ... And although I did not live in the historic homeland, nevertheless, it beckons more and more to itself. I really want to come to Armenia at least for a while ...

Фото: Depositphotos

Now I know for sure that I will return to my homeland forever.

Marina Kocharyan. Native Yerevan, endocrinologist, and now a resident of New York. “It is more accurate to say Brooklyn,” the interlocutor corrects me and continues her story about life in a foreign country:

- The very first word that involuntarily emerges from my consciousness at the mention of Armenia is the word “karot”, whose whole gamut of feelings lies in such notions as nostalgia, longing, sadness, memory, memories ... Beautiful, bright memories of the past. Despite the fact that it was not always light in the literal sense of the word. Since our family, like all residents of the post-Soviet period, had to go through the dark and cold years of the blockade country. It so happened that several years ago I was left alone in Yerevan: my parents died, and my brother and my family moved to America. Of course, in Yerevan there are relatives, close friends, girlfriends. But due to the mentality I decided that there is nothing more important than the family hearth, even if it is outside of Armenia. In addition, subconsciously attracted colorful life abroad. So I ended up in America, in Brooklyn, which, although it is part of New York, nevertheless looks like an independent city.

I was going it far and wide. And today, as a professional guide for Russian-speaking tourists, I can tell you about the oldest hanging Brooklyn bridge, whose length is 1825 meters, about the famous Brooklyn Museum, the collection of exhibits of which has more than one and a half million copies ... I really like the cozy Brooklyn Zoo, the cost of which will not leave significant gap in my budget. After all, I work not by profession, but by hire. Of course, the payment for labor is higher here than in my homeland, but it’s impossible to say that we print money. Naturally, like every hostess, I keep my own balance with the sections “arrival” and “expense”. I do not know whether such a tradition exists in American families, since we, the visitors of the “third wave”, have so far little integrated into American society and basically communicate only among themselves. Incidentally, in Russian, which is available to all immigrants from the former USSR.

According to local residents, long before a “little Armenia” appeared in Los Angeles, a large Armenian community lived in Manhattan (one of the districts of New York), the number of which reached 30 thousand people in the 100-s of the 20th century.

What can be said about Brooklyn. Perhaps that is why the presence of the Armenian community is not felt here. But in New York there are seven Armenian churches. I go there on the occasion of our religious holidays, if they do not coincide in time with my work. And you have to work a lot. My acquaintances from Yerevan often ask what the standard of living in America is, what the salary is. I will repeat that payment for labor here is several times higher than in Armenia, but expenses also make up a significant part of the profits. But as far as the standard of living is concerned, at first it was really very interesting to watch from the side of what you are not yet devoted to. I will not deny that, as a woman, I was interested in shopping at the household level, and at first, such a trifle seemed unusual, as the ability to return the goods with little or no commission after the sometimes quite long period. You never know what was strange. Well, in general, as in every new country, a foreigner seems outlandish. But then you gradually get used to it. The only thing that is impossible to get used to is the homesickness, the beloved city, which I often dream at night. Once I left Armenia in the belief that forever. Of course, I planned to return, but only to rest, as a tourist. Now I know for sure that I will return to my homeland forever. For myself, I have already decided everything, because carote, nostalgia, sadness in my homeland feel most of all away from it.

Фото: Depositphotos

Attitudes of Americans are completely different, respectful.

Mareta Harutyunyan. For many years she worked in the fundamental scientific library at the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. Head of special security. Translator from Russian, English, Armenian. In her own words, "arrived at the time, but was stuck for a long time." Lives in New Jersey, Connecticut:

- How and when did the idea come to go to work in America? Now I find it difficult to say. Probably, the beginning must be sought in those bad years for Armenia, when we just survived because of the cold and hunger. I remember how during the transition to the national currency, our family lost almost all the deposits on the savings books. And my poor father could not understand why the money earned by honest labor was lost. The company where I worked was closed. I tried to ride a shuttle to Syria, China. Burned out. Well, in general, as always, the intelligentsia falls under the distribution first. By that time, the earnings of the son for our large family were no longer enough. Household jewels gradually sailed away. My son wanted to go to America again to earn money. But I judged differently: a young family, they should not be separated. And so it was decided that I would go to America. Knowing the language, it is easier for me to get a bebisitter in American families.

True, when acquaintances found out about this, many did not approve of such an act: “How can a person with a higher education go to this kind of work?”

Well, first of all, I know that the wives of many famous directors, artists, writers, too, did not shy away from being educators of wealthy Americans. Secondly, when you need money, go to any job. And finally, the most important thing - there are no prestigious or prestigious professions. There would be a desire to work. As for me, I was just very lucky. I always came across respectable Americans, for whom I became a family member for the period of raising their children.

By the way, I tried to find the American family, and not the one who came from the CIS, because the attitude to the nurse from the Americans is completely different and respectful. I especially remember the first job in New Jersey. I was met by the head of the family and drove to their home. On the way out of the car window, I saw fallen trees lying on the side of the road. Apparently there were sanitary clearance. At that moment, tears involuntarily fell from me. I remembered the illegal cutting of trees in our most terrible years. After inquiries, my employers for a long time could not believe that in our time it was possible to live for several years without light, by candlelight, and to heat the house with an ordinary “bourgeois stove”. This is how my work began in America. I must say that the five-year ward was a very intelligent child. We taught her not only English letters or counting, but also Russian words and the alphabet, which the girl’s parents liked very much.

In my previous life, I dreamed that when my son was getting married, I would retire and only deal with my grandchildren. Therefore, it was initially assumed that after the first contract I would return home. But still it is not possible to do this. I will not deny that I am very tired, but I will keep as much as I can, for the sake of my grandchildren. And I have three of them. I want them to grow up by diversified personalities, so that they know what they want to achieve in life. The elder, who participated in the April war, is currently studying at the American University of Armenia, where training is quite expensive. In parallel, working in some well-known IT company. The average is studying in Thailand, which costs 25 thousand dollars. But thanks to his high marks in school, he received an 90 percent discount. Junior is engaged in the Polytechnic Institute on a fee basis. That is, today I can’t afford to go home for my little pension.

Few people believe that for so many years I have not made myself an American citizenship with all the ensuing beneficial consequences. I will say that this question has never been a priority for me. I am a citizen of Armenia and, therefore, I observe with special concern what is happening in my homeland today.

It's hard for me to judge this for now. After all, in my century we have been deceived so many times. But it was already impossible to live in the old way ... Although one should not blame, for example, the government or the municipality, for the fact that the roads after snow are poorly cleaned. In a similar situation, Americans simply take shovels and go themselves to clear the same snow. Unlike my compatriots, who will fundamentally wait for the arrival of public utilities. First you need to start with yourself. But do not think that everything in America is so rosy. Here are the laws of hard capitalism. We need to work here. There are also "specific" problems. For me, for example, it is strange to see parents under the “1 number” and “2 number”. The worst thing is that children who grew up in such a family take this phenomenon for granted, which is completely incomprehensible for our mentality. Therefore, I would like to wish my compatriots, before leaving their native nest, to think carefully about where they are going and what challenges they may face.

Фото: Depositphotos

Skyscrapers, skyscrapers, and I'm so small

Alex (Oleg) Amiryan. Athlete, director, screenwriter, writer, former head of the Thai Boxing Federation of Armenia. By his own admission, he always dreamed of cinema and literary path. By the realization of his creative dream was going with sporting perseverance. He currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina:

- A number of circumstances accompanied the departure from Armenia. In 90, I was the president of the Thai Boxing Federation of Armenia. But all the training, trips, participation in competitions were kept only on my personal initiative, when it was difficult to find sponsors for a trip to sports. The last time, participating in the championship of Euroclubs, which took place in Hungary, we showed a fairly high result: three gold and one silver. But, as it turned out, very few people were interested in their homeland. Accordingly, no professional growth was also foreseen. Around the same time, I was invited to work on a contract for Ukraine. I remember how, in our telephone conversation, my father then said to me sadly: “So another Armenian left Armenia.” Perhaps his words influenced my decision to return ... to despair. These were the years of the strongest energy crisis, the collapse of the country, the breakdown of the old authorities and dogmas. Having two higher educations, I understood that I could not realize my hopes here. I did not want to leave, but it did not make sense to remain.

On the first day in America, I met my old friends and asked to take me to Manhattan. It turned out like in a popular song: "Skyscrapers, skyscrapers, and I'm a little one." With the only difference that the greatness of the big city did not put pressure on me.

On the contrary, there, at Time-Square, I felt the infinite freedom that I value most in the world. I was comfortable. I realized that America, a freedom-loving, bright, incredibly kind and open country, accepted me. The feeling was mutual.

Of course, at first I had to work a lot, sometimes in several places at once. And in my head at this time evolved bold scenarios and novels. Thus, “Chained,” “Fiery Breath of Heaven,” and “Puppeteer” appeared, in which I made a film about immigrants from the former USSR, abandoned by fate overseas. This is a story about migrants, about the realities of their daily life, about the harsh conditions in which illegal immigrants find themselves, or, as they are called, people living outside the law. The premiere took place in Detroit, and then in Yerevan, where I handed over the entire collection from hire to one of the children's funds. And a few years earlier, in 2007, he shot his first documentary film, Wind of Hope, in which he told about a boy diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Overcoming pain, Babak struggles with his illness, firmly believing that he will cope with the disease. The film was presented at international film festivals: The New York International Independes Film Festival and “Golden Apricot” in Armenia, as well as at the “Time to Live” international film forum in St. Petersburg.

No matter where I am, be it America or Russia, I always remember about Armenia. I love to read Khachatur Abovyan and quote Petros Duryan in my native language, but I write scripts and books in Russian: after all, the Russian school and the Leningrad Higher Political School are behind me. And then, how can you not love the language of Pushkin or Lermontov, Brodsky or Yevtushenko? As for my works, my first book entitled Warm Sand, or the Path to the Temple, which has already been submitted to international literary contests, was published in Chicago Publishing. In my personal arsenal, eight manuscripts are waiting in the wings. Now I am working on the book “Flower of Harlem”. Creativity has always fascinated me, but this does not mean that I forget about myself, about my family, about my one-year-old son Arturik, for whom the greatest happiness is to watch the popular cartoon “Masha and the Bear”. Yes, yes, the same cartoon series that children like to watch in Russia, and in Armenia, and here in America. In any case, while Masha plays pranks on the screen, my wife can quietly do household chores. By the way, I met Liana through our parents, started correspondence in social networks. And when I arrived to get acquainted, at first glance I understood: my man! It could not be otherwise. Liana grew up in an Armenian family, although in Ukraine, where they also went to those bad years for Armenia. But in their family also honor Armenian traditions, language, faith.

Despite the fact that we now live in America and have already received citizenship of this country, nevertheless, our national identity is fully preserved. This is a way of thinking, and faith, and even national cuisine ...

Yes, my son was born (and most likely will grow up) in the USA, but at the same time he will remain a real Armenian. About these kids here they usually say - "American Arminians."

I do not mind. The main thing is that Arturk will know his native language, in which his mother already deals with him. And he is baptized in our Armenian Apostolic Church. It is located not so far from our home, and we often gather there, discussing news from our homeland. And of course, we are closely following the revolutionary changes that are taking place there. I really want to finally earn the law in Armenia, so that the person feels his security.

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