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Armenian Repatriate from Canada: In Artsakh People Live Happier than in Other Civilized Countries

"Armedia" IAA presents an interview with the Armenian repatriate from Canada, Viktoria Tchitouni, who moved to Artsakh in 2017 and decided to permanently reside there. The interview tells about her motives to move for permanent residency to Artsakh, her impressions about people there and the main difficulties that she had to overcome there.

- Will you, please, briefly tell your life story before you made a decision to move to Artsakh?

- My name is Viktoria Tchitouni. I am originally from Yerevan, Armenia. I immigrated to Canada in 1994 with my family. Since then I have built a career and worked there for 22 years. During these years I have always thought about Armenia. I always knew that I would go back at one point. . A few years ago I went back to visit my friends. One of my very good friends lives in Shushi and works in Stepanakert. So I went and visited her, and that was my first time in Artsakh. I spent three days there and I fell in love with the country. I did not want to leave. Last year I went once more for a week to visit my friend, met a lot of interesting people and made some plans. I decided that it was my goal now: move here and do something good for the community. I thought why I should I return to Yerevan if there was Artsakh, where I could probably do more. In 2017, it was finally possible for me to move to Artsakh. I rented an apartment in Shushi and now consider Artsakh to be my home. I spent three and a half months in Shushi and I worked in Stepanakert for two months and taught English language in a private university.

- What conditioned your decision to move to Artsakh?

- Let me tell you a short story before I answer the question. At one point in my career I was fortunate enough to spend a year in Madagascar, Africa. I did a project there for a giant international company. I also spent much time with the nationals, did some charitable projects and so forth. I liked what I was doing there, teaching, arranging medical help and supporting charity. When I visited Artsakh I started to think: why Madagascar if I can do the same thing in Artsakh for my people. So I decided to move here. Now I am looking forward to helping kids and students who want to learn languages.

- What was your first impression from Artsakh and Artsakh people?

- I can talk for hours about it (laughs). First of all, it was confirmed for me that I am really "a sari aghjik’" (a girl from mountains). I love mountains and the mountains in Artsakh are special. My window looks at Jdrduz (JdrduzCanyon in Shushi) and Gadrut, every day I look at those mountains and I fall in love each time again (laughs). The nature is absolutely amazing. There are so many places you can visit. I went to Tigranakert, to Gandzasar, we drove through half of Artsakh. It is just beautiful and for me it is the best place on Earth.

As for people, first of all my best friend from the university is there. I like to be near and help her with what she is doing. From the Canadian point of view Artsakh is very traditional, even more traditional than Armenia. Still I like it. I like that I become a woman there, someone who is respected. Men in Canada are afraid to help women because of sexual harassment law, feminism etc. I am a feminist from the point of view that women should have the same rights, the same salary as men. At the same time I like when a man opens a door for me, takes my coat, is nice and polite. And I get that in Artsakh and in Armenia. You know in Artsakh and in Shushi, especially, what is very important is the sense of community. It is like a small family, everybody knows everybody, and there is no crime because of that, everybody is respectful towards each other. There are a lot of pregnant women, and that just makes me happy. In a country like Artsakh, which is constantly in a danger of war, people live their lives more fully than in civilized countries like Canada. They are happier there. A grocery owner greets you by name and says that he has your favourite fruit. After 23 years in Canada, being just “a number”, who works for somebody somewhere, I appreciate these real moments of belonging, little moments of respect and love.

- What were the main difficulties you had to overcome there?

- I did not have any difficulties, to tell you the truth. I love everything there. The only problem is perhaps the monopoly of the Internet as they put high prices on something very important for people. Also some men are extremely traditional, they still think that women should be in the kitchen and not in the classroom, for example. But when you live where you love and when you do what you love, you don’t notice the difficulties anymore, as they are just small obstacles on the way to your happiness. It is OK that I am going to climb ten floors without an elevator, or that there is a constant noise from the kindergarten downstairs, that is all fine, although in Canada that would become a big problem. I also like that my friends in Artsakh do not call, they do not make appointments, they just knock on your door and say: "Hi, do you have time for a cup of coffee with me" and you answer: "Yes, sure come in." For me it is great, because I was raised this way, and Canada is not a country, where you can do like that.

- What are your future plans there?

- In Artsakh I will do whatever I can to create a little space where people can speak any language they want, broaden their horizons. It probably will be a small club where people can come, drink coffee and talk. You know I have traveled across the world, I have seen so many different things and I can tell stories about them. My points of view are different; when I express them I make people think. These are not my words, this is what people told me there, and in a sense this is how I can be useful. And it is the main thing in life - to be useful…

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