12 Ekim 2017 Perşembe

What is There Beyond the Border?

This is a short story of breaking the stereotypes...

             In August 2017, we took the chance to go to Armenia for the first time in our lives, thanks to “Beyond Borders Project of Hrant Dink Foundation. As we were really excited to see what is beyond the border, we also had a lot of questions in our minds; Why a country so close to us, is actually still so far? Could we contribute a bit to make it closer? Would we have any problems there? Etc..
Well, short time after our arrival, questions were already started to be answered. When we were welcomed by a smiling border police woman, we already felt that our fears – even though we didn’t have many- weren’t really useful. After settling down in our hostel, the next morning we started to discover Yerevan first. Instead of explaining all the trip, we preferred to make an “amateur” movie, hoping to make people understand, it is not an unknown place beyond the borders, see it yourself!

After Yerevan, our first destination was Dilijan. After a small trip with a small bus which is similar to our “dolmuş”, we had the chance to meet Artur Ghazaryan, president of the Youth Cooperation Center of Dilijan (YCCD). Artur and YCCD are really active not just in the Erasmus+ but also in improving the tourism and entrepreneurship in their area. We were really impressed from all the activities that they are organizing fort he improvement of Tavush region; also their project “ARMENECOOP”, which has the aim to empower Dilijan’s women through social entrepreneurship, gave us the chance to speak about future cooperations and common projects. During a small and interesting visit around the green and peaceful town, we could get to know each other better, sharing our feelings about the Turkish-Armenian situation and discovering our common emotions, thoughts and hope for the future of our countries. Right after that, we met with amazing people, the representatives of No Hate Speech Armenia, who welcomed us in their office where we learned about the movement and spoke about possible future actions.

         Just before leaving Armenia, we went to discover Gyumri and the Youth Initiative Center NGO. The great team of YIC welcomed us in their office where we presented each other our associations and projects. Also this was a chance to meet wonderful people and plan future common projects.
A part from being two active youth workers in YIC, Anna and Valya are also part of the Hrant Dink Foundation and, in the end of our visit, they interviewed us, asking our opinions about the experience that we could live thanks to “Beyond Borders” project. 

          Unfortunately, because of our flight, we couldn’t take part to the several and interesting activities that they were organising for the International Youth Day on 12th of August, but we promised to be there for the one of next year..and we always keep our promises!
Our stay in Armenia was not just about meeting the associations, but also visiting the country and why not, hanging around, tasting traditional food and drinks. And, once sitting in front of the Cascade or around a table of a cosy family restaurant, we had the chance to meet locals and travellers that shared with us their stories. It’s during one of our night in a couchsurfing meeting that we spoke with Alexis Elmassian, a french guy with Armenian and Turkish roots. At the beginning of 1915 his grandparents migrated from Istanbul to France. They came back to Armenia after the Second World War but due to economical and adaptation problems they went back to Marseille again. Alexis’ mother came to Turkey few times and so did him. Now Alexis is travelling around Armenia willing to know his roots, people and country that got to know just from his relatives’ memories.
Spending 5 nights in Yerevan gave us also the chance to find our favourite place, a nice cafè from where we could enjoy the Cascade view and refresh a while from the heat of the armenian summer. This place is called “Così è la vita” and one of the owner is an Armenian guy borned in Istanbul. Alex lived in Turkey with his family till the age of 34, he did his military service in the Turkish army and then, feeling tired from the big and crowded Istanbul, he decided to move to Yerevan and start his business here. Alex preferred to come back to his hometown despite he never felt any kind of discrimination in Turkey and his family is still in there.

          Last but not least, we met “Gaziantep Spor” supporters while having dinner in a small Syrian restaurant. As many families in Yerevan, the one sit next to us was an Armenian family with Syrian roots. We captured their attention speaking in Turkish because they could perfectly understand us and that’s how we discovered that they were originally from Antep, then moved to Aleppo and later to Yerevan. Another occasion to listen new fascinating stories and share common habits and traditions.
As you could understand from our short diary, Armenia made us feel at home. 

         A country is not just about the landscape and the historical places but most about the people living in there; and we can easily say that the people met on our path were mostly kind, hospitable and helpful. This trip represented for us another occasion to forget about our prejudices. After these days we can strongly confirm that also if the politic situation is trying to get us far from each other, we will do every day more our best to show how similar and close we are..

Claudia, Ozan & Hamza

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