“In Armenia We Have Learned to Live Differently”
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Since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011 around 17,000 Syrian refugees have moved to Armenia. Most of them are Christian Armenians who found asylum in what they felt was their fatherland, but little did they imagine, how hard it would become.

They had to start from zero as Armenia is very different from Syria, given the day-to-day habits, to the food, to how relations among people work. Lack of employment, expensive prices and high taxes add hardship to the cultural differences and some Syrian-Armenians decided to hit the road again. But this time leaving not Syria but Armenia.

Others decided to endure, stayed on, set up businesses. Adapting to the new environment and blending it with their own customs, the community somehow developed a sub-culture. One of the cultural challenges has been the role of women, in both the family and the society at large. In Syria, women are usually tasked with looking after the house and the children, in Armenia they had to open the door to the outside world and look for work as they needed to contribute to the household.

 

“We arrived in Armenia in 2014. The local living conditions forced us to look for a job. And as I have never worked in Syria, it was difficult for me to start something now”.
Vanya, 38, and her husband, rent a house in Yerevan where she now is specialised on the embroidery of national Armenian patterns. Though she does not have a regular income, as she works at home on orders, she still keeps dreaming about her own studio. “I
Syuzanna’s shop, in central Yerevan, is a sewing paradise. Before she and her husband arrived in Armenia in November of 2012, Syuzanna never had a job.
“In Syria, an Armenian man would treat his wife as a queen and his salary was only enough to support two, sometimes even three families.” Problems are daily bread, but today she can’t imagine her life without working.
“There was no need for me to work in Syria as my husband was the breadwinner. But in Armenia a family cannot survive on only a salary.” Yoland with her husband Raffi work from their rented apartment in Yerevan.
The couple make different types of cakes and sweets decorated with marzipan and their dream is to open a bakery. “All these are sweets and meals I used to prepare for my family in Aleppo, Syria.”
Silva and her two children arrived in Armenia in 2012. “In the beginning we didn’t know what would happen next, life was uncertain and our savings disappeared quickly”.
Five months ago she opened a business related to wedding ceremonies. “I had a wedding shop in Syria so I thought I could use that experience to open something similar in Armenia”. Silva is optimistic about her business.
32 year old Nairi never worked in Aleppo, Syria. She got engaged upon finishing school and then married. Now in Yerevan, she runs a souvenir shop. It was not an easy decision, but the mother of two is happy with the choice.
“When you have your own business and you understand the importance of earning money, you can’t waste your time without doing anything”.
“Back home in Aleppo, my only job was to take care of the family. I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother. Now I’m learning from my Armenian neighbors.” Life in Armenia was difficult when Dalida arrived to Yerevan.
The customers didn’t know her and didn't trust her, but time and hard work paid off as she now has regular clients for her sweets and ready-prepared meals.
In 2007, Karmen, an Armenian woman, married Steven, a Syrian-Armenian man, and moved to Aleppo. For a girl who used to live the majority of her life in Armenia, she found the overly high level of attention towards women and the fact that most didn’t work
“But I always helped Steven, creating handmade objects, like toy bears, bags, and small dolls and I participated in different exhibitions”.
Chai Khana
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