Stacey Terterian, a diasporan back home

Stacey Terterian and I connected on Instagram when she messaged me to ask about the soldiers I wrote about for the Armenian Weekly. We had an instant connection, and I realized how deeply invested she is in our homeland. We finally had the opportunity to meet, and it was such a beautiful experience to see her eyes light up when she spoke about Armenia. Terterian left her life in the United States, moved to Armenia to volunteer and began a new chapter. She shares her experience here.

“Little did I know that being born in Fresno, California, I would one day find myself in the juxtaposition between two worlds – the one I had my entire life living in the United States, and the one in Armenia, which I would eventually decide to call my home.

I visited Armenia for the second time in August of 2023, this time to volunteer with AVC (Armenian Volunteer Corp), Armenia’s full-service internship and volunteer placement organization. Initially, I intended to only stay for a month. Within the first week, I chose to be placed at the Kharberd Specialized Orphanage, an orphanage for disabled children, a very heavy but rewarding experience. Following that, I participated in VOMA training, an NGO that trains and prepares individuals for war. I also participated in and helped organize close to 25 Christmas parties with various organizations for the children of Artsakh. I am currently volunteering with AGBU Armenia.

Stacey Terterian at a Christmas party for children from Artsakh

However, midway through I had this unexplainable urge for the need to stay – an intense feeling as though this was where I belonged. So in mid-August, I changed my return ticket to L.A. for October 31. But after my experience in Goris, it became clear to me that I needed to begin the steps of my repatriation. I went back to the United States for 15 days to grab some winter clothes and booked a one-way ticket back to Armenia.

I am definitely not the same person I was a year ago. A lot has changed. After a rough couple of years, including my separation and eventually my divorce, I finally feel like myself again. When I first decided to visit Armenia, I didn’t have a single friend or family member here. I didn’t even know how to speak Eastern Armenian. But thanks to my volunteering, that’s not the case anymore. I can easily communicate with everyone and have made so many tangakin and valuable friendships from the regions of Lori to Syunik and even Artsakh. I’m even learning the Artsakh bar-bar (dialect)!

My very first visit to Armenia was in September 2022. At the time, I meant to visit for 15 days, but when the two-day war began, I decided to extend my stay to a total of five weeks in hopes of volunteering, which I did. Back in 2020, during the 44-day war, the diaspora helplessly watched the heartbreaking events unfold on social media, praying and wishing there was something we could do. 2022 was my chance to do something for my people, my Hairenik.

It’s safe to say the time I spent as a volunteer in Goris during the genocidal exodus from Artsakh changed me. It was during that time I decided to call Armenia my home. I returned to Armenia in August of 2023, for what was supposed to be one month, specifically to volunteer through AVC. I had completed my application process in Los Angeles before coming to Armenia so that I could get a placement as soon as I arrived…not knowing the hell that was about to come.

Terterian in Goris in September 2023

I meet new people all the time, in taxis, on the bus, but especially while volunteering. They instantly become friends; in fact, some have even become my makeshift family. There are a handful of AGBU Armenia staff that I work with daily who used to work with AGBU Artsakh and are displaced themselves. It is motivating, to say the least, and I feel extremely blessed to be a part of that team. We go to various villages in different regions to distribute aid, including heaters, clothes and food boxes, and I’m able to talk to and connect with the people we distribute to. As a matter of fact, I was so fortunate to be able to meet Shant Charshafjian, his lovely wife Marine and their sweet babies, Maralig and Hourig in December in Syunik during a few of their puppet shows. I also had the pleasure of meeting Ashot Gabrielyan, a prior Birthright volunteer, at the AVC/Birthright office during a havak (gathering), where he spoke about his life in Artsakh and his experience during the war and exodus. The faith, strength and resilience of our brothers and sisters is inspiring. 

I also believe we as Armenians, and especially the Diaspora, have a responsibility to our martyred soldiers, to come home and be the change we want to see. Without their sacrifice, there would be no homeland. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

My grammy used to always say that I’m like a chameleon, and I can fit in anywhere I go. I’ve been job hunting for the last couple of weeks, and I am very hopeful that I will find one. I will say, being so far away from my friends and family has probably been the biggest challenge. We video chat from time to time, but it’s just not the same. Missing out on major events, birthdays, holidays and anniversaries, and not being able to visit my mom’s grave have been very difficult. 

However, the feeling of homesickness quickly vanishes once I remind myself where I am. Besides, I know my mom is always with me. I see her ‘signs’ all the time. I’ve always been determined. I will either find a way or make one. Urish darperag chiga

We, as a people, get so comfortable in our routine lives that the thought of stepping out of our comfort zones is terrifying. I was no exception. But sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and always, always follow your inner voice. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, that there are no coincidences. I also believe we as Armenians, and especially the Diaspora, have a responsibility to our martyred soldiers, to come home and be the change we want to see. Without their sacrifice, there would be no homeland. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

Our mountains, our churches, our culture, our struggle, our dances, our faith, our land, our Ararat, our fallen soldiers, our history, Yerablur, we owe it to all of them. Yalla, ari dun.”

Ari dun. Come home. The homeland waits for its people to return and to help it thrive and flourish.

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan is a mother, educator and writer. She is the author of Vanna's Adventures (discusses Armenian traditions and customs); Mom and Dad, Why Do I Need to Know My Armenian Heritage? (a children's book about being proud of our heritage); Our Tigran and Tigran's Song (written in honor of Tigran Harutyunyan, a fedayee from the 44 Day War). Talar was a member of the Philadelphia AYF (Papken Suni and Sebouh chapters), as well as Homenetmen, Hamazkayin and ARS. She is currently a member of the La Crescenta "Talin" ARS chapter. She can be reached at talar725@gmail.com or Hokees1111 on Instagram.

3 Comments

  1. Stacy, what you are doing is so admirable selfless wonderful thing which makes you and others happy, you get more if you give I am sure you already know that. Love you and proud for you are doing ❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*