Thomas Mazejian: “I became hopeful about the future after repatriating”

Lebanese-Armenian repatriate Thomas Mazejian’s second visit to Armenia became crucial for him. He found his love in Yerevan, got married to a cardiologist by the name of Anna in Armenia and moved to Beirut.

What really helped him and his family return to Armenia was their daughter’s birth when they started worrying about how their daughter, Nina-Maria would preserve her national identity. Thus, in 2007, their roots brought them to the homeland.

Hayern Aysor’s correspondent sat down for an interview with Thomas Mazejian, who currently works as Chief Information Officer at VivaCell-MTS.

Hayern Aysor: Thomas, please, tell us about your roots.

Thomas Mazejian: My father’s roots trace back to Tigranakert, and my mother’s — to Adana. As my grandfather would tell me, they would garnish ornaments on the horses of rich people. This craft was referred to as “mazeji”, and this is how we became the Mazejians. The relatives from my mother’s side were lawyers and clergymen. My ancestors escaped the Armenian Genocide, settled in Aleppo and then moved to Beirut.

I was born in Lebanon. I wouldn’t say I had a carefree childhood. The Lebanese War began in the year I was born. We were always in fear and panic. To this day, I remember the terrible war when we would escape to my grandmother’s house as a safe haven. However, I have never complained about my share of hardships since overcoming all of those hardships has helped me become stronger and have better voluntary attributes.

In 1989, the war gained momentum in our district, after which my parents sent me to Cyprus to study at the Melkonian Educational Institute. I proudly say I am an alumnus of the Melkonian Educational Institute on every opportune occasion.

Hayern Aysor: What are your memories of the Melkonian Educational Institute?

Thomas Mazejian: I got a lot out of my education at Melkonian Educational Institute. I broadened my views, gained an endless amount of knowledge, differentiated between good and bad and really got to know people. Of course, I am grateful to my teachers for all this. They helped me pave my way in life, and I remember them with warmth and longing.

At this moment, I remembered my Armenian language and literature teacher Violet Tashjian, who loved me a lot, in spite of my mischievous acts as a schoolboy. My physics teacher, who was of Cypriot descent, had a great impact on me with his humility. I always remember his words of advice.

Hayern Aysor: Every repatriate has his unique story about moving to Armenia. It’s interesting to know what made you repatriate.

Thomas Mazejian: After graduating from Haigazian University in Beirut, I visited Armenia for the first time as a tourist in 1997. I already knew quite a lot about Armenia based on what I had read about Armenian history, seen in photos and watched in films. In 2003, I paid a one-week visit, and it was this visit that became crucial for me.

One day, I was sitting at an Internet café when I noticed two beautiful eyes looking at me from the table next to me (smiling-ed.). They immediately attracted my attention. Our eyes met immediately, and what happened was what was predestined. Everything happened in an instant, and on December 31 of that year, I got engaged to my future wife, Anna, who is a cardiologist by profession. A year later, we got married and moved to Beirut.

Our life was on track, and we had no plan to return to Armenia at all. We had purchased an apartment, my wife learned Arabic and found a job by her profession. I was also employed.

However, after my first child, Nina-Maria was born, I felt very responsible and I started thinking about how we would be able to raise her as an Armenian abroad. These thoughts made us look towards Armenia.

One of my non-Armenian friends told me he would help me find a job in Armenia, and he succeeded. On July 4, 2007, we settled in Armenia.

Hayern Aysor: I think it was easy for you to become integrated here. You had already been to Armenia and knew the lifestyle, right?

Thomas Mazejian: My wife couldn’t have any problem. She had simply missed Armenia and her relatives. However, I faced hardships. After I was hired, I faced the problem with adapting to a new environment, people’s mindset and trusting people. This was one of the greatest challenges that I faced. Of course, I overcame all this over time and reached the point where I assumed a chief position at VivaCell-MTS Armenia CJSC (where I was already working) two years later in 2009.

I gradually formed a circle of friends that mainly included people with whom I could interact. There are many repatriate Diaspora Armenians among them.

I must also say that, in the beginning, people in Armenia would look at me differently and make jokes because I was a Diaspora Armenian. Whereas I used to get offended by that, now I smile.

However, to this day, I continue to lead a struggle inside of me. It is as if I am in search of my identity. Sometimes it bothers me from finding the tranquility I desire, the tranquility that will help me understand that I am simply an Armenian in Armenia, not a Diaspora Armenian or an Armenian citizen of Armenia. It’s a matter of time. I hope it passes.

Hayern Aysor: Thomas, what changes have you noticed in Armenia since you repatriated?

Thomas Mazejian: Indeed, progress has been made in different fields in Armenia, and this makes me feel proud. For instance, the IT sector has progressed a lot. Armenia has great potential in that sector. Generally speaking, we must not underestimate our potential and should aspire for more. What we need today is more leaders in the labor market. With leaders, we’ll be able to achieve greater heights.

Hayern Aysor: Have you thought about the desired outcomes of repatriation for your family?

Thomas Mazejian: First of all, I became very hopeful about my future and my children’s future. I realized that I must build my country by standing firmly on my own land. I feel safe and strong in Armenia. Today, my two children — 11-year-old Nina-Maria and 9-year-old Mark — feel that they are full-fledged citizens of Armenia and go to school with pleasure.

I feel spiritually calm for my children, especially since they are not in search of their identity like I was. They are enjoying their childhood and growing up in Armenia. These are the sweet “fruits” that I picked from the abundant “tree” of repatriation.

Hayern Aysor: What kind of a homeland do you want your children to see?

Thomas Mazejian: I want my children to see an Armenia where people will respect each other more, be kind to each other and won’t discriminate against an Armenian from Lebanon, an Armenian from Gyumri or an Armenian from Yerevan. I want my children to see a more unified Armenia and Armenians with a more collective mindset.

Let patriotism express not just a word or feeling, but be proven in practice and through longstanding efforts.

Hayern Aysor: Which day is the day you will never forget after repatriation?

Thomas Mazejian: One of the most unforgettable days was my son’s birthday. Now my wife and I sometimes refer to him as a boy from Yerevan jokingly and seriously, and he feels good about it (laughing-ed.). My change of position at VivaCell-MTS Armenia in 2009 was a major and memorable event, and I am thankful for the trust.

Hayern Aysor: The year has just begun. What is your kind wish to the Armenian people for the New Year?

Thomas Mazejian: I hope the year 2018 becomes a year of major positive changes for the Armenian people. Let’s try to think about not only our personal interests, but also the national interest.

Let’s take advantage of the great opportunities that our small country has to offer in order to help Armenia grow! I wish all Armenians health and success, and to the world — peace.

Interview by Gevorg Chichyan

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