Sargis Harutyunyan, 46, came back to Armenia in October 2019 with his wife and two underage children after living in Belgium for 20 years.
“I’m happy and I don't want to regret coming back,” he said.
His family founded a small cattle-breeding business in the village of Mrgastan at Armavir province, 30 km away from Yerevan.
Sargis has built a farm on the small plot of land at his wife’s family house. Here they keep chickens, a cow and a sow that has already littered down. The farmers have received funding from the United Nations International Organization for Migration, which gave € 2200 each to return to Armenia.
“We came up with a business plan, and they provided the money. It helped us a lot. Now we raise cattle, produce and sell fresh meat and with that money we plan to expand our business. We have plans and we’ll see what will happen. All in all, things are good and I’m happy,” said Sargis.
Besides raising cattle for meat production, they also think about setting up a vegetable garden, where they could grow seasonal vegetables – beans and potatoes for sale.
Sargis left Armenia in 1999, when the country faced unemployment and economic challenges amidst political crisis and little hope for tomorrow.
“The situation in the country forced me to leave. It was at this troubled time that I couldn’t put up with the political situation,” he recalled.
In Belgium, the Harutyunyans lived as refugees. Sargis lived illegally there for more than ten years and worked off the books.
He met his wife, an ethnic Armenian too, in Belgium. They got married in 2014 and when their children were born, they decided to come back and raise their family in Armenian reality.
Living in the heart of Europe was fraught with fear, said Sargis. They were afraid of possible explosions in subway or in bus terminals. Besides, they were troubled that their children would fall into bad company or make wrong choices in their personal lives.
“It was not safe there. We were expecting a terrorist attack at every moment. Besides, we wanted our children to grow up in Armenian reality, to study at Armenian school, to interact with Armenian children,” Harutyunyan added.
The family now lives in Yerevan. Aside from meat production, Sargis also works at a construction company. Their son, 5, and daughter, 4, go to kindergarten and practice karate.
“When Nikol (Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan) visited Belgium, he gathered people in the church and told us the situation had changed. He encouraged us to come back to Armenia and promised that many other changes were underway. It was after this that many of us decided to come back. Things are changing, people have started to breathe. There is no more corruption that was rife in the past. I don’t regret coming back,” said Harutyunyan.