You Can Shake the Town, but Not the Spirit

The author, Karine Hairapetian, with an AYF Youth Corps camper in Gyumri

The author, Karine Hairapetian, with an AYF Youth Corps camper in Gyumri


After a three-day teaser of Yerevan, I was not ready to part with the big city and move to the more rural city of Gyumri. In addition to leaving behind the vivacious street life, I was dreading the idea of sharing one bathroom with 16 other people. The question that I found myself asking was, why do the people of Gyumri choose to stay in their city and not in the city of Yerevan?

As I drove to Gyumri, my worries of living in a “boring” city quickly faded away. I didn’t know it was possible to feel such an overwhelming sense of Armenian-ness. Looking out of the crammed bus’ windows and seeing the green rolling hills and foliage, I was able to answer my previously overstated question.

Yes, Yerevan’s night life and restaurants may be superior, but my sense of Armenian-ness was diluted in an urban, globalized city. The term “hyrenaser” is epitomized by the people of Gyumri. After the earthquake of 1988, this town could have been abandoned, leaving behind only ruins. However, that’s not the case. Gyumri is continuously rebuilding itself from ground up, both literally and figuratively. Although they still have a long way to go, the people are continuously proving their loyalty and dedication to their beloved city.

Prior to traveling to Gyumri, I believed I had met all types of “hyrenaser” individuals but I was pleasantly proven wrong. The citizens of Gyumri: the adults and children, the working professionals and stay-at-home mothers, the schoolchildren and the grandparents, they’ve each taught me that “hayrenasiutyun” is something they live, breath, and work toward every day. I am extremely grateful to be able to share this feeling with them.

This instance is just one of the many impacts the AYF Youth Corps Program will have on my life, and I now anxiously wait to experience more life altering moments in the next few weeks.


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  1. Catherine Yesayan said:

    It’s easy to fall in love with Gyumri, and I did 😀

  2. Mico Melkonian said:

    I’m very proud of Karine and all our Youth Corps participants. This program is a shining example of the tremendous work the AYF does to connect the youth in the diaspaora with our homeland and people. As someone who led the Youth Corps group in 2001, I can attest to the emotional roller coaster one experiences visiting and working in our nation, and the lasting positive impact it has had on my life. Karine I am truly jealous! Can’t wait to hear more from you.