Migration from city to village

19 March 2020

By Nane Vardanyan
Photos by Knar Babayan

4 min read

Roosters’ “Cuckodoodle doo!” in the morning, fresh air, and the sound of silence – a few luxuries of Armenian village life, yet unfamiliar to many urban citizens. People living most of their lives in the country might not realize the privilege of having abundant nature outside their door.

Whether city life suits you just fine, the countryside seems to have “organic” pleasures. If anyone could appreciate the country life, that would be the three of our COAF SMART Center instructors, Maggie, Ara, and Liza. Born in the city of Yerevan, they quitted urban life moving to the smallish village of Dsegh in Lori province to teach and excel with the youth of SMART.
Maggie Ghulinyan is our Chinese Program Instructor. Her ancestral roots are right from where she lives now. “Since childhood, I dreamed of becoming a military surgeon and working in borderline villages,” confesses Maggie. “Then I got married, and my husband and I moved to Shanghai and lived there for 3 years.” When they returned to Yerevan, Maggie persuaded her husband to have a sweet escape from the messy and noisy traffic of city life. The decision didn’t come easy but eventually, they moved hoping to establish quality living standards in their preferred environment.

Maggie Ghulinyan teaching Chinese to COAF SMART students


Having flowing water only three hours a day might not be the best amenity one could wish for. That is part of Maggie’s new reality, where she has to wash the plates, do the laundry, take a shower from 9 AM – 12 PM, as it’s the only time they have water. Still, she forgets about all the difficulties as soon as she’s on her way to her workplace staring at the picturesque scenes given to her as a gift from nature.

“People meditate and spend money on therapies, here in the village, all that is given for free,” says Maggie, who does not live like a peasant, but still enjoys being close to nature.  “Every time I admire the views around me, I think everyone would long for seeing what I see every day,” she believes. While many friends were first skeptical about her decision to move, when visiting Maggie in Dsegh, they wish to stay there more and more.

Another old and experienced “migrant” is Ara Harutyunyan, the COAF SMART Mechanics Instructor, who has lived in the villages of Artsakh before settling in the Lori region. “City population has an “artificial” life, while villagers live a pure and natural lifestyle,” affirms the long-time advocate of country living.

Ara Harutyunyan on a hike in Artsakh

“Cranes are migrating birds, and you can gaze at that unique scene only in a village. In cities, we do not notice such things, whereas, villagers foresee the weather based on their knowledge of nature and wildlife,” explains Ara, the city guy who now understands the philosophy of nature. Living in the suburbs has taught him to hear the sound of silence and rejoice in it.

Photo by Krist Marukyan, COAF SMART Center Operations Manager


In Dsegh, he sublets an apartment with an elderly couple whose relationship has become an inspiration to him. “They get up every morning, go to the barn to feed the animals, then break some wood, and work in the kitchen together. Even when they are silent, their silence speaks,” Ara tells with delight.

Mother Nature seems to be a fantastic place for a young musician like Liza Yepremyan to create and surpass. Moving to Dsegh to work as the Vocal Instructor at the SMART center has been an interesting challenge both for her and her family who live in Yerevan. “The village life is twice or thrice as tough as the urban life, but I am a flexible person and know how to adapt,” explains Liza.

Liza Yepremyan during the Vocal Program

Here she is surrounded by many things worth appreciating, and her workplace is one of them. “The rural kids need professionals to learn from, and I am sure they will value the center and its impact more as they grow up. I do my best to develop their taste in music and learn from them at the same time,” says Liza, who enjoys being accompanied by her staff members, who always share news and interesting stories with each other.

COAF SMART Center in spring. Photo by Krist Marukyan

Our instructors describe COAF SMART as the “most wanted workplace” in the surrounding area providing jobs to locals and not only. While we strive to bring change in rural communities, we are glad our innovative educational center is also fostering decentralization and promoting the beauty of Armenian village life.