Why live in Armenia and learn Armenian, if you are not Armenian
Dr. Stacey Vorster is one of AVC’s newest ABCs (Armenian by Choice). Stacey never thought searching for dry shampoo would lead her to AVC, a rewarding volunteer experience, and finally a job offer. The 37 year old South African native originally visited Armenia due to her partner’s business. She joined AVC not too long after. And as Stacey sees it, it was “ճակատագիր” or fate that intervened in a pharmacy at Yerevan Mall. “I was trying to find dry shampoo and was making a royal fool of myself trying to mime out spray-washing my hair when a wonderful woman behind me put me out of my misery and offered to help. She happened to be the AVC Director, and we got to chatting”. A week later, Stacey started volunteering with AVC.
Stacey, who has her PhD in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam and years of experience working as a curator and lecturer, was extremely excited by the opportunity to contribute her vast educational and professional experience to the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (AGMI). In her two months volunteering there, Stacey edited draft articles; researched objects from their massive collection of artworks, artifacts, and manuscripts; presented a workshop on “object-led” research to the AGMI team; and developed a best-practices resource on teaching genocide to children. She explains that her greatest contribution was bringing a new perspective and energy around telling stories about hard things, especially to younger visitors. “Anyone who has been to the Armenian Genocide Museum will know that it’s not an easy place to visit. It’s overwhelming and sad. It’s not my sense that it should be “easy” to remember and memorialize such atrocities but rather that visitors can find a sense of peace in that trauma.”
Every end is a new beginning
In life, everything must come to an end. And so did Stacey’s experience at AGMI. But you know the saying? Every end is a new beginning. In August 2022, two months after completing her service with the Institute, fate decided that she still had work to do. The Institute asked Stacey to be part of a team applying for a research grant from the Science Committee of Armenia’s “Foundation of Remote Laboratories.” The 5-year research project takes on the topic of Armenian Genocide reparations from a historical and legal perspective. Stacey joined the team and contributes by researching the idea of reparations from a socio-cultural perspective. Along with her colleagues, she will develop several journal articles and book chapters over the next five years, as well as help develop and implement exhibitions in the museum.
“So many Armenians I meet daily ask me why I am living in Armenia and learning Armenian if I am not of Armenian descent. But the question is not at all unwelcoming! Rather, I feel so embraced by the community. Every person I meet is excited to share a piece of their history or to teach me a new word or phrase,” says Stacey. Her plans are to live in Armenia for the next few years and to diligently learning the Armenian language, which she says is imbibed with the same kindness and joy that she and her partner experience in Armenia every day.