Although she was born in New York, Katrina Shakarian, 24, has visited Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh three times. Her mother is from Stepanakert and her father is from Tehran. They met in Armenia, where they married and later decided to move to the USA. Katrina grew up hearing stories about the beauty of far away Armenia — the slopes of Biblical Mount Ararat and the amazing people.
She improved her knowledge while attending the St. Martyres Armenian school growing up. “Studying at the Armenian School was very essential to my fate. Thanks to that, I can now read, write and speak Armenian,” Katrina said.
She was 16 when with she, along with her mother and brother first visited her ancestors’ country. That visit was followed by a second trip through a “Land and Culture” program, during which she spent a month in Shushi, Nagorno-Karabagh, and volunteered in construction.
As a member of the ACYOA Pilgrimage Program, she visited her homeland for the third time and had an opportunity to get acquainted with many other Armenian-Americans. Katrina especially enjoyed her one-week stay in Gyumri, during the course of which she and her friends contributed to the construction and renovation of the local Ounjian School and helped out at the Gyumri Soup Kitchen.
During our conversation Katrina shared her impressions: “Gyumri is a very old and ancient city. I was more impressed by the local people, however, who have suffered because of the 1988 earthquake but still continue to believe in the future.”
Although the pilgrimage is over, it will continue in the hearts of its participants. Katrina will keep in touch with her new friends and aim to contribute to both her community and her motherland.