London Free Press, Canada
May 8 2004
Couple building a new life here
NORMAN DE BONO, Free Press Business Reporter
They moved across the globe, gave up high-paying jobs in Washington
and miss their home and families in Armenia. For Hamayak Arazyan and
Yelena Stepanyan, it is worth it to build a life in London.
“We made a choice, we knew it would be a tradeoff but you live just
once and it’s not all about money,” says Yelena. “In the world,
Canada is seen as a country of immigrants. We really like it here and
we want to stay.”
It looks now, for the first time in years, as if the young couple
might finally get their wish. Hamayak (just call me Mike) this week
began his new job as account manager at the Business Development Bank
As for Yelena, his wife of seven years, she is in the MBA program at
the Richard Ivey School of Business and has just landed a summer job
at the financial services business, Highstreet Asset Management in
They hope the positions mark the end of what has been a long road to
their new home.
“I decided to come to Ivey because of the reputation of the school,
but we were expecting London to be a much smaller city. It’s bigger
than we thought,” she said.
When they got here and saw that London is a mid-sized community, with
resources for families and children, they realized it was the kind of
city in which they wanted to raise their two children, Alexander, 20
months, and Victoria, 6.
“When we moved from Armenia to the U.S., we had in our minds we
wanted to stay in North America,” but they weren’t certain where.
“We talked to a lot of people (in Washington) and did some research
and realized that for family, for our kids, we wanted to live in
Hamayak and Yelena left Armenia for him to study for his MBA at the
University of Pennsylvania. After graduation in 2001, they moved to
Washington where he worked for the World Bank as a business and
financial consultant. She found work at the International Monetary
Fund, doing research in the Swiss Executive Office.
When Yelena decided she also wanted to study for her MBA, they
decided to combine that with a move to Canada.
As Yelena began her studies, Hamayak worked out of their London home
for the World Bank but craved an office environment and began looking
“I thought it would be easy to find a job,” said Hamayak, adding he
could have worked in Toronto. “But it’s not the same here as Toronto.
There may be three jobs here for every 200 in Toronto.”
The job search proved frustrating, and they were considering a move
to Toronto when managers at the Ivey school, who work closely with
MBA students, came to their aid, putting feelers out into the
business community to gauge job interest for Hamayak. Meetings with
John Kime, chief executive officer with the London Economic
Development Corp., were followed by a series of interviews at the BDC
beginning in January.
“If I did not find a job here, we would have had to move to Toronto,
there is such a small job market here,” he said.
Some local businesses also declined to hire him, saying that since
his wife was an MBA student, they are certain to leave the city.
“There was a lot of reluctance. One person came right out and said
‘you will not stay here.’ But we want to stay here,” he added. “Even
our daughter has said she thinks kids here are friendlier (than in
Hamayak was also offered a job with Highstreet, but declined it due
to the BDC offer — and asked if they could speak to his wife about
As for his new BDC job, “it went very well,” he said of his first
week. “They were very supportive. Everyone came in to say hello, ask
if they could help or if I had any questions. That’s the thing we’ve
noticed about London, the people here are very warm.”
In Armenia, Hamayak and Yelena also had good jobs. He was at the
U.S.-funded Armenia Foundation and she was at a European Union-funded
project, but the country is still struggling to rebuild after years
of Soviet rule and they wanted a new start.
“We had a very good life there, we were at the top of our fields and
we went to the U.S. not knowing what we would do after that — it was
a risky step,” said Hamayak. “But in Armenia, there was no place to
grow. We were limited.”
The only drawback to London, they say, is that there are no Armenian
schools for their children. In fact, there are only about 15 Armenian
families in London. Curious to connect to someone from their home
when they arrived, they went to an Alexanian Carpets store — it is
an Armenian name — to meet the owner. They also found three stores
in Masonville owned by Armenians.
“I care very much about the people there, but our family comes
first,” said Yelena. “If everything goes well, I hope we can return
to Armenia this summer for a visit, but I definitely want to come
back and stay in London, it’s my first choice.”
“Here, we can plan what we will do tens of years from now,” adds
Hamayak. “In Armenia, you could not do that.”
In addition to his work, Hamayak is also completing a certified
management accountant course at Carleton University in Ottawa.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress