She settled in Cyprus almost 20 years ago after a transient childhood spent in several different countries but has never forgotten her Armenian ancestry. Irina is vice president of the Armenian Community in Paphos and the Paphos representative of the Armenian National Committee of Cyprus, as well as being a founder of Hamazkayin Ani Dance Group.
“I was born in Armenia but during my childhood, I lived there as well as Ukraine, Russia, and Greece before settling in Cyprus as a teenager,” explained Irina. “All through that time, holding onto my roots was very important to me but it wasn’t until after I finished university that I started to get involved in these various groups.
“The thing that I enjoy most is working with children, teaching them traditional Armenian dance, songs, and theatre. I love being around children and perhaps it is because I missed out on learning all of this in my own childhood that I feel so passionately about sharing it with them. It’s a fun way for them to explore our culture and express themselves.”
There is a large Armenian community of around 4,000 people in Cyprus - many of them moved there following the Armenian genocide and some of them in more recent times as political or economic immigrants. However, Armenians have a long and proud history on the island and have had a presence there since the Byzantine era.
Irina returns to her homeland as often as she can, and her next trip will take place this summer. She intends to stay for an extended period, working remotely and using her free time to explore. She will also visit an orphanage and some other children that were affected by the conflicts in Artsakh last year.
Although brief, the war was intense and left many children in need. Irina sprang into action when she learned of the situation and through her dance group launched a fund-raising drive to get young people the help they needed.
Using the power of social media, she reached out to 19 artists around the globe and sought their help to create Together United - a colouring book filled with traditional Armenia pictures. It went into production towards the end of 2020 – a second one is planned for this year - and money raised from sales will be donated directly to the children who need help and support most.
Irina said: “I haven’t been to Armenia since 2019, but I love going there. Cyprus is home to me because I grew up here, but there is something very nostalgic about going back to my roots and experiencing that culture.”
Irina is based in Mintra’s Limassol office and her role as a legal officer involves a wide scope of work, from contract drafting and reviewing, internal advice, negotiations with clients and drafting policies to ensure the company’s compliance with international laws and regulations.
She previously worked as a corporate lawyer and joined the team in Cyprus in 2019. The in-house legal team is fundamental to business success, offering support on legal matters required by all company departments from HR to IT.
With a hectic work schedule and volunteering commitments, it’s surprising that Irina has any time left to herself. However, she packs as many activities as possible into her day-to-day life and challenges herself to learn new skills and hobbies.
Aerial silk dancing, in-line skating, horse riding and dancing are among her talents and she is currently learning chess and guitar. On top of that she runs an online business with her sister – Chain It Up – designing and creating chains for spectacles, sunglasses and facemasks.
Irina explained: “I ask my friends to send me challenges because I love learning how to do different things. This year I am doing 12 different challenges, if possible one every month, and my next challenge is to take up fencing. I think if you enjoy something, practice it and learn it more. It might be that I don’t enjoy fencing, but at least I will have tried to learn something new.
“I think that’s what I enjoy most about working in an organisation like Mintra - we help people to develop new skills. There is always time to learn.”