From AYF Simon Zavarian to ANCA Leo Sarkisian

The ANCA’s Alex Galitsky and Leo Sarkisian Intern Artur Shekyan between Congressional meetings advocating for Artsakh

By Artur Shekyan

ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Intern 2023

As a child, I always believed that I would devote my time and energy to sports. I even envisioned my future career in the sports industry. But as I got older, I realized that I had a far greater and more significant passion: Armenia and Artsakh. This devotion became even stronger after war broke out in Artsakh in September 2020. I clearly recall gathering with my ungers at the AYF Toronto Simon Zavarian Chapter,  planning protests, and painting banners that were later hung on overpasses and bridges in Toronto to bring greater public awareness to the war. It is not hyperbole to say that the war in Artsakh consumed us and we strived wholeheartedly to do whatever we could to spread awareness and help ease the suffering of our people being besieged by war.

The horror hit even closer to home when I learned that my dear friend’s uncle, Christapor Artin, died while defending our homeland. This tragic event changed me in ways I could never have imagined as it was then that I decided to dedicate my future career to the preservation of Armenia and Artsakh.  I  don’t think the Armenian community has been the same since the end of the war in Artsakh. I know I haven’t been the same.

It was also around this time that I first heard about the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship (LSI) program. Initially, I was very nervous about applying to the program because I didn’t fully believe that I could do it.  After all, it involved living in a different country for six weeks, interacting with new people, and working harder than I had ever worked before.

Looking back now, it is safe to say that it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. The experiences, insights, and friendships that I have gained from this internship program are almost indescribable. Over the years, the program has attracted many interns from Toronto and Montreal, but more of us – especially young people – should become involved. I firmly believe that as Armenian-Canadians, we must grab every opportunity to learn how to best help and support our homeland and contribute to Hai Tahd.

My favorite parts of the program were the working visits on Capitol Hill and the networking opportunities. Since I live in Toronto, coming into the program I didn’t really think I would network as much, but to the contrary, I have found myself making connections every single day, with people in different fields, who might help me down the road when I start pursuing my career.

The Capitol Hill visits have also been extraordinary. Talking with elected officials and their team has improved my communication skills massively. It has allowed me to witness how they operate, what their daily routine looks like, and most importantly, give me a sense of, if I one day decide to seek elected office, what I should emulate, and what I would change.

ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns Artur Shekyan, Tara Ourfalian, and Emma Lopez preparing for the next set of pro-Artsakh Congressional meetings.

The program also allowed us to engage in meaningful conversations with Hai Tahd advocates like Alex Galitsky, Aram Hamparian, Tereza Yerimyan, and Yeghisapet Chouldjian – to understand the strategy behind pro-Artsakh/Armenia legislation we advocate, and effective ways to move our Cause forward. After completing the ANCA LSI program, whatever country life takes program alumni – whether it is Canada or the U.S., France, Lebanon, or the Armenian Homeland – the lessons learned can be used to advocate our issues in those communities. Finally, and on a personal note, the LSI program has affected me more than I can adequately put into words, and I shall be forever grateful for the experience.


About Artur Shekyan

Artur Shekyan was born in Yerevan and grew up in Toronto, Canada, where he graduated from the A.R.S Armenian Private School. He is currently studying political science and economics at the University of Toronto. In 2023, he serves as the vice-chair of the AYF Toronto “Simon Zavarian” chapter, dedicated to tirelessly promoting the Armenian Cause in his community and the Homeland. Artur is an alumnus of the 2023 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship program.

Alex and Artur.jpg: The ANCA’s Alex Galitsky and Leo Sarkisian Intern Artur Shekyan between meeting Congressional meetings advocating for Artsakh

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