"What's the homeland to me? What's important bare my kids. Now, they don't go hungry. I haven't seen good things in the homeland. When I think back about the homeland what comes to mind is the hut we lived in, my travails and the kids going to sleep hungry. Sure, it's difficult here. You work from morning till night and the money's not much. But at least there's work and something to eat. Can you imagine what it's like for children not to eat? That's what Armenia was like."
This is what Lilit, originally from Gyumri and now living in Istanbul, told me when we met.
There are many Armenians from Gyumri now residing in Istanbul. Some brought their families with them.
When you walk through the Kumkapi neighbourhood of Istanbul you can hear echoes of the Gyumri dialect wafting down the alleyways.
Lilit moved to Istanbul with her three children eight months ago. Her eldest son, Stepan, is 15. Then comes Harout, 14, and daughter Armineh, almost 5.
Her husband left for Russia seven years ago for work. He returned to Armenian in 2007 and then went back. He's since abandoned the family.
Lilit and the kids lived in a "tomik" back in Gyumri. They're the small temporary huts built for people left homeless after the Spitak earthquake. The family was allocated an apartment but her husband's parents and their eldest son moved in.
Her two boys began to work in a small jewellery factory two months after they arrived in Istanbul. The day we visited, the boys had even brought work home to do – setting stones on rings. They only receive 12 TL for every 100 rings; a little over $7.
There are many Armenians toiling away at such productions shops, usually tucked away in some basement, producing clothes, shoes, bags, etc. Armenians enjoy the reputation of being responsible and gifted workers.
In a few years these boys can become craftsmen at their trade.
Stepan told me he makes 23 Turkish Lira ($14) per day on average. They put in 12 hour work day which starts at 7:30am. The work they take home keeps them up till around 11pm.
While the boys still haven't picked up conversational Turkish, they understand it pretty well and their trade talk is peppered with Turkish words. Their boss is an Istanbul Armenian.
When I asked Stepan what he likes about Istanbul, the boy immediately replied – the work.
Lilit's neighbour, Seda, told me that many Armenian children and teenagers work.
"They should be in school. After work they go straight home and don't leave the house. They're afraid of the police. We are all illegal here," said Seda.
Lilit and the kids live in a small 12 square meter space that costs $152 per month, utilities included. They share the toilet and shower with other tenant on the floor. There are four rooms on each floor of the three story building. Most of the other lodgers are Armenians.
Before moving to Turkey, Lilit sold the "tomik". The only income was an allowance she received for the kids.
"My husband would send us $100 every few months. Then he stopped. The place was leaking and we couldn't heat it in the winter. I decided to get out and stop relying on him. At least we have a normal place to live here, despite the tiny size."
But they live in constant fear here, live the other illegal Armenian migrants.
When I asked Stepan when he'd be returning to Armenia, the teenager answered, "When my time comes to serve in the army."
Video by Vahe Sarukhanyan