The needy family has nowhere to go and no money to repair, or, to be more precise, to restore their house.
Gohar Khachatryan with her 4 underage children lives at a ramshackle house 3, Rustaveli Str. of Kond district, Yerevan. At first their house was comprised of 3 rooms, and now only one is fit for living. The 2 other rooms, the kitchen and the bathroom are dilapidated. They have no telephone and no drinking water. It is impossible to take drinking water from where the basin is – the conditions are insanitary. And the mother has to do her washing in these unhygienic conditions and with cold water. They have reconstructed toilet recently. It was ruined, too. Gohar built the two parts of the walls of the ruined toilet and the habitable room on her own and sheltered her children there. Gohar says she is not as strong as used to be. ‘I can’t do much now. My hands ache of the cold water. They get frozen.’
They heat their only room with a wood oven. They burn anything they can get. The winter cold has just begun, while their firewood is about to finish. Gohar says they collected the wood from different places.
‘I have no idea what we’re going to do when it’s finished. This year’s terribly cold. It is like burning fire in the yard and standing round it. The wind’s blowing from big cracks on the walls everywhere. My brother used to help us. He would bring some pieces of wood to save the children from getting frozen. He was working on a construction and would bring us any unfit thing to burn. Now he is married, and he has his own problems to solve. He can no longer bring us fuel.’ Gohar has fixed cellophane bags on the cracks of the walls to prevent the rain and the snow falling into the house. She has hung a thick blanket on the window, to protect the room from the wind. Now they are deprived of the sunlight, but the children sleep under that window.
In Gohar’s words, he has applied to the district authorities many times, asked some construction material to fix the walls of the house, but nobody has paid any attention by now.
‘Nobody helps us. They say it’s not their business. My mother’s working as a cleaner and gets 2.000 drams ($ 5) every other day, but who can survive on that money? Our daily food is plav or something similar. What can we buy on 2.000 drams ($ 5) to feed 4 underage children! I receive only 41.000 drams ($ 106) allowance, and pay the debts to the shop as soon as I get the money. What can I do? The children wake up every morning and want to eat and I buy the cheapest food. I have debts for the electricity but cannot pay them. They turn it off all the time. Recently I have been sued for 7.000 drams’ ($ 18) debt for the light. They are going to confiscate something… But confiscate what?’
The children do not have clothes and shoes suitable for this weather. They wear autumn garments.
‘In summer it is easier to find something to put on them, but in winter it’s really serious. Everything’s so expensive. No means to buy clothes. They have neither coats, nor warm boots. They wear what they have and catch cold,’ says Gohar crying.
Her husband’s not living with them. He left Armenia to earn money but hasn’t ever sent a dram to the family, saying he hasn’t found any job. ‘When he was here, it was hard again, but we managed somehow make ends meet. My husband had no mother, no father, no sister or brother, and he wanted to have many children, but who could guess everything would turn out like this and we wouldn’t have a place to live in or to go to. I really want to work but how can I leave my young children and work. Who’ll take care of them? No one will look after them and our conditions are not safe. My children have become unsociable and are not much self-organized. They also feel uneasy about our problems.’
To have the children rest from their daily hardships and housing conditions their mother takes them to “Orran” charitable day-care center. Her eldest son Andrey, 11, learns the craft of a carpenter, but he dreams of having a computer, since all his classmates have one. Monica, 9, learns macramé in the same center. She loves heat very much and she and her 7 year-old brother Artur love sitting close to the fireplace. The youngest of the family, Anahit, 4, busies herself with breaking ice in the yard with an adze. When she saw us coming she ran to her mother and asked joyfully: ‘Mummy, will they take us to a better place?’ They don’t even have an operating TV set for the children to watch a movie or an animation before going to sleep. The mother says, it would make her children a little bit happy.
Translated by Narine Aghabekyan