Little Monica looks at the shiny poster of pop singer Sirusho on the wall and gladly waggles her little hands. She thinks that the pop artist is her aunt. Amid the small and shabby room, the need, and the hardship, Lusine, Monica’s mother, shows her daughter the smiling photograph of her favorite actress and says: “This is aunt Sirusho.”The photograph: a picture of good life in the gloomy reality.In her everyday struggle against the hardship, lack of food and clothing, as well as against diseases, Lusine Simonyan, a 35-year-old single mother, does not lose her optimism.
“A few months ago Monica got sick with pneumonia. We had to go to the hospital. And now my house is so cold and I cannot heat it,” says Lusine.The child’s hands are always as cold as ice and are always red. Her mother no longer pays attention to that. “She must get used to that. Now it is only fall and we have the winter ahead.”
Lusine, as well as her two sisters have grown up at the orphanage in Gavar.“For three months we have slept under the walls of Tsitsernakaberd with our mother. My mother used to work at the silk factory and we used to live at the factory dormitory, where it was not allowed to live together with children. They forced us out,” she says.
Lusine says that her father was not married to her mother and that when her mother had become pregnant again, she had found out that her “husband” had married another woman. After some time, 3-year-old Lusine and her sisters were taken to an orphanage from the Infection Hospital at Nork, where they had appeared because of living in the streets and had stayed there for four months.
She says that two years ago she had visited the orphanage and was pleased to see that a lot had changed. “In our days, with Badeyan, they used to beat us. He could make us stand in a row and hit anyone with his feet as strong that you could jump off your feet,” says Lusine, at the same time thoroughly washing Monica’s clothes with ice cold water and in brisk movements.
At birth, Lusine’s middle and ring fingers had been attached to each other. After graduating from the orphanage, she had undergone a surgery and had her two fingers separated. The surgery on her right hand fingers was unsuccessful and now her fingers are getting swollen and turn blue. “I don’t know why I let them do the operation… The two fingers served me as one and I could comfortably use them,” she says, showing her fingers. An embarrassed Lusine says that in the summer, when her hands sweat, a foul smell comes from her fingers. However, her hardship has not appalled her. She does not like to feel depressed, she says. “After all, life is good, isn’t it?”
She gets emotional only when talking about Mrs. Lusik and can barely hold her tears. She had got to know Mrs. Lusik, an Armenian from Iran, seven years ago. “I used to clean her house, help her do the shopping,” she recalls.
Mrs. Lusik had been in the plane that flew from Tehran to Yerevan on July 15, 2009. “She was coming for her son’s wedding and the plane crashed. She had five daughters and she used to tell me that I am her sixth daughter. ”She is certain had the tragedy not happened, she would have taken her child and gone to Lusik’s house. “Monica would have played quietly and I would have cleaned the house,” she goes on with her thoughts. Lusine takes out a green dress, carefully hung up in her small closet. “She has given this one, too. I used to wear this dress and go to nice places with them.” With one hand, she caresses the dress, and with the other she shows photographs, in which she has trimmed hair, shiny dress, and a fascinated smile, just like Cinderella at the palace ball.
“Am, aaam,” Monica clenches to her mother’s feet and Lusine comes back to the reality, just like Cinderella hearing the strokes of the clock.
It has been a while since the child has eaten any meat. The unemployed single mother’s only income is the pension of 19,000 Drams (about 53 USD.) “Everything is so expensive that I cannot make the ends meet.”
Lusine has studied typewriting at the Yerevan Polytechnique College and arriving at Yerevan from the orphanage, has lived at the dormitory neighboring the College. She has privatized her own room. “I studied for years and then became a cleaning lady,” she jokes.
There is only one toilet on every floor. “When it rains, we go there carrying our umbrellas,” say the neighbors opening the toilet door.
If an inhabitant was not careful enough and banged the door, the toilet ceiling would have come down. There is a dog whining at the toilet door. “It has been hit by a car and they brought it here to cure, ”says Lusine. She takes her showers at this toilet, but she still manages to give the child her bath at their room. Lusine is terrified with the thought that one day when her daughter is older she will have to use that toilet.
“I will never send my child to an orphanage. I only ask that God might give health to my child. ”A few months ago Lusine took Monica to the Cardiological Hospital. “Her heart has some noises, but that is not the problem. They told me something else, tried to explain it to me, but I couldn’t understand well. They told me to take the child there again after some time. Next month, I will take her to the doctors.”
Besides her child’s good health, Lusine has one more dream. “I dream that Monica’s father will come to me. He lives far away and his family does not want me since he is younger than I am,” says a shy Lusine. When talking about him, Lusine falls into the heart of dreamland. She says that her child’s father has been the first man in her life. “I love him and love has nothing to do with age. ”At that time he was studying at the college neighboring the dormitory. He had daily met Lusine and had started chasing her. “At that time there was someone who wanted to marry me, but he had lied and had told that man that I was dating him. At the end, I became his.
Lusine says that his lover cannot financially help her, since he is unemployed. However, he calls her frequently. “My hair has gone white from not seeing you,” he had told Lusine during their last phone call.
The days are getting colder, the food is getting more expensive, the child’s hands are ice cold, and Lusine keeps on dreaming. She is certain that everything is going to be all right.