By Lusine Musayelyan
It is already three days that four-year-old Tehmine has been asking her mom for candy, but her mother can’t afford to fulfill her little one’s elementary wishes. Stifling her emotions from the child’s waiting looks in tears, the mother, 38-year-old Larisa, continues to rock the cradle with her 9-month-old Amalik, speaking about her past under the accompaniment of the rusty metal cradle’s extraordinary creak.
“We found this cradle inside one ruined house… it’s a half-ruined thing, but it is good to lull the child. I have to rope up the baby tight from several places to prevent it from falling, but my attention is wholly drawn to the cradle while the baby is there asleep,” Larisa says.
The large family of 43-year-old Arayik Osipyan is the poorest of the re-settlers in the village of Verin Shen in the Nor Shahumyan district of Karabakh. They had moved to Verin Shen from the village of Charektar, and still before that they had lived in Vardenis. They view Verin Shen as their last harbor.
As the Karabakh movement began, Arayik and his parents left Martunashen.
The parents and their six underage children sleep together, dine together, take a bath in a two-room lodging where even the electric lamp scantily gives light.
Part of the house’s furniture was made by Arayik himself, and the rest they got from different places.
Arayik says that their furniture recently was replenished with a fridge and a sewing-machine: “I had found a beehive in the forest and sold it and bought these things.”
The refrigerator whose only use can be decorating an antique shop, serves only for milk. When they do not have milk, they turn it off.
The financial income of the Osipyans consists of the allowances paid by the state for the children, which makes a total of 54,000 drams (about $175) and 1,200 drams (about $4) that the state pays to cover the expenses of electricity.
“The money is not enough. My children are half-bare. They have no shoes, nor warm clothes. My middle daughter still goes to school in her summer shoes. The other day, my other daughter came from school in tears, saying he did not want to go to school anymore because everyone was wearing sheepskin coats and she didn’t have it,” Larisa says, adding that the children’s allowances are not enough even for buying food.
The couple say that two sacks of flour are barely enough for their family a month.
“Last winter we bought half a sack of potatoes and for three months on we ate boiled potatoes. This year, we can’t afford even this,” says Arayik.
The children do not attend school during cold months because they do not have warm boots and clothes.
“The other day the heel of my son’s shoe came off and my child remained barefoot. I wish we only could find the heel to paste it back somehow until we see what we can do about it,” Larisa mutters encouraging herself.
This family that has had to go without the most ordinary food has seen a lot of hard days. The mother tells that there were days when she fed her children with corn seeds: “I said – perhaps the new dawn will bring goodness, but then it turned out that the goodness was the corn seeds that we had to eat for days, until I had the courage to ask from a neighbor a few cups of flour and a few potatoes.”
The Osipyans continue to live “on credit” even today. They buy goods from the local store on credit and repay the debt when they receive the social allowance money.
“We have lots of debts and mainly for foodstuffs,” says Arayik and remembers his debt of 60,000 drams (about $200) for the horse that he bought months ago.
It is due to this horse that there is at least something hope-inspiring in the Osipyan house – it is warm in there, since they have firewood – the boys go to the nearby forest to fetch firewood on horseback.
Arayik has “retired” from this job – cutting wood a few years ago he had his eye hit and damaged, and recently he began to go completely blind. He says he does not even think about an eye surgery. At one time he could not even find $100 to prevent blindness.
The Osipyans continue to live, with love and faith that one day it’ll be good and the sun will shine above their house brighter than usually.
“Since we live here, this is our homeland. We love this village very much. And the people who live here are as good as this land,” says Osipyan, as if trying to show he is able to see the good amid the daily nuisances. He, then, invites us to a cup of tea, albeit without sugar.