By Sara Khojoyan\
Winter comes early to Amasiaregion of the Shirak province. The residents of the Aregnadem village take the stoves out of storage and into their homes.
The large family of Ghukasyans, though, has no need to get to the storage room; they will have to bring their stove standing in the corridor-kitchen to the bedroom-living room.
They use the stove in summer time to cook, and to cook and heat in the wintertime. The two-room house is blackened with smoke from burned manure – the only available fuel.
The problems of the village are particularly vividly seen in the family of Hrant, 40, and Gohar, 37. They have no opportunity to earn to provide themselves for the greater part of the year, living in a house damaged during the 1988 earthquake that never saw inside repairs.
The elder children of the family, Gurgen, 18, and Garik, 17, see no future for themselves in the village, and wait to be conscripted to the army, to leave the village after they return, as most of the young people in the village do. School aged Astghik, 15, Gevorg, 11, and 6-year-old twins Anna and Armine, have no other interest but their lessons and the TV that the family bought on credit.
The main reason the family has no home is Hrant’s status of a refugee. He was visiting his sister in Baghramyan when war broke out and he could not return home. He met Gohar and they married when he was 21 and she 18.
Hrant worked as a driver in a military detachment, but lost his job, after an accident damaged his eye. The young family was forced to move to the village of Tsaghkut in Shirak province, where the father of the family, then still of 5, found another job as a driver.
“At the beginning, when we had just married, there was work, and we didn’t have so many children, so we used to get along. But the conditioned worsened within the course of time, while the number of children grew…” says Hrant.
Then the next misfortune hit.
“My elder sons were 5 and 4, when they got kidney problems. We spent several months in the hospital. We did not return to Tsaghkut, because roads were closed in winter. We came to Amasia, because the hospital was close to us, to get there in case bouts of pain began, or the level of nitrogen increased [in their bodies], so that we could get them to the hospital quickly,” Gohar says.
The family moved to Aregnadem in 1996. “We used to live at grandmother Knar’s, at the beginning. We used to take care of her, and also lived there. Her husband was in Russia. When he returned, he sold the house, because he was going to take his wife with him. So, we moved in here,” Gohar goes on. “But we have just this place; we sleep all together.”
The family of 8 lives in just two rooms; the elder sons live in an unheated room, the other six – the twins and Gevorg sleep together, and teenager Astghik sleeps separately, in the living room were the stove is. The room has no ceiling, there are just sooted walls and wooden roof with old and new cover laid over. Besides, the house is a community property and does not belong to them.
Head of the village administration Aghunik Hazryan allotted them another house, also a community property last year. “Astghik was so happy, when she learnt she will have a separate room, when we were talking of the house,” tells Gohar.
But Astghik’s happiness has not yet come true, because the house needs repair as the wood of the window frames and the doors is rotten. The house used to have two rooms, but the separating wall inside was ruined, and was therefore removed. Now the house is one big room that needs to be separated into 3-4 smaller ones.
“There are so many things we want: the stone storage for wood in front of the house, for example, is good indeed, and if we have money, we will join it to the house, and will have a very nice, big house, and everyone will have a room. Children are grown up already, they will go to the army one after the other, and the girls are also grown up, but have no separate room. You don’t quite know which one is for eating, for sleeping, or for sitting,” says Gohar.
Hrant has recently taken some old but still good window frames from the neighbors: “People use these for the sheds, but we have no other way, they would be good, if we paint them. But the floors are also rotten, I want to take them [the wooden panels] out, to repair, but have no means. There are people who have the materials but have no one to repair their homes, while I can do everything, but have no materials to repair the house and take my children out of this one.”
As a refugee, Hrant has written an application to the state bodies to get a house, but he has not, yet. “We are not the people to go appeal to the province administration, the parliamentarians. They [the authorities] say I am on the waiting list, so, I wait.”
My only dream for all my life has been having a home,” Gohar says. “But the eye problem of my child bothers me a lot. They say glasses may improve it, but I have not tried. I took her to Ghukasyan, but they told me to take to Yerevan. And we have no means to get to Yerevan.”
The Ghukasyans need at least 4,000 drams (about $12) per person for traveling to Yerevan to take Anna to an eye doctor. But those 4,000 drams do not fit the family budget – 47,500 drams (about $155) – state pension.
In summer matters are better, when the family can cut and sell hay, making about 35,000 drams (about $115) in 15-20 days.
They spend a week or two gathering rosehip, in late September. The crop has been poor this year – two and a half sacks, about 60 kilos they have sold for 80-150 drams each or have bartered for tomatoes and potatoes, earning about 6,000 drams.
The Ghukasyans plant potatoes on the piece of land in front of their house, and Gohar hopes to have the crops this winter. “I had sowed carrots and cabbages, but none came out,” she says and seems she continues the story of their misfortunes.
“It’s not enough, no matter how much we work. How can it suffice, when there are four schoolchildren? It won’t suffice even if we just buy copybooks and pens for them,” Hrant says.
Gurgen, 18 will be going to the army soon, but does not know what he will be doing by the return: “I can’t say what will be then. The conditions force us to leave, this is not the place [to stay], you know. There is neither work, not a way to live. It’s better to go where there is work. If there were a job here, I’d like to stay.”