Past and Present: Elderly couple in Shushi struggles for life in liberated town

July 5, 2010



By Lusine Musayelyan

The mother who lost three sons continues to struggle for her husband’s life.

Lying on a bed in the corner of a small room, with catheters attached to his body, an old man still braves his condition and according to an old custom tries to greet his guests by reciting from his favorite poems – but the excruciating pain has rendered him unable even to speak…

The family of 80-year-old Liparit and 75-year-old Nora is one of the many in Shushi who have shared the difficult fate of the town and their generation who had to flee from ethnic persecutions.

Liparit and Nora were forcibly displaced from Baku in 1988. Still during the “carefree” years of life in Baku, they saw the death of their underage son who had suffered an incurable disease.

No sooner had they managed to resettle in Shushi than the Karabakh war began and the other two sons of the elderly couple volunteered to join the defense forces.

“One was married, had two children, the other was not. One day the two of them decided that they would go to defend their homeland,” Nora says, pausing for a moment as if reluctant to continue to tell about the tragic end of her sons’ lives. Within two years after joining the military, the two sons died after being wounded many times in battles, leaving their parents alone.

During the war Liparit was voluntarily helping wounded soldiers at hospitals in Stepanakert “with whatever he could”. Now his assistant is his wife, who, unlike him, is still on her feet.

“Every time I have to lift him up and take to the toilet, or take him to the yard to take him to hospital by taxi, very often forgetting that I am bad and weak myself,” says Nora.

The elderly people live without help. Their two grandchildren rarely visit them, “only one comes and only to ask for money because they are poor”. Nora and Liparit live on a total of 53,000 drams (about $175) per month. The spend 20,000 only on medicine.

Although they are strapped for cash, Nora still does not complain. She says they can somehow make both ends meet. She even manages to get some sour cream and juice for her husband every morning.

They use electricity sparingly and turn the lights on in their three-room apartment only when it is total darkness outside.

White towels hanging in a room reminding of a kitchen attest to the care of the lady of the house; the rest is squalor. The bathroom “is relocated” to the balcony “because the wood-burning heater can be used there”, if, of course, there is firewood. Nora says there are still a few pieces of wood for taking bath this year.

Liparit is in one room; in another is his wife’s bed and library. There Nora can spend “a couple of hours a day on my own to read through the encyclopedia.”

“My husband cries like a baby from morning till night. He can’t stand the pain. Even the neighbors feel embarrassed because of hearing him crying, and they complain. And I bear it with great difficulty. What should I do? After I lost my sons, my heart became a stone. I have no one except him…”

After looking after her husband for four years, the woman began to have serious problems with blood herself and recently she learned that she has sclerosis.

“I am afraid of going to the doctor because he will tell me I have to get treatment,” Nora says, adding: “If I go to get treatment, who will look after this man?”

“I am surprised at how these people who have seen so much pain manage to preserve their kindness and smile,” says Julia, a neighbor who lives close by.

“During these years when I had a large and happy family I was an atheist. And today my only hope is God. I believe that God will not disregard me and my husband, even with the aid of medicines but one day he will recover,” says Nora.

Nora wants nothing more. Perhaps only to save up a little to buy firewood in order to be able to take “a 10-minute bath at least once a week.”

http://www.armenianow.com/hyesanta/2009/9334/the_ghukasyans_not_enough_no