By Ruzanna Amiraghyan
Emma and Gevorg Malkhasyan’s home turned into dust during the 1988 earthquake.
“We always had a full house: I used to love cooking different things, very tasty, and we would frequently cook several times per day.”
Pregnant with her third baby after the earthquake Emma took her two elder children Frida and Siranush and moved to the Russian town of Sochi, where Gevorg’s parents joined them there after a while. After two years in Sochi, the family rejoined in Gyumri, and there gave birth to Lusine and Hayk in a new three-room apartment.
But the earthquake, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the following war and the socio-economic crisis forced the Malkhasyan couple to join the army of the unemployed.
The hardships of the large family became even more severe as Gevorg’s parents fell ill.
“We had no work, while taking care after two seriously ill people, so we sold our apartment to cover the expenses after my husband’s parents’ death. The sum hardly covered the debts and was just enough to get this small house,” says Emma.
Like many people in Gyumri the Malkhasyans live in a two-room narrow cottage – badly illuminated and deprived of heating – where the small kitten named “Tchitchu” (the colloquial word for “worm”) and an always barking brown dog share the Malkhasyans’ life.
“We used the children’s bookcases last year to heat the house a bit,” says Emma. “There is a gas line here, but we don’t use it, because of the money.”
It would cost about $80 to activate the gas line, plus money for pipes.
Last year the municipality gave 10,000 drams (about $27) per each family living in domiks (small homes) to buy fuel for the winter, but this money can’t buy much fuel,” says Emma.
“We consume electricity for just 2,000 drams (about $5) per month by all means,” says Emma, adding: “What can I do?! I have to manage. We stay under the blankets, when it’s too cold.”
Gevorg left for Russia just five months ago to find work. However he managed to send money just once, with the purpose of buying a TV set.
“Children had no TV. He sent the money saying it was for that,” says Emma.
And the ties between Gevorg and his family severed.
Now the monthly income of the Malkhasyan family is $79 allowance.
“I take products on credit in the nearby kiosks and pay the debt back when we get the allowance,” says Emma.
“I do any work I can. I knit clothes. But this work does not happen very often. My daughter tried to work in a small shop. She got her salary for only two months, and then the shopkeeper found a deficit in the balance and forced the shop girls to cover the losses. My daughter left the work.”
“My youngest have not been at school for the last two weeks: they have neither clothes, nor shoes. I don’t know what to do. Lusine asks me: ‘How long are we going to sit at home?’ But what can I do? I don’t know.”
The children wear whatever clothes they have in turn and do not complain.
“I found some work in summer. I bought some copybooks for school, but children still have no textbooks. Only Hayk has,” says Emma. “But I can’t say he is too much eager to study, he rather prefers going in for sports. He likes sports very much.”
Hayk is going in for boxing. And though he hasn’t got any sporting equipment, he keeps going to the trainings.
The mother says Hayk has a dream; he wants his father back and also: “to grow up, to earn money and buy full sacks of food”, so that his mother again cooks tasty meals.
“When I have a bit of money, I buy some meat and make either khinkali or pelmeni so that my children get full,” she says, while Lusine, her youngest daughter fries potatoes on an oven covered with a thick layer of grease and dust.
And Anush writes poems. She opens her old copybook and reads under the moan of the wind that penetrates into the room through the pieces of cellophane replacing the window glasses in the frames.
Just senselessly live…
But what for?
And whom for?
I don’t deny, and I still want,
But there is no reason,
Just to live?
It may be a pleasure unknown…
May that be a dead expectation?
I don’t deny,
But is there a reason at all?
Maybe you come, and become the reason,
Maybe to live for the sake of living,
To live to find your love
And just to devote myself to you,
And maybe to live for the truth.
And dreams of her father’s return again…