By Suren Musayelyan
Despite difficulties, the Khmboyans manage more or less to take care of their most essential needs. And despite numerous problems, mother Yelena says that their “pain and sorrow” is their son, 23-year-old Roman, who at the age of six was diagnosed as having an inborn scoliosis.
Scoliosis is a deformation of the spinal column which, progressing, affects the work of internal organs.
Roman suffers from a complicated form of the disease. He underwent five surgeries, however his situation was getting only worse. Local doctors gave up his treatment, saying that to achieve an essential improvement Roman needs an expensive surgery, which the family, hardly making ends meet, cannot afford to pay for.
Roman’s father, 59-year-old Volodya has a higher education in the sphere of agriculture, but now he has to earn his living as a laborer, and even this job is occasional. He and his wife, 51-year-old Yelena, were born and raised in the Shirak region. They moved to Yerevan still in the 1970s, and since 1982 they have lived in a three-room apartment in the village of Kasakh, Kotayk region (about 6 kilometers from Yerevan). Roman has two sisters, who are married, have children and problems of their own, so Roman cannot count on them for help.
Still in 1989, when doctors confirmed Roman’s diagnosis, Volodya made certain steps to ease his son’s situation, but the collapse of the Soviet Union scuttled the family’s plans.
“When we learned that Roman was ill, still during the Soviet times we opened a deposit, saving up for his treatment. But that deposit was frozen. After that, all our life was dedicated to taking care of the needs for treating Roman,” says Volodya.
“Now we don’t need anything,” adds Yelena. “I only wish the child felt good.”
The mother says that Roman’s situation was a certain obstacle for him during his school studies. “He had to make a greater effort in studies, but he was always among the best pupils,” Yelena says with pride.
Roman was especially good at the Armenian language and literature. After school Roman studied in the industrial college for the specialty of a radio electrician. During this time Roman attended “Pyunic” union for the disabled where he had found a wonderful environment for creative self-expression.
Several times “Pyunic” helped Roman to pay the fee for his studies. There, as well as at college, he participated in the work over a newspaper. After graduating he once a week visits “Pyunic”, he already has about 200 works (essays, poems, etc.), small and large. This year Roman received a Baze festival award for his works.
“Pyunic” workers describe Roman as clever and modest and find that he should continue his studies in order to improve his skills.
Roman is a third-group disabled and receives a disability pension of 3,200 drams (about $7) a month, which is an insignificant sum compared to his expenses. And the family, which is in debt as it is, is unable to create appropriate conditions for Roman.
“To hell with money, only if my child felt good,” says Yelena.
“Now that his spinal column has become bent, his lungs have been squeezed, which affects the work of the heart and lungs, and also causes aches. Oftentimes he has a stitch in his heart, and I don’t even have the possibility to take him to the city,” says Roman’s mother. And his father adds: “There is not even a ground telephone line so that during his pangs we could call the first medical aid. In the whole building where there are 60 apartments, only two families have telephones. And a mobile phone would even more facilitate our communication.”
But Roman does not lose hope and continues to write.
“I wanted to enter the philological department of the University after graduation, but I changed my mind for financial reasons,” he says.
Roman has no computer, but he has a great desire to get computer knowledge and work at home.
Roman has so far failed to get a job, but he says that even in his situation he tries not to stay idle. At his leisure time he plays chess, tries to do some DIY-ing. And also he writes several poems or verses a day as a means of self-expression. “Now I can handle only the Word program. A computer will help me prepare for studies and later have work at home,” says Roman.
Roman says that he mixes with his peers and has several friends who understand him. And with others… “Well, I try to do so that there will be no problems,” he says.
“I want very much my works to find their reader. Upon the initiative of some people I managed to publish a few of my poems in a newspaper, after which I didn’t have such an opportunity,” says Roman. “I am waiting for the happy day when someone will take my copybook and will penetrate my heart.”
The poems written by Roman are emotional and profound. He writes about his feelings, his homeland, his love.
Yelena says that she understands her son, what is going on inside him.
“Sometimes he recites his poems to us. It is a means for Roman to express his inner world. Sometimes he is embarrassed, does not read his poetry to us, but as a mother I know how much emotion and excitement he has in his soul,” Yelena says.