By Gayane Abrahamyan
Heghine, 10, embraces her mother as if hugs and kisses could replace trouble and pain.
The mother secretly wipes away her tears and says quietly: “I don’t even enjoy my children’s existence, because of the damned problems. They are the sunshine of my life, but when dinner time comes I realize I would be better to hang myself than know they will stay hungry,” says Emma, 42, a mother of four.
Photos of Emma Loryan show a healthy, energetic, pretty woman. Little remains from the woman in the photos.
Nor has life been kind to her husband, Hayk – once known as the best welder in Vanadzor – now suffering from chronic pneumonia and from the social ills known to so many like him.
“He suffocates at night, his head aches of pain and thoughts and he goes under the blanket and weeps. I say, Hayk, everything will be OK, God will open a door before us and we will get better, we will work and our children will be have plenty to eat. But he is hopeless,” says Emma.
Emma says they have seen doctors and have spared no medicines to heal her husband, but his condition prevails because there is no escaping the dampness of their house.
District therapist Anahit Vardanyan says: “People can’t avoid getting ill in their house. There is always someone ill with either flu or angina every month. All of them have health problems because of the cold and the dampness, plus the malnutrition that can cause quite serious problems.”
Their life is as grey as their house that has faded from smoke and humidity, and they recall the earthquake that hit the country 18 years ago.
The Spitak earthquake did not destroy the Loryans’ house, but it caused so many cracks that the house appears ready to tumble.
“We don’t come close to these windows. This wall shakes so strongly in the wind that we are afraid to come close. We used to see the outdoors through this crack,” says Heghine in embarrassment, while Hayk simply stares out the window.
Emma and Hayk had been providing their family by gathering wood in the forest for several years.
“We never cut trees: we gathered the broken branches, made small bundles and sold them. That would suffice us for at least food. But [the authorities] have prohibited it and we don’t have wood even to heat out own home,” says Emma.
Last year a friend of the family took the couple to the forest by his car to gather some wood for winter.
Emma, with one arm nearly disabled from when she dislocated it while lifting her infirmed mother in law, nonetheless faced manual labor rather than a winter without firewood.
“My arm broken, my Hayk in fever, we gathered some wood. As we approached our home the police cut off the road in front of us. They blamed us for logging trees and said they were going to draw up a report. Weak as we were, were we able to cut trees? Everybody cuts trees and makes money of it! Why should my children die of cold?” cries Emma.
Emma and Hayk were kept at a police department for a whole day. The police also seized the gathered wood and drew up a report to fine them for about $190.
“The chief police officer luckily happened to be a kind man. He said he couldn’t annul the written report, but charged the minimum fine. We sold everything we had at home and paid 30,000 drams (about $ 80). They once came to our place to confiscate the property we had, but were ashamed and said: ‘what can we take here?!’” says Emma.
The family of 6 exists on about $70 a month social subsidy. Emma supplements it by selling berries she picks in the nearby forest, but: “there is nothing to pick in the wintertime. We rely on God alone.”
Despite their own hardship, Emma and Hayk have given shelter to a couple whose home was destroyed by fire.
“A poor person understands another poor person,” say Marine and Sanya, the couple taken in by Hayk and Emma.
“They are so kind. Poor Emma, she had left her ill children and spent nights by my side when my husband had an attack. The poor girl, she set up the nights with me. If God helps us and we manage to move to Moscow to my husband’s mother, we will help them then,” says Marine.
Emma is constantly concerned with her husband’s health, takes care of him and the children, but she is not well either. A neighbor says that she frequently faints.
Emma’s happiness is her children – Vazgen, 6, Gigush, 8, Hranush, 11 and Heghine, 10. Hranush dreams of becoming a doctor, so that she treats her parents. And Vazgen, born on the same day with (former Prime Minister and Minister of Defense) Vazgen Sarsgyan, says he wants to become a strong soldier like Sargsyan.
“It’s my children’s dinner that I care for, not the pain. Every time I see them off to school I think their classmates will tease them for their used clothes. My heart breaks and I just don’t know where to hide away,” says Emma wiping her tears away again.
Heghine stands by the window with a prayer book in her hands.
“I pray every night that my mother and father get better, that we go to school and nobody teases us for having others’ bad clothes on, or for having no money for the textbooks. I feel hurt, I cry, but try to hide my tears from my mother not to have her feel the same…”