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Larisa Paremuzyan

Katnaghbyur Elder: 'If the king can't help us, what can the village mayor do?'

The 18 kilometre road from the town of Stepanavan in Armenia’s Lori Province to the village of Katnaghbyur is practically impassable.

That’s just one of the problems facing this community of 1,000.

Local residents say that none of community’s overriding problems have been addressed in the years since independence. While water is abundant, none of the homes have running taps inside. Villagers must go and fill up buckets from faucets installed on the streets.

Newly elected village Mayor Artour Savtalyan says that 80% of residents seek seasonal work overseas.

“Katnaghbyur has become an old-aged home. Young people leave for Russia and any foreign shores for work,” said Rafayel Hovhannisyan, a young community resident.

The five children of 77 year-old Nazik Sargsyan have also left for greener pastures.

“I have five kids and each is now living in a different country. You won’t find a more depressed village than ours,” Mrs, Sargsyan exclaims.

The village is not supplied with natural gas and the streets are in terrible shape. Residents blame Armenia’s president for the difficult conditions they face.

Mrs. Galya, another resident, chimed in, “I would like for Serzh Sargsyan to fix the roads leading to the village and to bring gas. We need a little help here.”

John Kirakosyan, another resident, points to the road connecting Katnaghbyour with Stepanavan as the number one problem. Taxis charge 4,000 AMD for the trip and 5,000 at night.

He says the impassable road jacks up the price of goods transported to the village.

Serzh Hakobyan, the former mayor, didn’t run in the last election and his four years in office could politely be described as a failure.

Mr. Kirakosyan believes the state must assist community mayors with the necessary resources to improve conditions.

“What are people supposed to do? Must we go to Russia to work so that we can pay our local taxes?” asks a disgruntled Kirakosyan.

Residents have little faith in the pledges made by government officials. “They’ve been feeding us promises for the past twenty years. But nobody acts on them,” says Kirakosyan.

We asked the mayor to show us a copy of the village’s four year development plan but were told it was locked away in the accountant’s safe. The accountant was away at the time.

Mayor Savtalyan told us that he expects assistance from the Lori Regional Authority to solve the primary problems facing the village – a gas and water distribution system.

Savtalyan said that the village is drafting its 2013-2016 development plan and that it will soon be presented to the municipal council for passage.

As I was walking down one of the village streets, I noticed a young woman chopping wood. When I approached her, she turned her head away.

The woman, Emma Poghosyan, told me she’s been suffering from psoriasis for the past ten years. Her face was marked with blotches.

A few days ago I telephoned Yerevan for medical help. The doctor told me to send someone to pick up some ointment for my face. But I have no one to send.”

Emma says she feeds her family of four with the monthly 16,000 AMD medical pension she receives. I advised her to seek financial assistance at the village municipality.

“Hey, all they want is our vote. Once they get in office they forget about us,” said a disillusioned Emma.

As I left Katnaghbyur the prophetic words of Nazik Sargsyan rang in my ears.

“What’s the name of our king? Yep, Serzh Sargsyan. If the king can’t help our village what can the mayor possibly do?”