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Ani Hovhannisyan

Yerevan Garbage Man: 'Elections? You have to be kidding me'

Our car made its way out of the city jammed to the gills with election campaigns and slogans.

We passed by the decaying hulks of former factories and found ourselves smack dab in yet another unfortunate reality.

On the road leading to the garbage dump at Village 4, we only spotted trucks ferrying trash. But we were in search of people. We then spotted a small fire up ahead on the top of a deserted hill.

A 40-ish man was picking through the refuse, sorting out pieces of metal and copper wire. He was sticking them in the fire to burn off the plastic bits. The copper would be sold to keep his family going for yet another day.

“I’m a garbage man for the Ajapnyak district. When we collect the trash, we also look for the good stuff. We pick out the metal and copper. The fire is used to clean the items we save. Then we sell it. It’s hard work but what choice do we have,” said Yurik, a father of three.

His eldest son is 23 and unemployed. “He wants to go to Russia for seasonal work. Here, they cheat him and don’t pay. They pay us a pittance here, 105,000 AMD. You can’t raise a family on that,” says Yurik.

Yurik is the family’s sole breadwinner. His wife can’t work. She has intestinal problems. “They say it’s cancer. Every four years or so she gets an operation. It’s a stop-gap measure. But she doesn’t leave the house.”

A kilo of the metallic refuse can fetch about 1,700 AMD. In a good week, Yurik and his two partners can collect and clean about 4-5 kilos. They sell the stuff and split the proceeds three ways.

Yurik says he has no interest at all in the upcoming presidential election or in politics in general. He’s says he has too much dignity to vote.

“Tell me, who should I vote for and why. How long can we be cheated? Do you think I can accept a 10,000 AMD bribe and thus betray myself? No thanks.”

Ani Hovhannisyan                                                                                            

Edik Baghdasaryan                                                                                          

Saro Baghdasaryan