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Kristine Aghalaryan

Lost and Not Found: 25 Years after the Earthquake

A rug, a candlestick, and a photo album…

These are the only items that Seda Ter-Gevorgyan was able to salvage from the ruins left in the wake of the earthquake that struck on December 7, 1988.

They are the only things that remind her of the home and belongings she lost.

The rug now adorns the wall of her sitting room. She tenderly preserves the photo album.

“That morning when I awoke, the air was red. The clouds were red. The mice in the office were scurrying about,” recounts Seda. She had gone to work. When the first tremor hit, her colleagues jumped up. She cried out, “What’s happened to my Rubik?” Rubik is her son and only source of hope.


“I will never forget the way the trees moved, up and down. The office didn’t collapse. But when the second tremor hit, we were already out in the yard, holding on to each other so that we wouldn’t fall.”

She flew home in the first car that came by. Mother and son looked for each other amongst the ruins near their house. “We cried and wailed when we eventually found one another. There was nothing left of our home,” Seda says, recalling her husband’s oil paintings, scared and strewn about in the rubble.

Ever since that day 25 years ago, a tomik has been her home.

The former financial manager, who worked in a sanitary station, is now retired. She refused to be photographed. “I don't like such things,” Seda told us.

When we asked her age, Seda smirked. “Once a person passes seventy, who keeps count?”

Seda lives alone. Her daughter has married, and her husband died before the earthquake. Her son has left to work in Russia.

Seda wasn’t registered in the apartment that was destroyed, so the government refused to allocate her a new two room apartment. Officials told her that since her son had come of age, they could only allocate her a one room apartment. She’s still waiting. Her son is planning to return and look into the matter so that he too can return and live normally.

Seda receives a pension and her son helps out as well. To remain active and have a bit of pocket money, she washes bottles and sells them.

She’s seen good times and bad, but has never entertained the idea of leaving Gyumri, either to go to Yerevan or abroad.

When times get rough, Seda sometimes regrets no listening to her relatives who invited her to leave. Now, she even doesn’t think of going to live with her son.

Photos: Sara Anjargolian