Overcoming A Bad Marriage: Divorced Mom and Two Daughters Forge New Path of Empowerment
This is a story about a woman and her two daughters, their optimism and dreams.
Alina and her daughters meet us at a bus stop in Yerevan. Alina, with her yellow hair and smile, resembles thesun. We walk to their house.
On the gate, it says “For Sale”. I ask Alina if they’re selling the house. She says they are only renting it: the house is not theirs. Alina invites us in and treats us to some dessert.
8-year-old Susie, the youngest daughter, is shy. She hides in another room and checks from time to time to see if we are still there.The eldest, 14-year-old Sona, is sad, though she smiles, too.
It’s not easy to talk about the past in this house. Alina says their past cost them dearly, but the path they’ve taken now makes them feel even stronger.
Alina Vardanyan turned 38 years old yesterday. She’s been working as a nurse at the Yerevan State Medical College for the past six months. Before that, she used to work at a former student polyclinic. Her salary is around 55,000 drams (USD 110), of which 35,000 drams are paid for the house rent.
Alina says she’s never liked complaining. Her parents live in the neighborhood and help her a lot.
Alina divorced and moved here four years ago. The house was totally empty at first. They found some furniture from a dump, and the rest was donated by their acquaintances. Today, we see a clean, neat house.
Recalling her twelve years of marriage, Alina covers her pain and bitterness with a smile. She was 22, naive and confused. She recalls that even her gold jewelry was locked away from her the first day of their marriage. Alina believes that family arguments have affected Sona. The girl became uncommunicative, and she was not attentive at school.
"There were always issues and arguments at home. He was driving a taxi (talking about her ex-husband), knew many night-girls, was not at home at night and slept in the afternoon. When taking the car to a car wash with Sona, she often came back telling about finding a bunch of hair or a broken nail in the car. We survived by eating dry bread. He never had money for us. If there was an excursion at school, Sona could not participate because of the lack of money. If she needed money for books, she had to do without them,” says Alina.
Sona listens attentively. Alina says the children know everything. Four years have passed since the divorce, but their father has never come to visit hischildren and has not even called.
Sona's first birthday without her father was the most difficult. Alina recalls that her daughter was constantly looking at the phone waiting for her father's call. It never came. The same happened two months later, when it was Susie's birthday.
"There were many problems, and a lot of violence. I do not want my girls to fall into despair," says Alina and adds, "You know, I have never expected others to help. I always tell my children that the only person you can rely on is yourself.”
Alina gets 20,000 drams of alimony per month (10,000 drams for each child). Initially, it was 40,000 drams, then her husband appealed to the court to make it 20,000 drams.
They buy Susie's medication and pay for hermedical tests with that money. Last May, the little girl was diagnosed with a thyroid nodule.
The handicraft master and the little dancer
Sona selects some handicrafts and shows them to us. She learnt the craftat the Orran Charity Organization when she was in the sixth grade. The two sisters still attend Orran. Alina says Orran has boosted Sona's self-esteem. She notes that the organization does a good job helping people like them.
Sona likes embroidery, and makes felt toys, handmade alphabet, crocheted puppets.
She even won a sewing machine in a competition held in Orran with her handmade alphabet. Alina shows it to us.
Sona says she used to dream of having a sewing machine. Now she wants an embroidery machine. Alina helps her daughter, but says Sona is the master. They are going to make embroidered fairy tale books, and they want to improve the felt alphabet so that the images move.
This is Alina's business plan. She says they would like to have orders. Sona remembers the 10,000 drams she earned three years ago when she had prepared a felt alphabet book for her mom's friend.
Sona threads the sewing machine. She’s learning to sew now and is planning to make dresses for her family. After graduating from school, she wants to specialize in this.
"While many want to become an accountant, Sona has chosen this path. But even accountants need dresses, no?" says Alina. We all laugh.
There’s a long pole attached to the wall. Alina says it's for Susie's ballet classes: the little girl goes to a dance school.
Susie comes out of the room in a blue ballet dress and shoes. Then she takes the first position and makes some nice moves. We applaud. She wants to become a ballet dancer.
The two sisters have the same dreams - to work, earn money, buy a two-story house and a car for their mother to drive them to work.
Alina says her children give her strength, and they are her treasure.
Alina and Sona ask us to select a handicraft, saying that nobody leaves their house without a present.
Sona says, "We used to have a tree in the corridor. We hung toys there and gave each visitor a toy. These toys brought luck to everyone.”
Alina smiles again. "Perhaps one day everything will be fine," she says on the way to the bus stop.
Photos: Vahe Sarukhanyan