Sunday, 23 September

Peace and Tranquility

“I'm fromYerevan, I was born and raised there, but now I'm a Karabakhtsi,” said Ashot Simonyan from Movsesashen.

“No, we're fromYerevan, but our children are Karabakhtsi, they were born here,” Ashot's wife Lilit corrected him. The couple were the parents of the first baby born in Movsesashen. This village, which is in the north of Kashatagh and has no electricity, was named by its founders after Movses Grigoryan. Ashot and his family moved to Kashatagh fromYerevanin 1999. I asked him why. “Partly patriotism, partly the economic crisis. We came here out of a combination of the two,” Ashot replied.

Ashot hasn't been toYerevanin four years, and says he has no desire to go back. “I like it here, there's peace and tranquility. You go outside and see the mountains, and it's peaceful. My wife says that once our financial situation gets better, we'll leave. And I say I'm staying. As soon as she leaves, I'll get married again, “ Ashot joked.

“My family visited us once, and said, “How can you live like this?” I was praising this place, but they didn't understand. How can I explain it to them? I've piped water into the house; we are slowly approaching civilized life, “ Ashot said, pointing to the kitchen faucet.

Later I noticed that the sink was made out of a sewing machine case.

One of Ashot's sons is in the army. His youngest was transporting hay on a donkey. Last summer Ashot's daughter was “kidnapped” by a boy from the neighboring village. “She had applied university, and was going to start classes in September, and then we found out that she had run off. She should have finished her studies before marrying, but we have already accepted her decision and moved on,“ Ashot said with regret. His daughter is expecting her first baby. And Tigran Kyureghyan, director of the Menk Villagers'Union, told Ashot that their program would provide the girl and her family with 200,000 drams.

“It's tempting, I'll ask my wife to have another one, “ Ashot laughed.

There is no electricity in the village; they use batteries to listen to the radio, and a few people have small televisions. Electricity has been hooked up in thevillageofVakunis, six kilometers away, and the 26 residents of Movsesashen hope that one day they'll have power, too.

Ashot works as a geography teacher in the village, although he has no formal training.

“I study myself, and then go and teach the children. I'm a temporary teacher; if a real teacher comes, they'll fire me right away. The later that teacher comes, the better for me,” he said.

The village school currently has thirteen students. This year, there will be no first grade. Lilit, who teaches elementary school said worriedly, “We're looking for a family from a nearby village who has a child that age, to ask them to move here.” There are four villages in the district– Movsesashen, Arakhish, Chorakhach, and Karabak. All of the children go to school in Movsesashen.

Two years ago there was a bus service in the district, but the villages that are currently without electricity have lost that too. “We are completely cut off from the outside world. In the past, the Kashatagh administration provided gasoline to a man from the next village who had a bus. Now the administration does not provide gasoline, and the bus isn't working,” Lilit said. “ If there were transportation, electricity, we would live here happily. We can accomplish a lot here if we work hard. My son, who is serving in the army, is very attached to the village. He doesn't want to go the city, but the conditions need to change so that we can live a normal life here.”

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