Saturday, 22 September

When I Saw The Natural Beauty Of The Place I Told Myself We Have To Live Here

Sayat Melkonyan, a resident of Yerevan, is a specialist in ethnographic dance and song. He's worked with the “Akunk” troupe and has directed his own “Karin” and “Mush” ensembles. With his wife Karineh he also gave lessons in ethnographic dance and song. Eight years ago Sayat and his family moved to the New Shahumyan region of Gharabakh.

In the regional center of Karvatchar he started a small group that only lasted for two months. The problem was that thevillageofHavsataghwhere Sayat lived was quite a distance away from Karvatchar and it was difficult to constantly commute between the two. Meanwhile, there weren't enough children in the village to give lessons to. Today Sayat is the village mayor. He recounts that, “ When I saw the natural beauty of the area I told myself we have to live here. We picked this spot and together with my brother we built this house.”

Sayat was born in the Sasnashen village in the Talin district. He brought along eight cows when he moved here and now he has a herd of sixty. “ This is a great place to raise livestock. At one time I had forty bee-hives as well. Some medicine was brought in fromGeorgiathat later turned out to be poisonous and twenty of the hives were lost as a result. Today I have twenty-five hives. I had none when I arrived here. Eighteen of our sixty cows are diary cows and I milk eight of them. What we produce we sell here and inYerevan”, Sayat relates. He's now building a shed to house some one hundred cows. In the early days when there was no electric power in the village Sayat rigged-up a generator by the riverside. It provided electricity for three years till the village was connected to the power grid.

“ Our biggest problem is the lack of telephone service. We have to travel some 15 or 30 kilometers to receive any type of news. The second issue is that we have no local medical services or transport. Neither does the neighboringvillageofZuar. We're not located on the main road, that's why we have no public transport service. They've promised to provide us with transport. We're pretty well-off now as compared to those early years. Those with jobs, who do light work, lead fairly normal lives. There are three families in the village who have herds of between 15 to 30 livestock. The rest have some three animals. Three families who have just resettled here have no livestock at all. They're in pretty bad shape and should be granted livestock credits. We're now getting their papers in order so that they can be registered as village residents and thus be eligible for livestock credits” explains the village mayor.

Sayat's and Karineh's forebearers are from Sasoun and Bayazet. Karineh is fromYerevan.

When I ask Sayat how he was able to convince her to move here he replies jokingly, “ I didn't convince her. I just told her that we're going.” He continues, “ Of course it was difficult. She's a girl fromYerevan, one of my former students. But we made a decision and moved.”

Karineh is now the school's librarian. She still hasn't come to grips with the notion that she must remain here. “ I really missYerevan and want to return. Since my husband wants to stay, what can I do? Here, I'm out of touch with everything. I miss my parents, my sisters. At least if there was a telephone I could speak to them; it would be easier. All my relatives are there. Where my husband lives so must I”, Karineh answers.

Karineh was totally lost when it came to life in a village. Those first few days came as a total shock to her; she really couldn't comprehend where she was. She smiles when she recounts those experiences, “ I slowly got the hang of things. Now I know how to do just about everything; make cheese, madzoun, butter. The only thing I can't do is milk the cows. I even take care of the vegetable garden. But I have a fear of cows. That's why I don't milk them. I'm afraid to even walk up close to one of them.”

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