Thursday, 20 September

A Stroll through Istanbul – Part 2



Residents of the Kumkapı neighbourhood of Istanbul regard Anahit as one of the oldest and best traders around.

Fifteen years ago she sold her apartment in Yerevan and moved to Istanbul with dreams of striking it rich and enjoying the good life.

She’s now 70; alone and tired.

In pursuit of a better life overseas, the family has split up. Anahit hasn’t seen her children, now living in Russia, for many years.

“We only talk on Skype. That’s how we stay in touch. Where can I go at my age,” Anahit says, assuring me that she has many friends in Istanbul to keep her company.

Since she’s an old-timer, Ano watches out and cares for those who have recently migrated from Armenia. But she complains that the newcomers have cheated her in return. “They come here. I gave them stuff to sell but they never paid me back. They cheated me out of $28,000. They cheat the Turkish families they work for as well. No wonder there’s a backlash here against us.”

All that Ano has left to her name is a small table from which she sells her assorted Russian food items. She just sells enough to get by from day to day.

Her cell phone is always in her hand. Ano says her girlfriends back in Armenia are always calling.

“They call to tell me that they are planning to come to Istanbul to work. When I tell them not to bother, that the streets aren’t paved with gold, they think that I am trying to make all the money by myself. They won’t be dissuaded so let them come and see for themselves.”

Presently, Ano is sharing an apartment with two women just arrived from Armenia. She says that despite the unpleasant experiences of the past, it’s tough for her to turn down a fellow Armenian in need.

“What would you have me do? Throw them out on the street? So I put them up until they can find a place of their own. So many are coming, and with the kids. They come here and have more kids,” Anahit tells me.

During our street-side conversation, many of the passersby say hello to Anahit in Armenian. The woman, a native of Gyumri, has made many Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish friends over the years.

“We even teach the Turks some Armenian. Everyone knows me. I’ve really settled in. Even though we know each other, they tried to burgle my apartment. They were Armenians. It was at night. One came in through the door, another through a window. I woke up, took the rolling pin from under my pillow, and frightened them off. I later found out that they were arrested for something else.”

Anahit has no desire to return to Armenia. She can’t imagine how she would live there.

“If I went back, no one would let me set up a sales table on the street like I do here. They’d come and force me to pay taxes and a business fee before forcing me to move. No one bothers me here. I sell my wares without trouble. If I went to Armenia and wasn’t able to sit down and make some money, I’d die. Do you want me to come to Armenia and die,” Anahit asks.

P.S. Hetq has shot a film of Anahit and others from Armenia now working in Istanbul. We will present it to our readers after this series of articles entitled “A Trip through Istanbul” has ended.

Photos: Saro Baghdasaryan


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Comments (9)
1. hasmik12:17 - 31 October, 2012
ով դուրս է գալիս Հայաստանից էլ չի ուզում վերադառնալ ստացվում է աշխարհի ամանավատ երկիրն ենք
2. ANDY23:47 - 31 October, 2012
Same here in Los Angelos, it came to a ponit we do not let any Hayastanse do our garden work, or swiming pool, sooner or later they will rob your house, it happend to us and friends of ours,
3. Hrair07:46 - 1 November, 2012
@Andy . Man your really cull of it . The genarilazaton you made surely Comes from you insecurity as a person and talks waliums about your inner world and poor soul. I happened to be a proud hay from hayastan , have been living in best neghborhoods of LA County from Los feliz hills to glendales' oakmont country club for the last 35 years . I worked and befriended Armenians from Iran , Libanan , American Armenians and so on and never came Accross anyone you describe . People say " there are dogs in every village " I guess we have to be thankful for the share of dogs in Glendale . Can't you take a notice that the lady in the article is to say the least is a character standing very close to the street pavements and naturally the circle of people she attracts are not far from there either . You'll find what you look for . By the way both our gardner and pool man are from Iran and unlike you are decent , honorable good people . They all are my people no matter where they are from and I'm evolved enough not fall into stereotypes and cheap gossip. Andy , I'm glad your interested enough in Armenian life to read news about Armenia , yet I would suggest to cleanse and free yourself from the shamefull poison of self hate . The good of my brothers and sisters is mine as is their shortcomings and pain . May you start respecting yourself and others , as a man is not judged by gardens and pools but by his or her vision and character .
4. Armenyan08:36 - 1 November, 2012
ANDY sounds turkish. He claims to be from LA but can't even spell Los Angeles. He can't spell Hayastanci either. He also has no clue that Armenians don't do garden work or clean pools here. If he was from Los Angeles he'd knew that 99% of gardeners here are Mexicans anyway.
5. sam14:08 - 1 November, 2012
Its a matter of survival, to judge people callously from the comfort of of your homes with a full stomach is not fair. most Armenians have experienced hardship but in the end they overcome the misery and gain the respect they deserve
6. Hrair22:34 - 1 November, 2012
@Sam. It is not in any way constructive or a “solution” to be “politically correct” at all times. Acknowledging the economic hard times (and this is true most everywhere this days and Armenia is not an exception) one also need to acknowledge factors perhaps have nothing to do with the general economic conditions. And by it I mean the individuals’ socio – economic, moral, ethical, work, educational, family background, values and so on. When we generalize and say “Armenian people” this and that, we need to recognize that “Armenian people” like any other nation is comprised of individuals with their individual qualities, beliefs, habits, education, family norms and ethics and so on. Being poor for the most part is not an excuse for a wrong or irresponsible behavior no matter what nationality you happen to be (and no one is saying that the lady in the story is doing anything wrong) . A person of descent structure and background never can and very seldom will resort to wrong behavior to find solutions to his or her problems. I agree that for a certain individual ( like the one in this story) in a certain circumstances does and will do what it takes for a “survival” and it is natural for that person and feats to that individuals view and understanding of life, her possibilities etc… What I disagree with is to make a broad generalization and talk about “Armenian people” based on the story of this one person. Armenian people and their collective cultural values and qualities that we all identify with and take pride are not the subject here; it is rather a story of an individual. At the end one needs to wonder if her children who happen to be “ living and working in Russia “ surely must be able to afford a peace of dry bread for their poor 70 year old mother had they been raised right or close to it, no matter what national group they happen to belong to.
7. sergs04:08 - 2 November, 2012
@Andy you sound like a turk .
8. Kevin07:19 - 4 November, 2012
In the part 1, I expressed my disapproval and disappointment in what I was reading, and was severely attacked for my opinion. Well my opinion on this part 2 is even worse and I will not even bother going into details. However, the most disturbing part was "So many are coming, and with the kids. They come here and have more kids.” The passage speaks for itself, and I will tell you this, Armenians cannot go any lower.
9. Mher11:30 - 4 November, 2012
@ Kevin...Shut the F--k Up, get up off your ass, and take their place in Armenia. You're just a big windbag!!!
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