The road leading to the ramshackle house of the Zakaryan family in the Armavir community of Aknashen was muddy and pockmarked with puddles.
As we carefully approached, Elmira, the mother, was carrying a bundle of firewood. When she spotted us, she stopped for a moment, as if surprised by the arrival of guests, and rushed inside.
We stood outside and were challenged by a lone goose that started to raise a racket. Hearing the noise, Elmira came outside, shooed the goose away, and invited us in.
Upon entering, the odor of dampness was overpowering. The ceiling was leaking in several places. Even though it was daylight outside, it was dark inside.
“The bulb burnt out and I have no spares,” Elmira said, in the way of an apology. She told us that someone from the electric utility had arrived earlier to remind her about their 8,500 AMD bill and that power to the house would be cut if not paid.
“Our allowance this month came late for me to pay the bills. The kids shouldn’t have to be in the dark like this,” said Elmira, hiding her tears.
While the rest of the children were running around in the semi-dark, Anahit was quietly seated next to the stove and intently eyeing us with sorrowful eyes.
She had injured her foot two weeks ago. Not be able to pay for a doctor, Elmira took her daughter to a local snkhchi (bone setter). After a few massage treatments, Anahit can now walk on her own.
The television had been blaring ever since we arrived. To converse more calmly, Elmira turned the TV off. As if on cue, the kids stopped playing and sat next to their mother on the couch.
Elmira has six children in all. Two of the girls, Vera and Gayaneh, live in her parents’ home in the same village. It’s easier for the two to get to school from there and it cuts down on costs.
The family’s only source of income is a monthly allowance of 61,000 AMD ($150 U.S.) Elmira, her husband Armen, and the four children sleep in the same room.
They’ve been living in this vagon (trailer home) for the past six years.
Elmira told us that Armen trades in the market during the summer months. She told us that Armen isn’t in the best of health and suffers from a bad back that prevents him from lifting anything heavy.
Six years ago Armen was classified as second degree disabled and was allotted a pension. Not be able to pay the demanded gratuity bribe (magharich), he never received follow-up medical care and was stripped of his disability classification.
When I asked Elmira what the family needed the most, the mother of six answered “A real home. A stone house with two small rooms.” She added that the village mayor assists with cash handouts now and then and that her neighbors also help in whatever manner they can.
They have the one goose and a pig; gifts from a benefactor after the family appeared in a TV program.
Elmira’s parting words to us as we left were: “I await your good news. Hopefully someone will help us.”
Aknashen Mayor Misak Misakyan told Hetq that the municipality does whatever it can to help the Zakaryans. “A few days ago the family again asked for assistance. Let’s see what we can do. We have to help somehow.”