Tuesday, 25 September

Gyumri Woman Dreams of Landing Job as Cleaning Attendant

On a street in Gyumri, there's a dilapidated wooden door that leads to the home of Sahakanoush Khachatryan and her daughter Shoushanik.

While walking past that door on two consecutive days, the mother and daughter poked their heads out to see the comings and goings on the street. It's a daily ritual of theirs.

The two are also in the habit of conserving electricity; even at night. Once Shoushanik has gone to bed, her mom will turn off the light and use the walls and furniture as a guide to her own bed.

If they can't fall asleep, the women will turn on the old Soviet TV and watch some boring shows until their eyes grow heavy.

"A neighbour's boy once asked if we had electricity in the house. I told him that we did, but that we prefer to watch TV in the dark," Sahakanoush says with a smile.

During the day, their main concern isn't cutting down on their utility bills but deciding what to eat. When it comes to food the women must also carefully ration so that their tab at the store doesn't get out of hand.

"The owner of our neighbourhood store tells us we can come and take whatever we need. But I have my honor to think of. And how will I ever pay all those bills. I do a bit of work here and there. We get by somehow. There's a loaf of bread on the table each day," Sahakanoush says.

The women can only dream of getting a job that will pay a stable income. Right now, Sahakanoush dreams of working as a cleaning attendant somewhere.

"I don't ask for much. If I could land a job paying 40-50,000 AMD that would be fabulous. We'd be able to live like normal people. I could find work for my daughter in the stores but she is an honest girl and they'd trick her or some such thing."

Shoushanik dreams of becoming a data processor but says that prospective employers never get back to her. "I'd even go to Yerevan for temporary work," she says.

Her mother is dead set against the idea.

"If the both of us went it would be all right. But for my daughter to go and leave me here alone is another matter," argues Sahakanoush.

The mother lost her husband and a 10 year-old daughter in the earthquake. The eldest daughter is married and the only one left to take care of her is Shoushanik.

Even the mention of Shoushanik's leaving for Yerevan sends chills up the mother's spine.

As I was preparing to leave, Sahakanoush pulled me aside and said, "You should write that the people are hurting. I don't say that they should give us money but we need work. We can't go on living like this."

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Comments (4)
1. Tony12:11 - 4 August, 2011
This family needs government intervention. In California, there is EBT that serves the low income people with Food Stamps. Additionally, there is a program called Section 8 which aids the people with low income to rent a house or apartment. There are also organisations like the "Mission" which feeds the needy, provides them a place to sleep and gives moral support. It's a high time that the Armenian government help out these needy people. If they can't help, let them resign and leave this job to a professional. Goverment job is to protect and to serve the people.
2. Varaz Syuni (Amsterdam)04:59 - 5 August, 2011
Gutse tarorinak tva im hetevyal hartsy: INCHU Hayastanum kan AYSKAN SHAT tsayrahex axkatner/chkavorner?..................................................................................Tony - the whole problem is that there is NO Armenian government, but a bunch of oligarchs. And they do NOT resign, because they NEED to stay in power in order to protect their businesses.
3. Tony12:30 - 5 August, 2011
In my view, media has to go beyond exposing corrupt politicians in office. Expose corruption by photographs, videos etc. Otherwise, this, negative, situation will continue to get worse. These corrupt oligarchs will not let these, poor, people live a normal and a better life. Investigative journalism is the answer. People can help,too, in exposing these corrupt politicians.
4. Steve00:08 - 12 August, 2011
And what of the unpictured unfortunate Shushanik - imprisoned by lack of opportunities and family expectations/obligations? I am reminded of the words of another Shushanik, Shushanik Kurghinian, also born in Gyumri but in 1876. "I Want To Live" I want to live, but not a lavish life wedged in obscurity, unconcern, simple-mindedness, nor an outright hostage of beauty aids as a frail creature, delicate and feeble - but equal to you, oh men, auspicious, as you are - powerful and headstrong, fit against calamities, and ingenious with bodies full of fervor. I want to act, next to you, in equality as my peoples loyal chapter; let me suffer over and again, night or day roaming from one place to another, struggling for those ideals of sovereignty And let this heft torment me in my exile only to gain the purpose of my life.
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