Thursday, 20 September

“When I get homesick, I push those emotions aside”

It was four in the morning. I had an hour to wait at Zvartnots Airport. It seems that Armavia Airlines goes out of its way to schedule all of its flights late at night. In this, it has succeeded. I tried to remember a flight I took during the day in the past ten years.

I couldn’t. Fares for Armavia flights are quite expensive; even tourists complain about the prices. It occurred to me that if Mikhail Bagdasarov, the owner of Armavia, ever decided to schedule flights during the daytime, the prices would double. Given this possibility, we should take advantage of what’s being offered without making any undue fuss. I started to write the article for Hetq. It was clear from the start that once I had mentioned the name of Mikhail Bagdasarov, my mind would be awash with contradictory thoughts. (Oligarchs leave me with such unsettling emotions) It was as if Bagdasarov was swimming around in my head, taking part in what I was writing. I don’t know how he usually flies, but I know that there are day flights from Yerevan to Moscow. “He probably takes one of those normal flights,” I thought.

My friend had lost his job and was without work for the past year. I only found out about his predicament today. He had fought in Artsakh; one of your average normal guys. He doesn’t like to talk about the war years and never talks about himself. He married late in life. Thus, his two kids are still quite young. He worked as a security guard in one of the banks. The bank changed hands and the new owners brought in their own security team. My friend got the message that he had to leave. So my friend left and hasn’t found another job since. It was a mutual friend of ours that told me what had happened.

This other friend said that unemployment had taken its toll on the former Artsakh soldier. It turns out that he registered as being unemployed. When he showed up to get an allowance they told him there was no money to be allocated and that he should return in a month. I met up with him a day before the flight. I asked him why he hadn’t told me he had lost his job. My friend said what difference would it have made. Neither did I. He said he’d look for some construction work when the weather warmed up. I told him that the construction industry was also depressed. He replied that something would turn up.

That same day I read that Rafik Petrosyan, a long time fixture in the Armenian parliament, wanted to raise the salaries of the MP’s. Petrosyan said the MP’s were paid a pittance and thus were “eternally hungry”. Whenever I see the faces of those MP’s I realize that our situation here in Armenia will never change for the better. Looking into their opaque eyes, you only see – restaurants, hotels, mines, and transportation routes; in a word – the pursuit of the almighty dollar, or dram. Just the other day a colleague asked me why Hetq goes to all the trouble to write about the situation in the villages. “Does anyone really care?” he asked. I replied that I cared and thus put an end to the conversation. My colleague seems to believe that a newspaper must be full of “political” articles and vitriol for people to buy it. Before this, I had an encounter with a friend who runs a business. Once again, as is his want, he asked if I’d ever come to my senses.

The underlying question being – do you still believe in those pie-in-the-sky dreams of yours? I told him my senses were quite fine, thank-you, and that I was waiting for him to see the light; to believe that we indeed could change the country for the better. I can still remember Garik’s reaction. His scornful quip was, “We’ve even handed over this living hell to those in charge.” That’s to say we, the average citizenry, haven’t been able to hold on to the little that’s left to us, never mind change it. Sitting in the airport it crossed my mind if he was right, if I was actually deceiving myself. It’s getting harder and harder to motivate myself to sit down and write. There seems to be no forward movement. Bagdasarov’s looming presence is a hindrance. Then and there I decided not to write anything for the next edition of  Hetq.

A week after returning, the day to write something arrived. I had to write something. So I referred back to my notes and musings. I decided to complete what I had started to scribble down a week ago at Zvartnots Airport. The eight year old son of a good friend who left Yerevan for Ireland once said, “When I get homesick, I push those emotions aside.”His wife and kids wanted to stay; parting was painful.

My programmer friend, his wife and three children were living in a rented apartment in Yerevan. He requested a letter of guarantee from his job to apply for a mortgage. They turned him down. His salary wasn’t enough. It turns out that a bulk of his salary wasn’t being registered on the books. He was being paid the full salary in cash but what was being reported to the government was another story. This deception broke the camel’s back for my friend. It was the last in a long line of disappointments he had endured. He was a good specialist but he left Armenia.

Photo by Hakob Poghosyan

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