13 Year-Old Sargis Mouradyan: The Only Pigeon Flyer Left in Yeraskh
«The “For Sale” sign, splashed in large letters in blue paint on the gate, threw us for a loop.
We pushed, opening the gate, thinking that no one would be inside the house located in the Ararat Province village of Yeraskh.
It turns out that the family of 13 year-old Sargis Mouradyan, the village’s only pigeon flyer, lives there.
“I’m the only pigeon fancier left in the village,” Sargis boasted, letting out a homecoming whistle for the flock. A few minutes later, the boy returned with a red plate half full of wheat.
The pigeons gathered before us. Sargis shot us a proud glance. “I have one hundred pigeons.”
The boy tried to evade answering our questions by going back and forth to the provisions shack for more feed.
We eventually learnt that pigeon racing is a sport that has been handed down in the Mouradyan family. Sargis says it started with his grandfather.
“Pigeons are both beautiful birds and a bird of peace,” Sargis tells us. Back in the day, pigeon flyers would compete to see whose flock flew the farthest, highest, and did better aerobatic maneuvers.
Bets would be placed on specific pigeons, cars, and even houses.
Sargis buys a sack of wheat per month to feed his one hundred pigeons. He sometimes sells some of the birds and says that, on occasion, a few have returned to his coop.
The boy says that while he doesn’t own a mail carrying pigeon, one flew into his yard three months ago. “It flew at the height of an airplane. It was hungry and joined the flock to eat. It had come from Nakhijevan.”
Sargis helps his parents by feeding the cows and pigs early every morning. The family also grows watermelons on a small plot of land. The boy’s mother, Anna Tagvoryan, adds that they grow enough to consume themselves and not for selling.
“I help out after classes. I like math and Armenian. I know my way around electricity and would like to become an auto mechanic,” the boy says.
When asked if Sargis would like to live in another country, the boy rustles around in the chair, lowers his head and says, “I don’t know. Europe is no country. I’d go to live with my uncle. He lives in Russia. But if he lived in Ararat, that’s where I’d go.”
The boy’s father is famous in the village. He’s called Arsen the hunter. That used to be his pastime.
The family rents the house they live in and have been given until the end of September to move out.
There are five in the family, Arsen, his wife Anna, and the three kids – Sargis, his brother, and sister.
Last November, 4 year-old Gevorg set fire to 500,000 dram worth of hay to feed the cows. When I ask the boy why, he answers – to keep warm.
The family moved to Yeraskh from the town of Ararat in 2005 where they lived in Arsen’s family house. When the house was sold the young family was left in the lurch.
“We came to this place of scorpions and snakes,” says Anna.
The family gathered by the gate to bid us farewell. Walking away, we heard Gevorg cry out – the next time you come, bring me a bike.
Photos and the pictures - by Davit Banuchyan