Monday, 24 September

The World Begins Here



Stretching two fingers apart Yura from Himnashen says, “Even though the beginning of the world starts here this is how far we are removed from the globe”.

He's been talking non-stop for the past half hour and I've stopped listening. It's as if he wanted to comment all at once about everything I had discovered regarding his faraway village. Nine years of solitude, abandonment and contemplation. He was drinking mulberry vodka and continued to talk as his emotions rose.

I was thinking about what he had said throughout the entire interview. It contained a note of protest aimed at all of us. Yura was saying that the world began in his four family village, but that they lived outside that world and had no spot on the globe to call their own. It was a glowing illustration, a glowing Kashatagh illustration.

In the Shalva river valley in Kashatagh there are 13 villages without electricity. Himnashen is one of them. Soldiers of the “Arabo” detachment populated the village. The mayor is Gevork, a former soldier of the detachment. Gevork's family is fromYerevan. Once, fifteen families lived in the village but over the years eleven have moved out.

Ofik Manukyan, a mother of seven, says they've grown used to living without electricity. She notes however that, “ To raise young kids with no light for so many years has been difficult. I have to travel sixty kilometers to Berdzor just to buy soap to wash their clothes. Sometimes you have to wait months to get a car ride to Berdzor. Cars used to come here but not now. We're completely cut-off.”

Kamo and Ofik had four sons when they moved to Himnashen from thevillageofHaykadzorin Shirak province. After settling here she had 3 more children, two boys and a girl.Two of the boys are in the army. When their seventh child was born the government opened a bank account in its name with a US $2,000 balance. They can't use the account until the child comes of age , they can only manage the interest.

When they heard the noise of an approaching car all the villagers went to Kamo's house. Here, everyone knows everyone else's business... Who ate what that day, how much milk the animals gave, whose child is sick. They gathered at Kamo's house because they wanted to talk. These people desperately need the company of others.

Yura has three boys. One's married and the other is in the army, and one is in school. Yura again points out that living conditions in Himnashen would greatly improve if the village had electricity and available transportation. Yura continues, “ While we're not able to sell what we produce thank God we don't ask for charity.We were in dire straits for the first four years but now we are OK. Psychologically it's the same, our lifestyle is better today then compared to five years before.”

Soon madzoun, cheese and assorted greens appear on the table, along with bottles of Himnashen's famous pear vodka.Yura continues his talk which mutates into a philosophical discourse.At the root of this discourse is the villagers' need for the outside world to know what's happening to them and to discuss their plight so that they don't feel alone and isolated, so that they feel like a part of the larger Armenian nation. When I brought up the subject of the negotiations regarding the Karabakh issue Yura grinned and said, “ You know what roots we've put down in this land? How can we just pull them out and give it all away?”


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