Wednesday, 26 September

Ashot the Inventor: Overcomes His Physical Disability by Fabricating Farm Tools for His Wife

By Grisha Balasanyan

Ashot Yeghoyan, a 55-year-old resident of the Getap village in Armenia, is known by his neighbors as the ‘inventor’.

He fabricates farming utensils to make the work of his wife and fellow villagers that much easier.

When we visited the house, the small outside gate was locked. The person who escorted us knew that Ashot can’t leave the house and was thus surprised to see the gate locked. We heard Ashot’s weak voice from the yard, “Pull the lock and it will open.”

Ashot was home alone. Anahit, his wife, had left at 6 a.m. with other women from the village to collect herbs and greens on the mountain. She locked the gate upon leaving. Anahit left a small box of food for Ashot. She’d return in the evening.

Ashot was outside, soaking up the springtime sun. He started his story at its most difficult page. He says he now has an easier time of recounting what happened in 2006 that left him without the use of his legs. It was July 29, his birthday. They were installing a water pipe in the village. Ashot was then working as a driver and security guard. That day, he went to work as usual. He had lifted a heavy barrel of diesel fuel and soon after started to experience serious stomach pain. He somehow managed to drive back home. An ambulance came and took him to the Yeghegnadzor Hospital. Ashot says that he immediately felt his legs weakening. After examining him, the doctor said that Ashot had suffered a stroke, not a heart attack. They transferred him to a hospital in Yerevan. Not being able to come up with a diagnosis, they started treating him for stroke.

“But I didn’t suffer a stroke. My spinal vertebrae were misaligned and the nerve had weakened as a result. They started to treat me for another illness and the result was that I ended up in a wheelchair,” Ashot recounts, looking down at his feet.

Ashot confesses that at first he had a hard time accepting what had befallen him and that he tried to kill himself.

“I couldn’t get used to this sort of life. Slowly, I accepted my fate and started to use my free time coming up with ideas and making things to pass the time of day. My advice is that people adapt to their disabilities. Such is life. It’s fate and can’t be changed. You have to find something to do, to keep busy, and continue living. You always have to maintain a positive outlook,” Ashot says.

Farming Tools for His Wife

Ashot uses his free time to invent farming tools based on a bicycle frame. When he fells in the mood, he also creates religious images from ground up glass. They can be seen decorating the walls of his house that reminds one of a trailer hut. Ashot says that while he’s an unbeliever, the images come involuntarily. “I always see churches in my mind,” he says.

Ashot loves to invent things and has all the necessary equipment to do so. With a tool he created, Anahit can now dig furrows much more easily than before. By changing the head, it can also be used to clear the vegetable beds of grass. The tool, when finished, will be able to do four or five different chores.

Ashot found the models for the tools in the internet, choosing the simplest and most practical ones.

“I’ve made these tools so that my wife has an easier time when it comes to working. She’s had a rough ten years ever since I’ve been affixed to this wheelchair. She raised the kids on her own and did all the chores,” says Ashot, who has nothing but praise for Anahit.

Ashot adds that it isn’t easy for him to fabricate the tools given that he must work seated. Something requiring one hour can take up to two days. Nevertheless, Ashot doesn’t complain. What he produces makes life easier for his wife. That’s reason enough.

Ashot points to the trailer hitch in the yard and says his boys made it while they were still in school. There are people interested in buying it, but Ashot is reluctant to part with it. “My boys made it. I can’t sell it,” he says.

While Ashot may not be able to walk, his mind is as nimble as ever. What really irritates Ashot is when some people see him and others with physical disabilities as less than a whole person.

The couple live alone and survive on Ashot’s 35,000 AMD ($73) monthly disability and 15,000 AMD ($32) allowance.

There’s also his wife’s business of collecting herbs and drying them for the winter. Sometimes she sells her wares. It’s seasonal work, but provides them with pocket money for daily expenses.

A Trailer Behind a Trailer

Ashot tells me that after the collapse of the Soviet Union the family lived in the office of a sovkhoz (state farm). Later, they moved to the town of Armavir in Russia and owned a three room house. They came back to Armenia when their daughter was sick and doctors advised the family to get her out in the fresh air. They rented a place but were told to move out when Ashot fell ill. They were only able to lay the foundations of a new house on the little patch of land they had. They sold the house in Russia to cover Ashot’s medical bills. Finally, the family had no place to go other than the small trailer located on the site.

Now, there’s a bigger hut next to the old one and the foundations. This was purchased by Habitat for Humanity volunteers who visited Ashot and saw where he and his wife were living. They decided to launch a fundraiser for him.

Ashot’s Wants a Bigger Place So That the Family Can Live Together

Ashot has five children. His two daughters are married and two sons are in Russia looking for work. The youngest son is in the army, serving on the frontline.

“My biggest problem is my medical condition. If I could walk, I’d do what was necessary. But given that I’m in this state, I would hope for some kind soul to help us out with a small home so that my kids could come and stay rather than wandering here and there. If everyone leaves, should we hand over Armenia to the Turks?” he asks.

Ashot doesn’t place any hopes for assistance on the government and hasn’t applied to the authorities.

Photos and video: Davit Banuchyan


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