“I have committed a sin, I can’t support any of them, it gets harder every day. We can’t buy bread. I have committed a terrible sin against my children,” says Anahit Sargisyan, mother of ten. Anahit and Robert live in thevillageofJilizadeep in the forests at the foot ofMountLalvar. They were married in 1984. “I was living inGeorgia, Robert was working inGeorgia, we happened to see each other, then we fell in love and then two years later we got married,” Anahit recalls blissfully. I asked why they decided to have so many children and the husband and wife responded almost simultaneously - it just happened. “This is not living. We don’t have electricity; our village is great, but unfortunately it’s cut off from everything. And we’re having a hard time raising our children. Five of them are school age. The oldest is almost 18- he’s going into the army soon. For the five in school we need books, notebooks… We get 19,000 drams (about $33) from the state. And now they keep saying that they will raise the amount, but nothing happens,” Anahit says, a baby in her arms.
The 19,000 Drams they receive monthlydoesn’t even pay for their bread. Robert is the village electrician. “I’m an electrician and a truck driver but now I’m out of work. I haven’t gotten paid for 16 months. They haven’t paid me ever since they privatized the electricity supply network.” The village gets electricity fromGeorgia. Robert is still the village electrician, but the Georgians don’t pay him since he isn’t registered inGeorgia. “We have some land and we cultivate it-- if we didn’t have that we couldn’t live in this village. Some Armenians fromGreececame last year and gave us a cow-that’s the only thing we have received as a family with many children, we haven’t gotten anything from anybody. Well, there’s our mayor, if we ask him for something, he helps out.”
The family of twelve lives in a tiny house. “My only dream is to have a house, if only in my old age, to be able to move around, to know that everything has its place. But what’s my husband supposed to do-worry about ten children, or about the house? What is he supposed to do with this 19,000 drams? Our future has gone down the drain, and the children’s future is going down the drain too,” Anahit continues hopelessly.
I asked Robert, “What do you think, what’s going to happen to you in the end?” He answered with a naivet? typical in Lori, “I figure it’ll be alright. I’m still counting on the forest-I can work a chainsaw, and when there’s a job I go and work. That’s what pays well-- when they call me to cut down trees they pay three or four thousand Drams ($5-7) a day. The thing is, my boy’s going into the army. I don’t know what to do--maybe I’ll sell one of the cows to get him fitted out. It’s been keeping me up at night.”
“And have you figured it out?” I ask.
“Well, we keep our hopes up- it’ll be alright,” Robert says quickly.