The Abrahamyans of Ditak: Snakes, Rats and Crumbling Walls
I’ve arrived at the house of Shahen Abrahamyan in Ditak, a village in Armenia’s Ararat Province. It's slowly crumbling and has been declared unsafe to live in.
Inside, the living room is warm and inviting. The family cat purrs next to the stove.
Armenouhie Grigoryan, Shahen’s wife, says the cat is their first-line defense against rats and snakes. Large cracks dot the walls of the house. In the winter, the cold winds seep through. In summer, snakes sneak in.
Armenouhie apologizes for the state of the room. She’s just returned from working in the fields. Children’s clothes are strewn about. A few dirty dishes are on the table.
The house is comprised of three rooms. One room is no longer habitable. It’s too damp and damaged. It’s used as the family shower – stand in the basin and douse yourself with water from a large pitcher.
In 2000, the house was declared unfit for safe habitation by a private real estate appraiser.
As we’re talking, Shahen Abrahamyan enters the room. After saying hello, he asks Armenouhie why she hasn’t tidied the place.
Mr. Abrahamyan had been pruning his apple trees. He’s holding the pruning scissors. His breathing is labored. He says that while he can’t perform hard work, he can’t stay idly at home.
Abrahamyan, 57, says his respiratory problems stem from his time as a volunteer fighter in the Artsakh War. He and his brother Arshak signed up together.
“I came down with tuberculosis during a winter battle. I was in bad shape,” Abrahamyan says. Due to his disability, he receives a monthly pension of 16,000 AMD (US$33).
Rima, Arshak’s wife, enters the room. She tells us that she used to hide her husband’s gun in the child’s crib or dresser. Once, when her son was five, he took the gun and ran to the street. Rima barely managed to grab the gun out of the child’s hand before any damage was done.
The Abrahamyans used to raise sheep. Rima recalls those early days with fondness. They and other war volunteers would gather around a large table in the yard of the family house and slaughter a sheep for dinner.
Shahen and Armenouhie have four children – Sarkis (19), Davit (18), Levon (17) and Marousya (7).
Sarkis and Davit are known throughout the village for an incident that occurred in 2002.
“It was in 2002. We have a place back of the house to store hay. There were some two tons. We were picking figs in the yard. The kids were running around. Suddenly, we saw smoke. I ran to the hay shed. The door was closed. I opened the door and saw Sarkis and Davit inside,” Armenouhie recalls.
The boys were pretty badly burnt. Sarkis has been granted a military service waiver because of his burns. Davit will also not have to serve.
Armenouhie says the boys are still psychologically scarred from the incident. Before turning 18, the boys each received a disability pension of 21,5000 AMD. Both have filed to have their pensions reinstated but the examination committee found them to be disability free.
Armenouhie tells me they make ends meet by growing crops nearby. Their priority is to either renovate the house or move.
In 2011, Mr. Abrahamyan met with then Ararat Governor Edik Barseghyan, asking for assistance to repair the house. Barseghyan advised him to contact the central government in Yerevan.
“It’s been four years since filing a petition. We’ve yet to hear anything,” says Abrahamyan, adding that he’s been denied a meeting to talk to the current provincial governor.
Photos: Saro Baghdasaryan