Tuesday, 25 September

Instead of an Epilogue, an Obituary

Nubarashen Cemetery , Yerevan -- 6 January 2005 , the day that Armenians celebrate Christmas.

The gravedigger leads the way to where, in the section of the Nubarashen cemetery reserved for the dispossessed, two homeless people were due to be buried. Due to heavy snowfall, however, the vehicle that should have brought the bodies from the morgue could not make its journey on this particular day. Not that anyone will notice the delay.

There will be no names or the date of their birth and death marked on the graves as nobody really knows who is in the coffins. The gravedigger admits that sometimes the friends of the homeless come for the burials but even then, they often don't know the real names of those being buried. Instead, there will just be a number.

Back in the centre of Yerevan , in the park surrounding the Chamber Music Hall , the snow that fell the previous evening lies heavy on the ground. The homeless in the park were freezing. "Will you give me one glass of vodka," asks Bash as he shivers from head to toe -- it's the only way they can "warm" themselves up. Noro says that Bash was feeling bad that night. "Yes," he admits. "I am not well. If you can, please take me to a hospital."

When someone like Bash, who spent 25 years of his life in prisons, says something like that it means you have to listen. "He has never said anything like this," says Noro in a low voice. It means that he is very bad."

But attempts to have Bash admitted into a hospital proved futile. The hospitals refused to examine him. On 6 January 2005 , 1,703 years after Armenia adopted Christianity as its state religion and on the day Christmas is celebrated in a country so proud of its religious heritage, not one institution was willing to take in or provide shelter to the vagrant.

Eventually, On 10 January, representatives of the French wing of the international medical organization, Médecins Sans Frontières, visited the homeless sleeping in the park near the Chamber Music Hall . With their assistance, Bash was finally admitted into the Burns Centre and Raffik received some medical help before being sent back to his former "place of residence." The hospital charged 15,000 drams for bandaging the hands of a man with no money.

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