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Donkey Power: Brothers Finance Restoration of Historic Bridge in Native Village

By Anahit Baghdasaryan

Even though Aram and Armen Stepanyan have been living in Moscow for the past twenty years, they haven’t forgotten their native village of Darbas, nestled in the picturesque Lordzor valley of Syouniq.

The two brothers have financed the restoration of the St. Stepanos Church in Darbas and have now set their sights on the historic Arzouman Bridge that spans the Vorotan River.

They have set up the Darbas Patriotic Union to collect funds from former village residents to finance such restoration projects which they believe can spur local development and stem the tide of further exodus.

"Due to the tremendous work carried out by the Stepanayan brothers, the numbers of those leaving the village is decreasing annually. What’s most important is that our young people are now making a living right in the village. There are about 150 residents from the villages of Shamb, Darbas and other nearby communities working in local factories," says Darbas Mayor Robert Khachatryan.

According to the only remaining inscription, the bridge was built in 1675 but has been unusable for many decades.

It can only reached by foot. The only way to get construction materials to the site is by donkey.

An observation site will also be built nearby, allowing visitors to enjoy the spectacular natural landscape up close and in person.

The arched bridge is made of polished stones. One side of the bridge had to be artificially elebvated to correspond to the height of the other.

Father Untza, the village priest, says that the reopening of the bridge will allow pilgrims to more directly travel to the Monastery of Tatev.

Nerses Stepanyan, the father of Aram and Armen, proudly says that his sons remain close to their roots and that their primary objective to assist in the improvement of conditions in the village and to keep residents from leaving.

"Even though my sons have their own business in Moscow, they see the future of their children in the motherland," says Nerses.

In 2010, the brothers built water and canning factories in the village of Shamb taht are run by their parents Amalya and Nerses.

(This article is part of the OSCE sponsored "Raising Public Awareness and Participation in Syouniq Province Through Developing Reporters Resources" project)

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