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Marine Martirosyan

Armineh, Mother of Two Minors: “It’s necessary to walk with optimism”

10-year-old Lilia and her 9-year-old brother Emanuel are watching a film on TV when we enter. Their mother, 39-year-old Armineh Ghazaryan, offers us the only chair in the room.

Having strangers in the room, the children are forced to lower the TV's volume, and they move closer to hear.

The family rents a small room on the first floor of Erebuni dorm. The apartment looks neat: everything seems to have its own place. The sofa serves as a bed for Emanuel and Armineh, while Lilia sleeps on a bed she got from her grandmother.

Armineh says it’s their fourth year in the apartment.The rent is 25,000 drams ($52) a month. They moved here after the divorce. She used to live in Kharberd with her husband, but there were misunderstandings, which later escalated into violence.

Armineh's voice seems calm while relating this. She says she’s never vilified her husband in front of the children.  "It’s their father - they should love and respect him. Once they grow up, they might understand many things," Armineh says and smiles, adding that her husband comes to visit the children.

There is sadness in Armineh’s smile. She works as a cleaner in a bread bakery, earning 1,500 drams a day. In addition, every two or three days, she rolls lavash dough, being paid 5 drams a roll, earning a maximum of 2,600 drams. The best season for this, she says, is New Year’s eve.  

Armineh counts the days to December to be able to pay off the loan she took to buy a refrigerator. She says she had to buy it, since the food was getting spoiled.

Armineh gets a monthly 31,000-dram state allowance for the children. Armineh says even 5,000 drams is a big sum for them. If she earns enough, she would like to take Lilia to kanoon classes (a string instrument resembling a zither), and Emanuel -  to football.

I ask Lilia about her dreams, and it takes some time for her to answer. Both children are shy. "I want a kanoon to play," says 10-year-old girl, getting excited. Armineh, on the contrary, crouches and clasps her hands. "I really want my children to become good people, and secondly, to have a small room that would be ours," she says.

Emanuel says he's dreaming of becoming a footballer. He complains that Lilia does not let him watch football on TV and that's why he does not know names of footballers. He gets angry, while Lilia laughs.

Lilia has two pairs of roller skates. Her father gifted a pair a month ago, and she got the second pair from her grandmother. She says she loves the ones that she got from her father.

Armineh praises the girl, saying that she is a good skater, and her daughter confirms this. Then, putting on the roller skates, she tries to skate around in the apartment, but hardly keeps herself from falling. Emanuel takes a small screwdriver and carefully examines the skates. He notices one of the wheels not spinning and professionally pulls the screw to take it out. 

Emanuel takes his skateboard, again gifted by his father. We go out. The guys in the yard talk to each other and bet that Emanuel will not reach the other side of the street with his skateboard. The boy is already too far to hear that. His mother and sister follow him from the entrance of the dorm.

Armineh says that although the room is small, and they rent it, she’s now found inner peace.

It was not easy and it’s still not, but, she adds, “It is necessary to walk with optimism”.

Photos by Narek Aleksanyan