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“I don’t want to forget that I am a woman”

 

“God, please keep us away from tears”, says 46-year-old Karine Karapetyan and her eyes fill with tears. She lost her three children when she was young. Her neighbors said that the children died from hunger and cold. 

 

Karine got married when she was very young. Her husband is the village herdsman and she milks cows in the village. The money they can hardly be enough to meet the needs of their eight children only. The house that Karine’s family lives in looks horrible; they simply live in inhuman conditions.

Karapetyan’s large family lives in the watch-booth of the ex-collective farm. “We have no money, we have nothing that is why we live in that booth”, Karine says. One room in the house serves both as a dining room, a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. The roof is dripping, walls are damp, if you touch the bed linen they seem to be wet. I put the tub in the middle of the room and bathe the children. Then I myself take a bath. Our toilet is the canyon next to our house. “I do my laundry in the yard, as well as cooking and dishwashing”, says Karine shamefully meanwhile remembering the time when she put her baby to sleep in the tub.  The main income of the family is AMD 50 000 – the social allowance they receive for children.

 

–  “I paid AMD11 000 for a sack of flour.  It will be enough only for making dough twice”, Karine says.

 

Her two sons left school from the 8th grade to help their father. They pasture cows and   accompany Karine when she goes to milk cows in the village.
“They are used to all that work, as they live in the village. Education can offer nothing, it’s better to work from the early age, keep the house, feel the bitterness of bread earning and understand that after having their own families they should not live in such a hole and grow children”, says Karine.
TV set is their only contact with the world. Karine confesses that she is also fond of soap operas and different TV programs; she watches and then dreams.
“I look at women who live in the city and envy them. I want to open my eyes in a warm house, send my children to school, see my husband with a decent job, cook in my kitchen, drink coffee with my neighbors, take a shower in the bathroom: simply not to forget that I am a woman”, Karine says.

 

Karine does not remember when she bought clothes for herself last.  Once she milked a cow and they gave her a dress instead of money. That is the only ’new’ dress of hers without a ‘stain ’. “I am used to these conditions so what’s the use of feeling bad without good clothes.  With that money I can buy bread or some medicine for my children.  My only concern is the absence of the house and managing food for kids. I cooked soup with peas today”, says Karine.
The dining table they have is very small; there are only a few chairs so they have to take turns to have a meal.
There is an unconstructed building near Karine’s house.  It is the house that the Government promised to re-build for their large family. “The ex-governor of Shirak Region came and saw the conditions we live in and told us not to worry as the Government was going to give us a house. The construction started but suddenly stopped. They say there is no money.”

Hasmik Harutyunyan
Nor Kyanq village, Shirak region

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