In the Name of Light: The Davtyan sisters, and a dream to help others
By Armine Petrosyan
Lusine Davtyan is sitting in Room 122 of the 6th building of Zeytun Student Dormitory and with untrained movements draws letters on paper. The pen often stops. She is 22, but these are her first lessons in how to write the alphabet. Lilit, her 20 year old sister and best friend, sits next to her to teach.
Lusine is blind.
She is also an honor student of psychology at Yerevan State University. She finished most of her exams ahead of schedule and will soon enter the Masters program.
In many parts of the world her achievement would be exceptional. In Armenia, it is extraordinary.
The cause of Lusine’s blindness is questionable, even between her parents. Her mother says doctors dropped her. Her father says it is genetic; he has relatives who are also blind.
The family is from Gishi, a village in Martuni, Karabakh, on the border of Azerbaijan. When Lusine was six, her parents enrolled her in a school for the visually impaired, in Yerevan.
“When she studied in Yerevan, I was in the village, I missed her a lot,” Lilit says. “We were away from each other for eleven years (except during summers). Whenever my mother told she would come, I did everything. I was saying, Luso will come soon, everything is going to be good.”
Three years ago, when Lilit entered medical school, she joined Lusine in Yerevan. The sister has become also tutor, guide and companion. When Lilit finishes her morning classes at the medical college, she takes Lusine to YSU for her’s.
The Government of Karabakh awards Lusine 15,000 drams (about $30) a month for being an honor student. The girls’ parents add some money, so they end up with about $60. That would be considerable money in Gishi. But not for two young women in Yerevan paying rent, tuition, electricity, buying books and shopping for groceries. HyeSanta aims to reward the courageous as well as the needy. Want to help? Click here.
“It was a bit hard during the first year of study,” Lusine says. “We ate bread and yogurt all day long. Though I like it a lot, Lilo was not accustomed yet.”
Somehow, 420 kilometers from village life, the girls have even managed to buy clothes.
“For instance, I bought this jacket,” Lusine says. “Lilo described it, I touched and liked it.” It’s peach colored, and suits the tone of Lusine’s face.
YSU professors praise Lusine’s choice of profession
Lilit helps Lusine with her homework, reading lessons to her.
“I do her homework in daylight and mine in the evening,” Lilit says. “We manage.”
The small room of the Dormitory is an attractive site for neighbors. Melada, another resident, says that Lusine is a great adviser and that everyone having problems comes to her.
“I call her dean. I benefit much from her advice and I know that many people like me need her.”
Professor Gayane Shahverdyan, Head of the Psychology Chair, says Lusine has the right character for her chosen profession. People don’t perceive Lusine as being blind, the professor says, but rather as being insightful.
Lusine’s plan is to return to Karabakh and start a charitable organization for support of the socially vulnerable – especially those needing psychological counsel.
But that idea will have to wait. Now is the time for study. Lusine needs to stay in Yerevan at least two more years. She’d like to stay five, so that she can get a Ph.D.
She doubts, though, that she can afford to stay.
Part of the reason she and Lilit have managed this far, is because Lusine won $650 in a San Francisco (California) University essay competition. That money, however, was spent on Lilit’s tuition, for rent and for a winter coat for each of the girls.
Lusine won the competition for an essay expressing why she has chosen psychology as a profession. The essay did not mention that she is blind.
It did, though, reflect the strong will and bright intentions of her hopeful future.
“Physical disability doesn’t hinder one from being a perfect member of society,” Lusine says. “The person who doesn’t see can be imperfect and vice versa.”
Her name means “light”.