The Yervandyans: Family of 11 “. . . they are used to it and stand it”
By Marianna Grigoryan
When the evening comes and the cat Psho walks back and forth mewing, 97-year-old great grandma Varsenik gathers her grandson’s seven children around her bed and begins telling great stories about the war, troubles, hunger, great grandpa and hardships of the old times.
“My poor children, those were very hard times, you had no way out; just to find a piece of bread and feed your children”, trembles the elderly voice in the silence from under a blanket worn, like the grandmother, by the years.
The children listen with patience and amazement at stories about war, and about the lives that have crossed with their grandmother’s over nearly a century. In this house the great grandma’s words and picturesque phrases take the place of television – a luxury that is only a dream for the Yervandyans.
From 12-year old Nara, to 1 year old Davo, the children, two grandmothers, mother and father live in a four-room house in the village of Kuchak, some 50 kilometers from Yerevan.
The capital is only an hour by car. Its reality, though, is distant to these children who’ve only heard of its theaters, restaurants and the way people dress and live in the big city. Sometimes their school organizes trips to Yerevan. But at about $3 per child for the trip, seeing the city sites is something the Yervandyan children will have to settle for in their grandmother’s stories.
They aren’t so amazed by the stories about hardship and hunger. It is a story they know for themselves.
“One should work to enjoy life and the children”, murmurs grandma Varsenik. “I have worked, I have suffered, I have toiled. I have lived so long. I used to knit carpets, sew cloths, grown a garden. And I raised healthy children. Now these poor ones have neither work nor means of living.”
The grandma of the family, 70-year-old Kima Yervandyan says that unlike Soviet times when she and her sons had jobs, none of them works now.
“We live with pensions and subsidies for children”, says Kima. “Totally monthly we have 30 thousand drams (about $60), which is enough only for two and a half sacks of flour and small expenses.
The family home for 11 consists of six beds, one sofa, an oven, a table.
- Nothing has been left to sell.Want to Help? HyeSanta would like to buy sheep for the Yervandyans to start a flock. Estimated cost: $300.
The Yervandyans have a cow, but it has grown thin and now gives only enough milk for the youngest child.
“If the cow dries out Davo will get thin”, says grandma Kima.
Sometimes they have potatoes and sometimes cabbage and bread. But not always.
Termine, the mother, says despite their deprivation they thank God that the children are mainly healthy. Although the poor nutrition has also had its influence.
Four-year-old Albertik, who never smiles or talks, has lost his teeth because of the lack of vitamins and poor nutrition.
“Once a doctor came and said the child needs treatment, but we don’t have means to treat him,” says Termine, age 30.
Sometimes when someone in the village offers a sacrifice for some good fortune, the head and the legs of the sheep are sent to the Yervandyans.
“We cook it, and the children eat and enjoy it,” says Termine. “My children understand me. At times we did not have anything to eat for 2-3 days, but they wouldn’t say a word; even the neighbors didn’t know the children had nothing to eat. I have told my children to keep silent whatever happens. They are used to it and stand it.”
Wintertime is the most difficult for the villages in the Aparan area, where snowfall often measures more than a meter.
In winter, the most important is the heating. “That,” says Termine, “we don’t know how to manage.”
The stone walled rooms have been petitioned off to make them smaller and easier to heat. But such winterizing is not a solution. The stove of the wet house is burned only when the four school children return.
The Yervandyans heat the house with dung gathered from fields. For this winter, they’ve gathered enough to last until about January.
“If we had household, a proper land or animals everything might be different”, says Kima Yervandyan. “In other times we had everything and didn’t know life would change this way.”