- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 25, 2003 

Hard Life: Mothers and children wait for help in desperate conditions

Sona adopted Hakob when he was 15 days old and learned later that he had Cerebral Palsy.

Every morning Sona Meymaryan, her mother Epraksia, and her two children leave their house made of boxes and plastic and go to the street.

For about a month they have lived in their crude shack, hoping each day that someone from social services will see them and offer help.

The family is not alone in its plight. Beggars and homeless are the unfortunate fallout of an economy that has struggled for a decade.

But the Meymaryans are among the most vulnerable.

Both of Sona's children are disabled. Eight year old Hakob has cerebral palsy. Six year old Aravik has a spinal problem, too, though she can walk unassisted.

In 1984 Sona and her husband moved to Kalmykia, Russia. Sona says her husband is a drunkard, and that perhaps as a result, they were unable to have a child.

So they adopted 15-day old Hakob from a Russian hospital, unaware that he had been born with cerebral palsy.

Upon learning of Hakob's condition they decided to adopt a second child and got Arevik when she was three months old. It was when she grew older they learned that the girl, too, had health problems.

After enduring several years of abuse from her husband, Sona decided to return to Yerevan last December with her mother and children.

Upon arriving, she learned that her husband had sold the apartment, so her family moved in with relatives.

Sona says she has proper documents, but her old Russian passport is of little help.

But after a few months the relatives said Sona must find her own place, as one apartment was too small for several people including children with special needs.

So last month they spent their last money on a taxi ride to Ulnetsu Street where hostels are located. But upon arriving they learned that all the rooms were filled.

After one night on the street, the next day they found boxes and plastic and made a shelter near the hostel's iron gate.

Now the family survives on the mercy of residents who live in a nearby hostel for foreign students.

"In India we have many families like this too," says Vicki, an Indian student who gives the family money for bread.

The resident director of the hostel Mariam Adamyan brings them hot meals from the hostel's canteen. She also gave them a mattress and pillows.

"The family has lived here for a month in unsanitary conditions. No one takes care of them except students," she says. "We help them as much we can but we cannot take care of them forever. The children need medical help. They need a shelter. We informed several offices and institutions about them but no one has appeared."

Students from India who live in a nearby hostel have been a steady source of assistance.

Sona too made several attempts to apply to the governmental offices. But she says the police did not allow her to enter the office.

"They did not want even to take a look at my family documents because of my appearance," she says. "They thought I am sick."

Sona says she has all the necessary documents, including adoption papers to qualify for a pension. But she says wherever she goes people will not meet with her because of her unkempt condition. Also, she has a skin condition that she says is the result of nerves and that people are afraid she has a disease. But she says that neither her mother nor children have such problems though they are constantly with her.

Some passersby have suggested she take her children to an orphanage. But Sona says she cannot survive without her children and that Hakob, who must stay in a wheelchair, especially needs her.

So she waits for social services, hoping for help that has been slow in coming.

Editor's note: Frequently ArmeniaNow readers ask how they might assist families suffering social crises. While it is not our intention to search out desperate cases, it is our hope that those we are made aware of might benefit from the concern of our readers. If you feel compelled to assist in such cases, please write us at and we will send instructions on how you might help.

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Pain in Paint

Yesterday (April 24) members of Mihr youth organization gathered in a park near the State Conservatory where they used black (tragedy) and red (blood) paint to depict Mt. Ararat from its western side. On a white canvas they painted names of villages where Genocide took place.



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