Abrahamyan agrees that time heals. But it
could heal faster if living conditions were
GYUMRI -- "Dear audience, today we want
to show you a performance dedicated to the ancient
city which lived through much pain and suffering
but didn't lose the main thing, its color and
optimistic approach to life."
So begins a performance of the Meghvik (Bee)
company at the Gyumri Puppet Center.
There is fact in the children's performance.
Gyumri stayed true to its good traditions, which
had nearly crumbled like the ground that disappeared
under the feet of its residents on December 7,
Meghvik was one of the first organizations to
regroup after the earthquake with an apparent
mandate to confirm that residents of Gyumri have
borne up against misfortune. They continue to
joke and it means they continue to live.
Classic characters like Master Mukuch and Lover
Onik are traditional for the city of song. One
of the new characters is a prim and proper lady
who came from abroad. She liked Gyumri so much
that by the end of performance she decides to
stay forever. Because there is a housing problem
in the city and she doesn't want to spend money
for a hotel she accepts the invitation of Master
Mukuch to live with him. The more especially as
he has put the eye on the lady since the opening
The puppeteers include Lusine Zakaryan, 15, who
lives alone with her unemployed mother and Aram
Baghdasaryan also 15, who was six months old when
the quake struck and is deaf as a result.
Scriptwriter and director of Meghvik is Vehanush
Hovhannesyan, who writes not only scripts but
often music for performances. She says that every
resident of Gyumri can relate to the script of
this puppet performance.
actors of Meghvik puppet theatre Lusine
Zakaryan and Aram Baghdasaryan.
"With the help of this performance we just
try to catch the spirit of Gyumri residents, our
traditions, manners and songs. And, of course,
by all means we try to emphasize that Gyumri residents
can overcome all problems," she says.
Vehanush lost her parents in the quake. Concentrated
on her own grief she was sluggishly reacting to
everything happening around her.
"I was 40 years old by that time but I took
the death of my parents very heavily. However,
I roused myself at once. God, if it is so hard
for me, an adult woman, then how hard it must
be for children, teenagers, who became orphans
in a fraction of second," she recalls.
Today more than 300 children are under her care.
All of them are pupils of Meghvik and it means
that they work hard like diligent bees sculpturing,
modeling, drawing, singing and performing
There are happy ends here. About 10 years ago
Vehanush was told that there was a seven year
old, very dirty and rude boy, who was drinking
vodka from the bottle at the square near the railway
station and who was earning money for bread and
vodka by singing songs in commuter trains from
Gyumri to Artashat. It turned out that the boy's
mother was in prison for committing theft and
his father went to Russia and left the child at
the mercy of fate.
"I won't tell you how hard it was to reeducate
him, what kind of terrible curses he was showering
upon us while we were trying to head him off the
wrong way," Vehanush says. "Probably
in this case it was again the art that helped.
Once he heard my song "Mayrik" ("Mother")
and he wished to sing it. Then he recorded it
and sent it to prison for his mother."
Vehanush doesn't want to tell his name because
now he works in the best hotel of Gyumri and leads
a dignified life.
Journalists at of one of the oldest newspapers
of Armenia "Banvor Kumayri" (more than
80 years) were also talking about dignified life
in the newsroom. Fourteen employees of that newspaper
died under ruins. The editor, Aghasi Abrahamyan
was outside the building during the earthquake,
he was head off to do a story about a furniture
factory. The factory and the newsroom were ruined.
7,000 families in Guymri are still waiting
for new apartments.
Today the newsroom is not equipped at all. In
the middle of the room, a wood-burning stove is
the centerpiece around which meetings are conducted.
Asked what the paper will report on this 15th
anniversary, Abrahamyan says there'll be the usual
flow of unsolicited poems. "And of course,
we will write about changes that have taken place
in the life of the city since the day of the earthquake."
Abrahamyan agrees that time heals. However, he
believes that it could heal quicker if living
conditions were better.
It's hard to find a family in Gyumri, which was
passed over by misfortune caused by the disaster.
It's hard to meet someone here who didn't experience
the pain of loss.
"We just try not to talk about it as we
don't want to deject each other's spirits,"
Reporters of "Banvor Kumayri" cover
the topics concerning construction with pleasure.
Thanks to "Lincy" Foundation residents
of Gyumri, Akhurian, Vanadzor, Spitak, Stepanavan
and Gugark were given keys to 3,674 new apartments
in recent years.
The puppets also talk about construction.
"Your city is pretty dusty," says the
lady from abroad, sneezing.
"It is not 'that' dust, sister-jan. It is
dust caused by construction. We are ready to bear
this dust with great happiness," explains
Master Mukuch. And addressing the lady he asks,
"Listen, may be you know Lincy? I've been
looking for him or her (I don't know whether Lincy
is man or woman) for a long time as I want to
kiss his or her forehead and tell big words of
Today about 7,000 families more are waiting for
the keys in Gyumri. Some people say that some
of those who were provided with comfortable apartments,
are not in a hurry to leave their temporary sheds.
According to governmental decision No. 432 of
1999, housing space distribution is based on the
principle of compensation for the lost. However,
during these years some families compensated their
casualties over and above. For instance, Karineh
Baghdasaryan's family consisted of five members
before the earthquake and could live in two-room
apartment. But now there are eight members in
her family. That's why they still live in their
domik - because it has three rooms.
Anyway, the ivory, soft-pink, and light brown
residences changed the mood of people living in
the disaster zone. Today, the level of despair
has lifted. Lacking, yet, is optimism, however,
because the second major problem after housing
"It's good to have an apartment but we can't
sit there doing nothing. 'Lincy' cannot take care
of feeding our children and equipping our new
apartments," says Gyumri resident, 42 year
old Svetlana Kazaryan.
Workers of "Banvor Kumayri" talk about
"There are no industrial establishments
in Gyumri and there are very few jobs. Only small
and retail businesses are functioning. And, of
course, thanks God, construction works are in
process. Thanks to these works 4,000-5,000 people
are employed. Hopes of people are connected only
with construction," says reporter Anahit
Abrahamyan, reminding that all attempts to launch
production in Gyumri have failed, brought an example
of a sugar factory.
"Six years ago Minister of Agriculture Mr.
Zadoyan buried a bottle of champagne into the
footing of a building that was to become a factory.
The territory had already been allotted and there
was also a project for $80 million. However, the
champagne was the only thing to come from the
Another topical problem for the city that has
entered the winter is heating. Residents of the
58th block say they are doomed to freeze because
the housing complex of more than 5,000 apartments
won't be supplied with gas. This year, authorities
decided to decentralize the area heating system,
but because of a lack of money were not able to
provide boilers for each district.
"Probably people won't endure in these cold
concrete buildings and will have to leave their
apartments and reside for a time in apartments
of their relatives and friends, who live in other
parts of the city," says Abrahamyan.
For 14 years, with the approach of December 7
state officials, political and public figures,
and media have deemed it a duty to publicly commemorate
Spitak earthquake that killed more than 25,000
and left thousands more without shelter.
"Disaster zone" became part of our
vocabulary. Those days we didn't know that soon
the whole country would be a zone of suffering
-- the war in Karabakh, the energy crisis and
hungry, cold winters took a toll. It seemed that
"December" would never end.
But even during those terrible years nobody forgot
about the Spitak earthquake. Commemoration was
accurately observed on the state level, however,
they tried not to visit victims of the disaster.
There was no sense to do that with empty hands,
without concrete projects on reconstruction.
Those days press often wrote, "it is immoral
to recall about the zone only once a year on December
7 consigning them to oblivion during the other
The task to transform a disaster zone into a
zone of development became concrete only during
recent years. Construction of buildings, restoration
of cultural centers in the zone and as a result
transformation of the city is a claim for the
Puppets, mastered by a new generation of Gyumri
residents and grown after the earthquake, talk
about it as well.
"We've had enough of grieving and frowning.
Let God give power to Gyumri people and we will
make our wonderful city more wonderful. So, let's
try to have fun already."
It seemed that the vital dance melody following
these words must have driven away all doubts and
grief. However, the strange thing is that the
more Gyumri people joke, the more they become
sad and their souls become more emotional because
of reminiscences of black December.