David Antonyan is 15, and is his family's sole
provider. He collects bottles near his home in
Abovyan and every day makes the 20 kilometer trip
to Yerevan to sell them for money to feed his
The Antonyans - David, his 12-year old sister
Marine and their mother, Karine - are refugees
from Azerbaijan. The Antonyans left Baku in 1989
when it no longer became safe for Armenians to
live in Azerbaijan.
Several years ago the father left for Russia
and there has been no news from him. Karine has
a heart condition, and hasn't been able to work
for three years.
That leaves the teenage boy with the burden of
"David used to be a diligent student. However
two years ago he started concentrating on work,
and hasn't been thinking about studying since,"
Karine says. "At times when I was depressed
and complaining about how hard it was for me he
would always say 'Mom, please put up with it for
another year, I will start working as soon as
I finish the 8th grade, and will help you'."
Five months ago David finished 8th grade and
started working, collecting bottles -- buying
or simply gathering them, then reselling in Yerevan.
"I knock at the doors and ask if they have
any bottles," David explains. "There
are some people who don't take the money. They
say 'Good for you, you are such a little boy,
and you already work. You don't have to pay, please
just take the bottles.' But there are also those
who curse and say: 'Why are you taking the lift,
we don't pay for it so that you could use it.'
They want to hit me, but I run away. They get
angry that there is always someone knocking at
their door every five minutes".
David works about five hours a day and collects
an average of 50 bottles. He is not so strong,
and can't carry more than that. "I don't
take champagne bottles, because they are heavy.
Sometimes, when there are more bottles, I leave
them at somebody's house to come after them later,"
He takes a minibus to Yerevan and although the
usual fare is 200 drams (about 30 cents), drivers
have become familiar with the boy and charge him
the job in Yerevan, where bottles sell for
He makes about 20 drams (about three cents) on
each bottle. After transportation costs he brings
home about 500 drams (around 85 cents) per day
which is a helpful addition to the family poverty
pension of about $14 a month.
"We live on money earned by David,"
says Karine. "We eat mainly bread. We spend
450 drams (80 cents) on bread a day. A month ago
David got sick, he had fever, and was in bed for
two weeks. We couldn't buy bread during that time."
If the winter is not too harsh, the Antonyans
can get by without heating their little apartment,
as it faces the sun. Although the children, especially
Marine, like watching TV very much, their old-model
TV consumes a lot of energy, and they very seldom
turn it on.
Marine is in the 6th grade. She says she likes
living in Abovyan and that Yerevan is scary.
"Angry and bad people live there,"
she says. "They slam doors in my brother's
Marine's favorite subject is literature, and
her favorite novel is "Gikor", about
a boy who collected buttons for a dress for his
"The boy had been working since childhood
and eating leftovers. Gikor was a good boy. He
also cared about his sisters," Marine says.
sales route takes David down an alley and
past St. Gregory The Illuminator Church.
Unlike her mild-mannered brother, Marine reacts
to even the slightest insult. She often ends up
in fights. But she also takes care of matters
at home, doing the house chores.
"When I am ill, Marine is constantly by
my side. I am a lucky mother to have such children,"
Two tears ago the Antonyans were renting an apartment,
paying about $9 a month. But then Karine's health
got worse, and she could no longer do hard work.
She used to work in a bakery, but the heat and
humidity there was bad for her heart condition.
She applied to the Board of Refugees and got a
14 square meter room on the 9th floor at the dormitory
of Auto-Transportation college.
Moving to the dormitory, Karine became eligible
for a knitting project sponsored by the Student
Association for Medical Aid (SAMA). For two years
the students have been providing 58 refugee women
from several dormitories with wool, which the
women use to knit sweaters and socks. They are
paid about $17 for their work, and the clothes
are distributed to about 200 children and 60 elderly
from poor families.
Karine has knitted six sweaters and six pairs
of sox - the last ones were presented by SAMA
to Karine's own children.
"I have been knitting since I was 13,"says
Karine, needles in her hands, knitting for her
children using threads from old clothes. "This
project is exactly what I needed. I can knit sitting
in my apartment. I wish they would make more orders
. . ."
For information about the Student Association
for Medical Aid, go to www.sama-mcgill.org.
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAMA director Stella Ghukasyan can be reached
at 48.09.41. To assist the Anotonyans, or to make
a general contribution to ArmeniaNow's HyeSanta
project, click here.