- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 9, 2003 

Land Locked: A glimpse at one man's escape to abandonment

A 70-year old accordian is a rare source of entertainment..

Abandoned villages with five or six ruined buildings each, reached by a dirt road that takes a four-wheel-drive three hours to go 40 kilometers is what the war in Karabakh left the region of Berdzor.

Here, there are no sounds of cars, alarms or related noises of civilization; only quiet and incredibly beautifully chains of mountains, untouched by war's destruction.

Samvel says he has learned jobs previously assigned to women . . .

Forgotten nature, once preferred by Armenians who since have moved to the cities, has become haven to some who wanting neither a past or a future, chose to start all over in abandoned villages like Vazgenashen. It is a location that fascinated Samvel Gyulizadyan from the first moment he arrived there.

Lithe and tall at about 1.90 meters, with long hair and long beard, sly but kind eyes, and a constant smile, Samvel looks as if he isn't from Vazgenashen at all. And he wasn't until 1994, when he decided to leave his lush life on Sayat Nova Avenue in Yerevan and move to the place that offers him an isolated and peaceful living.

He is married and has two children but his family was less passionate about moving to Vazgenashen. So, he is visited by his beloved once a year.

Samvel traded the life of an urban architect for the life of a hermit: "In Yerevan, when it was time to go to sleep, I would only get noise, while here I found the harmony I needed."

. . . including making lavash..

Was it difficult for Samvel to accommodate to the isolation of Vazgenashen? As a traditional Armenian man who is not used to cook or do the cleaning, it is still difficult. But being apart from his wife, he learned things that men usually don't do.

Baking lavash is one of Samvel's favorite occupations. Unlike many women in Armenia who cook bread once a month, Samvel doesn't makes it as often as three times a week, so he eats it fresh and crunchy. Still, he would love someone to do the things he doesn't like.

He likes having the bread fresh . . .

"From all the things I do in the housekeeping, most of all I hate doing laundry and cleaning the dishes", he giggles. "Consequently, my wife has a lot of work when she visits me".

During summers Samvel fishes and hunts, and in winter he lives off beans, cheese and canned vegetables.

He also keeps a cow and three dogs, and only a year ago he began bee-keeping. He says he should have learned bee-keeping earlier.

"Moving into a tiny village doesn't exclude mundane ambitions like making money," Samvel says, referring to his goal of making a business out of bee-keeping.

. . . so he makes it often..

Samvel doesn't have a TV or a radio and the last news he heard is that the US-British military entered Baghdad. "Less news you hear, the happier you are."

When he feels bored, Samvel plays his accordion, a 70 years-old Hohner that he got from a friend who actually never got the chance to learn it. His accordion, together with his older dog and a small bag of food were all he brought when he arrived in Vazgenashen nine years ago. The rest Samvel found here.

From the noise of Sayat Nova Avenue, Samvel enjoys the quiet of life in obscurity.

The house he found was abandoned, like many others, and included all the necessary furniture needed for living. It even had a small library with books in Russian that perfectly fit with Samvel's life style: "Without Family" by Malo or "Lost Illusions" by Balzac. "These are not my books," explains Samvel. "I just keep what I found here."

Samvel doesn't miss the abundant city life. He travels to the closest city, Berdzor, a couple of times a year to buy flour, salt, sugar, cigarettes and coffee - the needs nature cannot give him.


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  Photos of the week
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Day of Remembrance

May 9 is Victory Day, when Armenia remembers its war veterans with ceremonies that include laying carnations and standing in formation near the Eternal Flame above Yerevan.



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