from the rest of the city the building became
a new but not comfortable home for refugees
When it is getting dark Margarita Garibyan lights
candles and the oil lamp and calls her neighbors
to play the card game "preference".
They play until midnight or even longer though
neither Garibyan nor her neighbours are gamblers.
The game is a way to pass the time and an entertainment
that does not require electricity, a convenience
Garibyan and her neighbors have been without for
Women say they miss ironing and are tired of
hand washing; men miss the TV football games and
children dream of watching cartoons and movies.
The smell of kerosene accompanied their conjectures
of when they would have electricity and return
to normal living conditions.
The scene is reminiscent of a decade ago when
Armenia faced energy crises and blockade. But
this scene is present-day, at the building which
is a property of HayElectroMash electrical plant.
Garibyan and her neighbors have little belief
that officials will enlighten their life.
In August, the Central Electricity Network cut
off the plant's electricity, because of unpaid
The unexpected energy crisis paralyzed not only
the work of the plant but affected the lives of
60 families who live in the building located on
the territory of the plant.
With the exception of two or three families,
the inhabitants of the hostel are refuges from
Azerbaijan. They escaped in the early 1990s from
pogroms in Baku and Sumgait and found their new
homes in Yerevan being allocated in that building,
which used to be a rest house for the plant's
At that time the giant plant with a territory
of 730,000 square meters faced the serious problems
of the economic crisis as the rest of the plants
Built in 1940 the plant used to be one of the
biggest and profitable enterprises during Soviet
times producing generators of different types,
transformers and mobile electric power stations.
Karen Demirchyan, the former leader of Soviet
Armenia had spent most of the past decade in charge
of the plant after the Kremlin removed him for
failing to cope with the independence movement
in 1989. (In 1998 Demirchayn was elected the Speaker
of the National Assembly and was assassinated
with seven other officials during the terrorist
attack on Armenian Parliament on October 27, 1999)
Virabyan buys milk for her baby every day,
since there is no chance to use refrigerator.
In 2000 the plant was transformed into an Open
Joint Stock Company. But the giant plant failed
to function profitably. Workers have not been
paid since 2001, but still hope that they will
be paid this December when the plant is completely
The failure of the plant had not effected the
lives of the refugees living on its property,
(who paid the plant for electricity) until its
unpaid debts put them in the dark.
Manager Seyran Matevosyan could not be reached
to comment on the current problems. Officials
from Shengavit district municipality (where the
plant and hostel are located) told ArmeniaNow
that they are trying to find a solution to the
power problem and have plans to lay new electrical
cables to the hostel.
Meanwhile the refugees say that they were promised
they'd have electricity a day after it was cut
off. Residents of the hostel applied to the City
Council, to the Government Department For Migration
and Refugees and wrote a letter to President Robert
Kocharyan asking to make the electricity provision
independent from the plant. But so far their requests
yielded no results as no official replied to them.
"After we escaped from Azerbaijan we found
ourselves in Armenia and share with it all the
problems such as hunger and cold. But we were
not complaining because the whole country had
the same problems as we had," said Garibyan.
"Now it is hard to stand the darkness. In
evenings we go on the balcony and watch the lights
of the city."
Garibyan's two daughters say they are getting
used to doing homework by candlelight, but complain
that the eye stress gives them headaches.
"I am wearing the clothes that don't require
ironing, such as sweaters and jeans," says
11-year-old Narine Garibyan.
two daughters say they are getting used
to doing homework by candlelight, but complain
that the eye stress gives them headaches.
"But recently my school teacher told me
that me and sister should wear a white chemise
to the school. I told her that we do not have
electricity for several weeks. First she did not
believe me, but then my mum told her that it is
true and the teacher said that she would bring
an iron to school, and suggested that I iron my
clothes at school."
The power cut affects all people in the hostel,
from one-year-old Jasmine, who is afraid of the
dark, to 83-year-old Hasmik Israelyan, who is
"Probably I am the only person here who
is happy that the weather is getting cold,"
says Jasmine's young mother 20- year- old Vika
"As I can not use the refrigerator it is
impossible to keep the milk and other foodstuff.
I am buying fresh milk every day for one day otherwise
it is getting sour" she said.
Most of the refugees are unemployed and live
under hard social conditions. Added to their economic
woes is the need now to buy candles. A box costs
about 33 cents, and lasts one week.
Most of the refugees say that at the time when
Demirchayn was running the plant they had more
hopes and fewer problems.
The refugees spend their evening remembering
the past when they had high social status, job,
money and electricity.
The hostel though fenced from the plant is surrounded
by huge pipes and technical equipment. The road
to the hostel is not easy to find as it passes
across abandoned train tracks and deserted shanties.
The refugees say they are isolated from the rest
of the city and joke that they do not get help
because the officials do not know they exist.