- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 October 24, 2003 

Mount Pleasant: Villagers enjoy fruits of their labors

“We haven’t taken even half of the crop that we had last year", says the head of the village Ishkhan Taroyan.

The mountains looming on the horizon look similar, except one that is crowned with a yellow-reddish wreath. Its gilded peak rises above grey clouds covering slopes where Geghard village in Kotayk region lives with its cares and joys.

When you take a closer look, the wreath turns into pear and apple orchards between which the roofs of individual houses are winking.

"Pick apples with tails but without leaves to keep a place for the coming year's crop," 65-year-old Taguhi Hambardzumyan repeatedly advises young pickers in the gardens.

Her garden is full of work noise. From one side branches of trees heavy with apples are shouting and calling and from the other side those who take part in cropping are talking, singing and laughing.

Stone crosses, remains of the ruined church are sacred for the villagers.

The lighter pickers climb the trees so as not to break the branches. They pick fruits one by one and pass them down to colleagues standing under the trees, who in turn place the fruits one by one into buckets or boxes.

Taguhi works in the storehouse, carefully sorting the apples.

"You must put aside any apple that you drop. It has received a bruise and won't live to see the end of spring. I talk to each apple. Look how beautiful they are," she says stroking red-cheeked and tempting fruits.

The entire village is involved in the process of cropping, which begins on October 1 and lasts for two to three weeks. Villagers call out relatives and friends and pay them to help as family members cannot do it alone.

Despite a heavy crop this year, the head of the village Ishkhan Taroyan is disappointed.

"We haven't taken even half of the crop that we had last year. Half of the orchards were frozen in early spring and the quality of the rest of crop worsened as a result of summer hails."

Villagers pick fruits one by one and pass them down to colleagues standing under the trees.

Samvel Harutyunyan and his family have already finished cropping. He says that the autumn shows how villagers will live during the whole year.

"I picked three tons of fruits and 100-150 kilograms of nuts from the 3,500 square meters of my home ground. Our apples are late-ripening and we start to take them to market from March and sell for 200-400 drams a kilo," he says.

Those who finish early help others, so you cannot find anyone sitting at home. They are all in a hurry and ask God to keep the weather good.

Taguhi says: "This is a mountain village. You can wake up in the morning and see that everything is covered with white snow and the whole crop will be spoiled."

From a geographical point of view, Geghard is located right in the center of the republic 42 kilometers south-east of Yerevan at the foot of the Geghama Mountains. It is 1,880 meters above sea level, and has a climate which locals say helps to explain why their fruits are so tasty.

Beautiful fruits of mountainous village.

However, Hambardzum Tonoyan, the 46-year-old village accountant, who is a construction engineer by profession, says the secret really lies in the water flowing down into the village from the mountain tops.

Irrigation and drinking water come from seven sources located in the Geghama Mountains, pouring out 150 liters a second.

Taroyan says: "Our villagers almost don't pay for water. We brought water from the mountains to our village through our own efforts and the Government spent nothing for that. Every year we reconstruct and renew our 18 kilometer long channel of water."

Ancestors of today's residents came to Geghard from Van in 1915 after the Genocide, while others originated in Sarukhan village of Gegharkunik region.

Today there are 139 houses and 350 residents in the village, a population that has increased gently by 80 or 90 people over the past decade. Every year, three or four children are born.

Villagers are proud that they stand firm on their land and that emigration hasn't penetrated life in Geghard. Only builders are not involved in the cropping as they are busy constructing a new school with state funding of 80 million drams (about $140,000).

After fruits are carried to the storehouse, they are carefully sorted..

Director of the school Vigen Taroyan says that the village children enjoy studying but their achievement level drops when they abandon classes to help their parents with the harvest.

There are 84 pupils and this year six children entered the school. It is written on the front of the school's old building that it was constructed by Turkish mullah Umbat in 1914.

The historical name of the village is Artiz. Taroyan says: "According to historical sources, King Trdat, whose residency was Garni fortress, argued with his son and expelled him from the palace saying, 'here take some span of land and live'. After that his son came here and founded Artiz. The village is approximately 1,500 years old."

In 1931 it was renamed Geghard. To get to it, one must climb the last five kilometers on foot as transport companies say there are too few passengers to justify a service to the village.

Stone crosses stand in the yards of many villagers. They say that these are remains of the village's ruined church. They put images of saints next to the stones, light candles and pray.

Nunush, a 73-year-old villager, says she prays every morning that God will "let me die only after we pick our apples and nuts".

She says today's village is a paradise compared to the one of her youth, insisting: "If you don't believe me then climb the mountain and take a look at it from there."

As she speaks, soft autumn evening surrounds the village which echoes to the sounds of cows and sheep coming down from the mountains. Women with bright colored aprons leave the gardens and hurry as they do every evening to milk their animals in the cowshed.

According to Agnes
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Surviving members of the legendary Ararat football team were reunited Friday October 24 for a match to mark the 30th anniversary of their Soviet league
championship and cup double-winning season in 1973. The team played an all-star former Soviet national side at Yerevan's Hrazdan stadium.



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