Elderly cannot afford travelling by route taxi
Eduard Zhamakochyan wakes up at 7a.m. – out of habit, since he retired long ago. His wife, Anahit, is early astir. Families in Gyumri are traditional and respect for the family man is the law here. Therefore, Anahit is already in the kitchen and the husband is waiting until she makes him a cup of coffee. At 7:30 he is already in the hallway, where his tool box is and his job is to make “gurgling glasses. Edik, who is a well-known craftsman in Gyumri, is 70 years old and he is the only one, who makes them.
“You start drinking – and it sounds like this … we call them ‘clklan, that’s exactly how it sounds, – says the craftsman.
‘Clklan glasses’ are the symbol of Gyumri. They can be made of copper, brass, silver and sometimes gold. The secret of their manufacturing is known only to craftsman Edik. Zhamakochyans, who were mainly engaged in copper business, fled from Erzurum in 1895 and settled in Aleksandrapole, former name of Gyumri. Militos and Vahan brothers quickly got accustomed to the new place. They set up their shops, where they sold their copper products. In 1906, Edik’s father – Suren was born. He was the person, who handed down the grandfather’s craft to his son.
‘There is a saying in Gyumri: good craftsman is hungry just before noon. Then the work is done and a client pays for it, – says Edward. His clients differ: from ordinary workers to millionaires. Brass glasses cost 10-13 thousand drams (US$ 20-25). When asked about the price of precious metal items, craftsman Edik does not respond, he just squints slyly.
Edik used to be a worker all his life. He worked at the refrigeration compressor plant for 20 years, then at the textile mill for 7 years, at the spinning mill – for 2 years, at the construction site – for one year, military service in the Soviet army added 3 years to his proven record when calculating his pension. However, the pension is still small and he wins his bread by making “gurgling glasses.
While Edik is working on them, Anahit is engaged in cleaning up through careful, perfected movements. That’s how things should be done in traditional Gyumri – and one either complies to the local concepts of life there, or leaves. Having cleaned up the house, Anahit goes shopping – the market is a 15-minute walk from home.
Meat is the most important products. If there is no meat, Edik and his son will not eat. Dolma is the signature dish, which is a favorite one for all family members. The men also like fish and they sometimes go fishing and bring their catch for dinner.
Pensioners do not live alone. This is also the tradition, that is observed by everyone in Gyumri: parents usually live in the younger son’s family. There is no alternative to it. Otherwise, the question will arise: ‘What’s your problem, why don’t you live together?’ Vahan, a son, does not even think of living separately. The house is a little bit small, but there will be enough room for everyone. The most important is that fathers and children have normal relations. Lucky they are!
By 11 a.m., Edik and his wife are getting ready to go to the bank – it’s a pension day. Anahit usually goes alone, but today she is accompanied by her husband. They need to get a new plastic card –it will not be issued without his signature. “It is impossible to live on a pension, it is even hardly enough for a funeral. I get 39thousand drams (US$ 80), and my wife – 48 thousand drams (US$ 100), if it had not been for our son, who helps us, or for my craft, then we would not live at all. In Soviet times, people worked, received pensions, lived with their children, got medical treatment free of charge, enjoyed benefits in public transport. Can one travel by a route taxi free nowadays? ‘
Anahit went to the pharmacy in the morning, while Edik was busy with his toolbox. “I have spent 24 thousand drams (about US$ 50), but I managed to buy only half of medicines – she is telling upon return. They usually spend about US$100 on medicines per month – that is half of their pension.
They did not need all those medicines just six years ago. The year 2009 was good for their family – there were many orders. Nothing foreboded the unpleasant events. However, Edik frequently felt weak, his blood pressure often bounced up. He went to the outpatient clinic. The doctor examined and reassured him: nothing serious, go home. 6 days after, Edik was taken to hospital with a heart attack.
They never address the outpatient clinic anymore. If they need something, they turn to private clinic. Treatment in hospital is horrible to mention: “Our relative underwent a surgery and the family had to pay 370thousand drams (over US$ 750) only to cover the surgery expenses. Many pensioners simply die at home, because they will not get treatment for a penny pension. Elderly people in Armenia can get doctor’s consultation at the outpatient clinic free of charge and they may be operated free, provided that it is a sudden surgery, like appendicitis.
The year 2011 did not forebode anything bad either. But Anahit was feeling bad and doctors found, she had diabetes.
Edik believes, all their diseases are due to nerves. Their senior son has been in Rostov for already 20 years, he has got married and the parents cannot come to terms with the fact that he is so far.
The clients – some Italian pensioners – visited Edik today. “You know, what’s bad? – he has shared his impression, when they were gone – “In our country, once you retire on pension, you are written off. It is absolutely different abroad. Those Italians were telling me a long story, how interesting it is for them to live now…
“When Vahan was young, he did not want to follow my craft – says craftsman Edik, – I even thought of taking some other disciples. But I still wanted the secret of ‘gurgling’ glass to remain in our family. And the son came to reason and realized that the craft was very important. It still feeds us.
Then Vahan and his wife got back from work. Their four-year son – Edik and Anahit’s favorite child, woke up. The family gathered in the living room. ‘It’s probably worse than death to live alone when you are old, – said the grandfather. “It’s nice to have children and grandchildren.’ And suddenly it became clear that everyone has his/her own happiness. One can be very happy even without travelling around the world, going in for fitness or learning language like Canadian pensioners.