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Avagyan Ashkhen

Ashkhen was born in 1928 in Gumri. She was the only child. During the years of repression their family, along with hundreds of others, was sent to Siberia. This was in common place in 30-40s and many families became victims of repression for being “kulaks” (having private land and not being part of Soviet kolkhoz and sovkhoz), for being a little different or just for being regular citizens.

Ashkhen was 21 when she married to an Armenian from their community in Siberia. There were young, hard-working couple, full of dreams and energy to fulfill their dreams. Deep in their heart they knew one day they would return to their homes in Gumri or any other part of Armenia. Ashkhen still had kind memories of her childhood in Gumri, the streets where she used to play with her friends, their nice house, and the backyard where she was feeding two little cute kittens. She also remembered an old song that her mother used to sing for her at nights.

Ashkhen’s son was a year old when her husband had an accident and died tragically. A week later her son passed away. This was the end of Ashkhen’s young family. It took her several years to recover. Life would never be the same for Ashkhen.

The day of freedom arrived; many families living in Siberia were released from “home” prison. Ashkhen’s dream of seeing her motherland came true, alas, her family could not share her feelings and the happiness. In Gumri Ashkhen started working which was a little alleviation, which helped her gain some energy for life. Now that she was working, she was the main breadwinner of the family. After her parents died, Ashkhen felt very lonely, she did not have any siblings or other relatives that she felt she could stay with. Her only consolation was her work in the plant and her little corner, little house and her own world of memories. The 1988 devastating earthquake ruined everything. Ashkhen’s building was leveled to the ground. How many times, thought Ashkhen at the time, can I start all over again, why is this endless chain of suffering and terrible losses, why!

Before moving to the Gumri Nursing Home, she lived with a distant relative, but not for a long time. She didn’t want to burden anyone and soon, at her own request she was brought to this asylum. Her relatives often visit her and she is happy for that.

Life is full of surprises, you never know where you start and where you end up, never know what God has waiting for you in the corner, where your time is for happiness and joy. As I was talking with this woman, I felt like she never figured when her time for happiness was, whatever she had, was so short term, whatever she had was somehow taken from her without her enjoying it for long. She looked puzzled even now, after so many years have passed by and are history now.





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