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Martiros Chughuryan , 75 years old.

This is one of the most respected and loved residents of the Nursing House here in Gumri; always neat, considerate of others, treating everyone nicely. When we entered his small room for the interview he was reading a book about spies. He likes to read, listen to music and socialize with people.

Martiros was born in 1928 in a family of workers; there were 6 children in the family. His ancestors came from Kars, a part of Armenia currently in Turkey. In early 20th century Turks forced Armenians to leave their homes through massive killings; Martiros’ grandparents escaped and settled in the Gumri area. When the Second World War hit in 1941, Martiros had to quit the school doring his 7th grade and go work in the factory to support the family. That was the beginning of his long journey to becoming the first master in welding in the city. Gumri has been known for its wonderful masters in carpentry, welding, carpet making and other handcraft. The management of the factory appreciated his high quality job and awarded him with several awards for best performance. Martiros trained many workers. In recognition of his excellent work he was sent to Germany twice to train the welders in a similar factory. He presented his work in Moscow exhibitions several times.

Martiros was happy with his life: he was young, hard working, married to a lovely woman who was teaching at school. He had a daughter and three wonderful grandchildren; it was a very modest family yet enjoying what they earned with hard work. He felt they had raised a good daughter and had wonderful grandchildren. He was known not only as a good master but also as a good father and husband for his family; he enjoyed many people’s respect and love. He was godfather for 40 baptism and marriage ceremonies. Still in his small notebook he keeps pictures of those who he married, or baptized. He also shared with us pictures of his family.

This happiness however, lasted until 1988 when a terrible earthquake hit the northern part of Armenia. In few minutes Gumri was beyond recognition, most high buildings collapsed, many schools, factories and other public buildings leveled to the ground. 25,000 people died in the earthquake, including Martiros’ entire family…his wife, daughter and three grandchildren. Avetik Isahakyan, a talented poet from Gumri area once wrote: God gave his grief to stones, they could not tolerate it and broke, God gave his grief to people and they bore it. Martiros was devastated, yet he took his grief and stood alone fighting for survival. He worked in the factory for one more year before his legs quit working and he couldn’t walk any more. His pain was too much. It directly affected his health. His friends took care of him for few years but they were getting old too.

Martiros lives in the Gumri Nursing House since 1996 and still has a bright spirit: this is Armenian character, he is proud of what he has been, ponders a lot about life and what happened to his family: like a dream he recalls all. Here he met Gayane, another resident of the Nursing House who fell in love with him and in their early 70s they got married. His spirit helped him survive and keep his identity. When we asked Martiros to share some good memories with us, he couldn’t think of any about his family, the pain was too deep. He however, mentioned that he still is missing his job and has visions of him working and producing something useful.

Martiros’ marriage was quite an event. Due to Gayane’s excellent care he started walking again and felt like he has a big family again including the caring staff and Gayane. During our visit we found that Gayane passed away which was hard on Martiros. But as always, he was pleasant, very nice and kind to everyone. What a delightful spirit.





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