"Human Garbage" Or Cemetery Of Officials’ Consciousness

By Sousana Margarian

AZG Armenian Daily #142

Human Tragedy

There may be many people who know where the Yerevan Retirement Home
#4 is situated. It is in Haghtanak (Victory) village. I would advice
the officials of the retirement home, as well as the heads of the
relevant departments of ministries to find its location for sure,
as the situation in the retirement home, notwithstanding the firmness
of the officials’ position, tears their masks off and reveals their
true faces, the result of their criminal indifference.

I will never be able to forget the things I saw there, and it would
be good, if those who are well aware of that disgrace and tragedy and
can serenely sleep in their cosy beds with their beloved and hated
partners, after wasting millions in gambling houses, should be sent
to the hospital of the same retirement home for at least three days
as a punishment, so that they could feel all the tortures that the
old people undergo there on their own skins.

Dumping Place for Humans Beings

"What are you doing here, my girl? This is a dumping place for humans
and I am left here. We will not recover, we are just waiting for God,"
said an exhausted Mrs. Varsen, an old woman in bed. (All the names of
interview people are changed, lest they aren’t prosecuted for giving
an interview to a journalist).

I asked her about her pension and daily food she gets.

"I am a genocide survivor, that’s why I get AMD 25 thousand of
monthly pension, but a relative of mine takes almost all of it to
cover the expenses of my future grave or buys some food for me. But
this is a cemetery, It’s not a place to live in. We are just waiting
for our time to pass away to heaven. We don’t even need a pension,"
she said. "My family left me here and went to America," she told me,
showing the photo of her beloved family members.

83 years old Astghik Sirekanian is a lawyer and an economist. "I would
never have thought that someone can treat old people like this," she
said in brilliant Armenian. She is concerned that in their mansion
they are deprived of a telephone. Mrs. Astghik was reading a book
entitled "That’s How We Should Live."

There was a woman who could walk. She said that the food is poor and is
not tasty at all, but they have to eat that not to starve. She said she
sometimes helps the older ones who give her some money for cigarettes.

There is a library at the retirement home, but few pensioners can
read the books because of their poor eyesight. The pensioners were
asking for newspapers, books, mobile phone or even coffee from me.

A Retirement Home, a Madhouse or a Shelter for Homeless ?

A relevantly young girl would constantly hinder my conversation with
the old ladies. She stared at me and uttered odd sentences. The old
women explained to me that she is insane. She always steals things
from people around. The old ladies also complained about the men with
schizophrenic behavior who bother them at nights by cursing loudly
and noisily shutting the doors. But the women are helpless, they have
no place to escape. The first chamber of the ladies’ department is
considered the best one, though one can smell the disgusting excrements
here too. I can hardly stand on my feet or even breathe.

Another pensioner complains that the food is so bad that they always
feel bad after eating. When I approached to one of the pensioners to
talk to her, she burst out crying. Her friends told me she always
behaves like that. Afterwards, David Shahbazian, the head of the
retirement home, told me that they had a psychologist, a young woman
who takes care of the old patients. It was hard to believe.

"I want an apple. I haven’t eaten an apple for two years since I am
here," the crying old woman says, stretching her hand as a beggar. She
also complained that she doesn’t get medicine prescribed for her.

Another old woman is shivering with excitement. She urges me to dial
a number to connect to one of her relatives. "I miss her, I miss her
greatly. Let her come to me, I don’t need her to bring me anything,
I just want her to visit me," she says crying, when she gets connected
to her girl’s house. Then she grasps my hand and kisses for letting
her call from my mobile phone. "I am here for two years and three
months. We are looking forward for someone to visit us and bring
us something to eat. We are starving here, my girl," she said. When
I try to leave her room, she does everything to make me stay a bit
longer. "I am a veteran of the World War II. I have been working as
a nurse for 45 years," she tells the story of her life.

I don’t know how to leave her room. I want to escape from the brutal
irony of life and never face the shame of seeing an old naked woman
sitting on the edge of her tiny bed. Visiting each of the chambers
requires firm nerves and courage. The disgusting smell of the rooms
makes faint even the strongest people. Former beauties with swollen
legs and faces of a beggar, former mothers and grannies are living
in these rooms.

They say that they all are louse-infected, that’s why they all have
short hair.

Can You Imagine the Retirement House Has an Administration and Even
a Sightseeing Mansions?

Young director of the retirement home David Shahbazian home speaks
literary Armenian. In response to the question why there are mentally
ill people in their retirement home, he expresses regret that I visited
the old mansion that is on the verge of a disaster. He wished I had
seen the other mansion that is being renovated by the financial support
of "Hayastan" All Armenian Fund. He added that the disgusting smell of
the hospital will never disappear, that is the smell of the old. Then
he said that the mentally ill people are sent to their hospital,
because the Vardenis madhouse is being reconstructed at present. "The
food is so good, that I can talk about that without shame.

They get as much food that even you and me can’t eat.

They get butter, cheese, sugar, meat, fruits and vegetables everyday,"
Shahbazian said. Then he said that the patients are exhausted because
of their old age. As for the telephone, Shabazian said that it was
removed at the request of the very relatives of the patients, who
didn’t want to be disturbed.

The Unique Ones

Only the young members of the Armenian Apostolic Church and father
Grigor visit the old people. They bring bread with sour cream and
sausages to them once a week, pray for them and read the Holy Bible
for the old. Father Grigor thinks that the retirement home can be
saved only after privatization by a benevolence organization. He also
suggested to open a gambling house and spend all of its profits on
the retirement home in Haghtanak village, where our former mother
and father expecting the end of their lives.