I Measure the Everyday Life of Our Country through the Lives of Our Children’: Interview from Goris

The interview with Donara Galstyan, 58, took place at the Goris Women’s Resource Center in Armenia, on Jan. 23, 2011. Donara is married without any children. She grew up in a village along the border and spoke of her extensive work with children, particularly those who’ve lost their parents, some as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Here is her story:

I have worked with children for a long time, already about forty years. First I was headmistress at a kindergarten, after that administrator of the former Pioneer school children, later center director. Now I am director of the Hall of Combat Glory. This hall is a big museum dedicated to the freedom fighters [from the Karabakh war] and those who died in the Great Patriotic War. It’s dedicated to their traditions, their customs, their events, and sometimes we have memorial events for our fallen freedom fighters. On the anniversary of the Great Patriotic War on May the 26th, we always have a traditional day dedicated to them.

For four years I worked with parentless children at the Siranush camp organized by the Yeghegnadzor-Syunik diocese. There were children of fallen freedom fighters as well; in the last few years only parentless children. During the war years of the nineties, at the children’s center we took care of parentless children from Martuni, Martakert and Stepanakert for two years. For two consecutive summers the children came to us for a vacation. Those war years of the nineties are always with me, through the children’s eyes. I always see them with my eyes as if through their eyes. Can you imagine the parentless children? Their views, their feelings… It was very difficult to work with them, but I think I managed, as I loved them and they loved me back. Today I am still working with children. Last year I also went to the summer camp for parentless children, even at my age, but I worked there with great pleasure.

It is my wish in my life that our children will never be sad. Because I have worked with children in this country, as a woman and as a person who works with children I want that no child in the entire world will ever be sad or see war. I have seen what war does to children, their emotions, the look in their eyes, their cries, their sleepless nights. Secondly, I wish that slowly-slowly the living conditions of our children are improving. Already there are senior schools, care-centers for children, and curriculum-planned free education. Children are my world and through them I measure the everyday life of our country.

The biggest achievements of our country in the 21st century were the creation of our independent state, the creation of our strong army and soldiers that are protecting our children’s peace. It is true that the war has not yet finished for us and at every moment it can explode [again]. All of us women say that we don’t want war. So I wish that there will be no war in this world. Also, maintaining our independence is very good: freedom of speech, independence, that’s a wonderful process in our country.

There’s another thing as well. In a country from where people emigrate there is something wrong; for the children, for the people, for the women, something is wrong. What is wrong for example in our country? In our country it is wrong that there are price-rises in everyday expenses for children, which is disadvantageous. You see that one child is dressed very nicely; the other is sort of pale, sad. I wish it wasn’t like that. At school or in our centers, one of the children can be dressed so beautifully; there are children dressed as fancily as the teacher. That is not nice. It’s possible to choose one way [of dressing] for the children. That comes from the standard of living and price-rises. Some parents have work, others don’t; unemployment is very high around here. The priority is that there should be work, whether a business or public service. Our people need to have something to do, so they can maintain their families and their children. For me children always come first, because I always want them to grow up careless and playing, that they are happy. They are our future. They are the meaning of our lives. If we are unable to build their path, build their future, what will be the future of our state? So whatever we do, we do for our children. That’s why it would be very good if there were jobs and that our numerous children are studying. We have very smart kids! Now they graduate but don’t have jobs. One, two years and the children forget [what they learned]. If only higher education was planned in a way that so many students would graduate that they could find work in our country. Now they graduate, can’t find jobs and they end up emigrating. Emigration again affects the children the most. The father doesn’t have work, he leaves his family, and the family is destroyed. The child is left without parents.

Where are they going?

They go to Russia; they go abroad, wherever they can find work. Sometimes they go and can’t maintain their existence and they forget their family. They have more children, start another family, and take another wife [abroad].

Still, the wife has a very big role in the family. I am not saying that in our Armenian families the man is the head and the woman the neck, as the saying goes. Wherever the neck is moving, the head will move in that direction. No matter what, the wife can do her part. The Armenian woman will never abandon her child or only in extremely rare circumstances. Whether it’s now in the workplace or in the family, the woman definitely has her place. Any organization led by a woman is very organized, very disciplined, regular. I don’t underestimate men, and I am not overestimating women very much – both have equally good qualities -, but women are a bit more organized. A woman knows how to manage the finances of the family. Now the situation is such that the women work and the men don’t have jobs. This is an unpleasant situation for a family.

One of the problems in our country is that our children have a lack of employment. Another problem is the high cost of living which also affects our children. The third is our emigration, which shouldn’t exist. Finally, I only say no to war. Let our children live in peace. That is all I want for our country, for our world. Let there be only peace.

What does your husband do?

Nothing! Nothing! Now that there is one employed at home, he doesn’t do anything. But I am not nagging him too much about that: “You’re not working! Our family is not doing well!”

Were you born in Goris?

I was born in 1953. I am already over 50 years old. I was born in a village, but I have lived in Goris since I was young. Our village was on the border. Because my parents moved [to Goris], I lived here, studied here. I even graduated from a second institute in Stepanakert, in Karabagh. I graduated in language and literature and in mathematics. Now I live and work in Goris. I have been working since 1972.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>