Life under shells was easier than this year of peace. the nurse is homeless and unemployed

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Ofik Antonyan would never have imagined that, at the age of 60, she would be on the streets, relying on goodwill of her friends and relatives.

Born in Kapan, she lived in Artsakh for 30 years and served in the Defense Army. Jebrail’s regiment, where Ofik served, was located ten meters from the front line. When the Turks [means Azeris] entered the area, she was in a shelter in Mekhakavan. “They said the Turks are already in the area, get in the cars, get out of the area. We didn’t even have time to enter the houses, take a couple of clothes; we barely could run away.”

When, like thousands of people, she lost her home and property, she still believed in the early days that no one would be left without help, that everyone would be accommodated, fed, and given a job.

“In my case, nothing happened. It’s been three months I have no job, no place to stay. I stay with my regiment friend. She has an older son, I am ashamed; how long can I bother people?” Ofik Antonyan asks sadly.

She went through all the relevant bodies, from Stepanakert Municipality to Artsakh Investment Fund. The only good news was heard from the staff of the Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Hayk Khanumyan.

“When I went to Khanumyan, his employee told me, ‘Madam, I can put you in “Kakadu”. There is a nurse there. They will provide one room, and one will be an aid station for you’.”

For about a month, the wonderful name “Kakadu” gave Ofik the power to live. For a month, she hoped that she would finally have a job and a roof over “Kakadu”, a hotel complex on the banks of the river Askeran, which serves as a shelter for the elderly after the war.

“I was happy. For a month, blinking my eyes, I went to sleep and woke up saying I had to go to Kakadu. They were sayin today-tomorrow in the Ministry. One day I took a taxi and went to Kakadu. I gave my last cents to the taxi and went there. The boss of Kakadu says to me, ‘Well, I have no opening for a nurse; who told you such a thing?’ Then he told his workers to take me and through with the four old women to stay. And, without listening to my words, he left, turned his back and left,” Ofik is indignant, assuring that no one had insulted him like that before.

We contacted the Minister of Territorial Administration of the Artsakh Republic Hayk Khanumyan about Ofik Antonyan. “One of the service providers at Kakadu is a nurse, so they do not see the need for another nurse there. We provide housing, we do not provide employment. We told that woman to go and settle there if there was a need to set up an aid station. Now if she does not want to come and stay in the shelter, what should I do? I can’t solve the issue of a nurse’s job; she has to apply to the Ministry of Health,” Minister Hayk Khanumyan told Forrights.am.

Ofik Antonyan has never applied to the Ministry of Health. “Why didn’t they tell me from the beginning what to do, where to go. If there is no opening, why did you send me here? I was ignored; why do you treat people like that?”

Ofik Antonyan’s second battle is with the Artsakh Investment Foundation. After the war, the government announced that the citizens’ loans would be compensated. Consumer loans received by individuals until September 27, 2020 would be reimbursed, that only the beneficiaries actually residing in Artsakh will be able to use the state support.

It was envisaged that the participants in the war or their family members would receive a compensation of 15% of the total amount of the principal balance of mortgage or business loans as of September 27, 2020.

Ofik Antonyan, who has about 1.5 million loans [about $3,000], meets all the announced criteria, but neither her loans were forgiven, nor was some compensation provided. In this case, too, the military veteran was rejected.

“I applied to the Artsakh Foundation, I was told that first of all the dispersed persons born in Artsakh are being supported. And I was born in Armenia, in Kapan. I am asking our government for one thing: to forgive my loans, or at least give me a job so that I can repay those loans and live on my pension,” says Ofik Antonyan, a senior non-commissioned officer in the three Artsakh wars. It was easier under the shells than this year of peace.

Syuzan Simonyan