Arpenik Beglaryan. She does not walk. She talks to me lying in down. A little girl’s toy, a plastic kettle, is placed next to it. She drinks water from it. She says it is lightwighted. Only one eye has vision. Even with that, she has to lift the eyelid with her fingers so that something can be seen. The hand is getting tired. She cannot hold her eyelid for a long time and look at me. “I’m sorry to let it [the eyelid] go. Will it be OK?” Is it okay if I do not look at you?” she says and throws her head on the pillow.
The small stall where the crippled woman is lying used to be her shop. She sold cigarettes, candy, pens, and coffee to passers-by. She says that the former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan gave her that booth as she is the daughter of a person killed in the Great Patriotic War [WWII]. At the time when trade was booming, Arpenik was a successful lady.
“I collected socks, made handkerchiefs, sold sunflower seeds… anything that was needed and possible. I have never taken more a penny from anyone. I created a cooperative apartment with my pure earnings. I got the cooperative apartment, my brother came and asked me to donate the house to him. His wife kicked me out… Serge [Sa8gsyan, the former President of Armenia] had put me on a list so that I could get a house as the war victim’s daughter, but during Nikol’s [current Prime Minister] time, the list was watered down, crossed out. They never gave it to me,” the woman sighs. It seems that she is talking to herself.
There is a stench in the stall-turned to house. There is no toilet, no bathing facility. Arpenik suffers from osteomyelitis. She was operated on 12 times. Her legs do not move for a long time. “I don’t have a leg. Both of my hips are broken; I’ve had this defect since childhood. They did 9 surgeries, but none worked out. Brezhnev sent me to Leningrad, they put a plastic hip joint. My knee doesn’t bend, I do not walk. My legs are useless things. I take each of them with my hand and put on the ground.”
What the 84-year-old woman is lying on can hardly be called a bed. It is something made from old things.
She was never married. She has no children. She had money saved in the Soviet Savings Bank. One day the woman was called from the the social walfare office. “I went, signed about 10 papers that I should receive 780 thousand drams. They never gave that money. The bank said there was something dubious in your papers, you should receive 150 thousand, not 780, I got upset and refused their money: I didn’t get it.”
Arpenik Beglaryan is upset with the world: the state, the bank, the municipality, those who give benefits and pensions. She explains that her allowance was cut off because she owns a stall, which, they say, means she is not in need. The first category of her disability was questioned. “He opened my passport and says, who gave you the first group [of disability]?” I said, “Look, is there a foot here?”
Hospitals still take money from the first-class disabled old Arpenik. “I was examined in Mikaelyan Hospital; they still demanded 80 thousand drams. I was forced to borrow and give them. The same happened in Shengavit Hospital. Nowhere the free of charge first class disabilty is really free,” says Arpenik’s niece Mariam, who takes care of her.
But the biggest dispute she has is with Yerevan Municipality. Arpenik has a few square meters of land in front of her stall. She asks to be allowed to bring water and build a small bathroom-toilet. She even has paid 200 thousand drams for the permit. They don’t allow it.
“Avinyan [the mayor] says turn to Veolia Water company. But what will Veolia Water do if I don’t have permission to have water here? I hadn’t showered in 9 months. The other day, the my niece somehow took me out, showered and brought back. Everyone has water and toilets in their stores. I do not have”.
During the four-day war, Arpenik Beglaryan saved 100 thousand drams and sent them to the soldiers. She says that it is her duty to the state. “I am not a dishonest woman who eats the bread of the state and disavows it. I will say this much… Don’t forget me.”
She wants someone “from the state” to come in and see why she is lying down. She even wrote on a piece of paper: “I am selling this booth for 200 thousand dollars” [an awful lot of money even for a large house] and posted on the window glass of the stall so that any government man wanders and enters the booth. In vain. The state has forgotten Arpenik.