Sunday, 18 August

The Adamyan‘s of Aknaberd: Raising 8 Children on $132 a Month is a Challenge

As we approach the house of the Adamyan family in the Artsakh village of Aknaberd, Rita Adamyan doesn’t see us. 

The mother of eight is sweeping the ground around the tonir – the traditional Armenian clay oven.

Rita then puts the broom aside, sweeps the sweat from her brow, and waves hello.

She then asks if we’ve lost something in this deserted place. We smile back.

She laughs but quickly shuts her mouth. Rita is toothless, even at the young age of 38.

“I have seven boys and one girl,” Rita says, stroking the golden hair of Nairya, the youngest.

The gate opens and one of her sons is bringing back a donkey laden with wood.

Her oldest son is not yet 21. Another serves in the army.

Rita and her husband Ashot moved to Aknaberd in 1995 after fleeing Getashen a few weeks before it was taken over by Azerbaijani forces in 1991.

Their road of exile first took them Yerevan, Tzaghkatzor and then to Vartenis, where the couple got married.

When I asked how the family is living, Rita first says they are getting by and then confesses that they have problems. The biggest is financial. The family has racked up a large bill at the village store. Sometimes, the shopkeeper refuses her goods on credit.

Rita then lists what the family owns – one donkey, six sheep and one pig. The latter will be slaughtered for a feast when their son finishes his military service.

The family receives a monthly state allowance of 54,000 AMD (US$132) for the children. It’s their only income.

Ashot joins in the conversation, telling me that there is no work to be had in the village. They work the family garden and sometimes the oldest son goes off to the forest to gather wood for others.

Now 46, Ashot says he served in the Vartenis detachment for three years and six years as a contractual soldier at the Haterk battalion. Ashot says he’s too old to serve in the army today.

As we enter the house, Rita points to the wooden stove she uses to cook the family meals.

Ashot switches on the light in the living room but the bulb is weaker than a candle. There’s nothing in the room except for an old sofa and a TV.

The other two rooms are used for sleeping. Beds are the only furniture. Another small room serves as a sort of pantry.

When I ask if they have sought assistance from the Artsakh government, Rita replies: “I’ve been told by many to apply for help but I wouldn’t know where to go.”

(After the birth of a sixth child, the government steps in and builds the family a house. That’s how the Adamyan family got theirs.)

Before leaving, I ask if it would be possible to photograph the family in a group shot.

Rita laughs and says it will be hard to get everyone together. She finally does.

Rita and Ashot smile and say how great it is to have at least one family photo.

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Comments (4)
1. Gali09:04 - 13 September, 2014
Hello, ide like to know the address of the familys house. Because our AYF chapter would like to make a donation. Thank you
2. Hetq10:36 - 13 September, 2014
Dear Gali - You should write directly to the author of the article Marine Martirosyan( and state who you are and how you would like to assist this family. Where is your AYF chapter? If overseas, how do you propose to transfer any funds to Armenia?
3. Preston Bagrationi20:50 - 13 September, 2014
Sadly, the minority few corrupt people in Armenia eat well, and all the time, the poor and disenfranchised majority looks on but is unable to taste. Such is the destiny of our people. How can a(n) oligarch/government official live in his/her multi-million dollar mansion, and then drag the children of the majority poor to serve in the army is beyond me. The people must rise up and overthrow the corrupt minority rich, who expertly are fleecing Armenia, and all the time the majority poor, live on $130 a month pittance. Shame on us All for allowing this kind of injustice flourish in our homeland.
4. gali06:01 - 17 September, 2014
hello my name is gali kouyoumjian. i am a badani at the la crescent chapter in california. i presented your article last week. and our chper would like to make a donation to this family. by axing money by a fundraiser. but we need the address of the families house so please can u send me the adresss or email it to me. thank you
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