Raya Hovhannisyan and her son Karapet, 44, shared lunch in the tiny kitchen of their domik. Rice soup, mashed potatoes, borsch with meat—all prepared and given to them by FAR’s Gyumri Atinizian Soup Kitchen.
They ate together as they usually did, in a home plagued by mold and damp, which are just some of the many seemingly ineradicable problems Raya has faced ever since she purchased her domik in the mid-1990s.
“During the winter, it’s worse,” she said. “The walls are so thin that the heat doesn’t stay inside.”
Raya’s story is similar to many others who tragically lost everything during that fateful day in 1988 and who now greatly rely on assistance from FAR’s Social Services Program.
After the earthquake Raya received an apartment as part of a public housing project, but later had to sell it to save the life of her younger son,Gnel, who needed a costly lung surgery.
“He couldn’t have survived if not for the surgery. They removed one-third of his lungs and now he is a cook in Russia,” she said.
Today Raya survives on her meager pension. Karapet doesn’t work due to heart problems. There is very little food, and she often has to purchase her groceries on store credit. Yet, one reason she is able to make ends meet is due to the help she receives from the soup kitchen.
“It’s hard to survive, but I have an unbroken soul and can overcome almost anything, even the hardest obstacles,” she said.