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Portrait: Grigoryan Sisters from Vanadzor Orphanage.

Over the years, I have visited Vanadzor Orphanage many times. It is during these visits when for a few moments, I’m able to take a glimpse into the lives of some of the hundreds of children who have grown up there, many of whom become Gulamerian Scholars. Often there are siblings who grow up in the orphanage together and I’ve done my best to try and understand their struggles.

Recently I met with the Grigoryan sisters from Stepanavan — Margarita, 19, Marieta, 17, and Arpik, 15, who are all sponsored by the Gulamerian program. Their father Yuri left for Russia in 1995 to find work and support his family back home. The girls haven’t heard from him since. Without a permanent home, their family had been living in a dilapidated shed at the time. After their father left, conditions worsened. Their mother was hospitalized for mental illness. The children’s grandmother Zina could not support the girls so in 1999 she brought them to Vanadzor Orphanage.

I asked how they were able to adapt themselves to this new place. “It was extremely difficult,” Margarita said. “We were immediately separated from the family. But being together did help. Also, we were immediately surrounded by our kind and gentle instructors who embraced us willingly. We are so thankful to them. Little by little, this orphanage has become our dear home.” Margarita’s eyes immediately filled up with tears after she finished speaking. I imagine talking about this made her recall the most difficult days of her childhood, and her life with her mother.

The girls told me that while rarely they meet with their grandmother, now 84, and their mother, they plan to live together, as soon as their mother recovers.

The young women are very different from one another but each of them is kind, devoted and determined. Thanks to FAR’s Gulamerian Scholarship Program, these girls are getting an education. Each year, the program helps Armenia’s orphans obtain a higher education, either through university or vocational studies. Margarita is an excellent student at Vanadzor State Pedagogical Institute’s Social-Cultural Department. Marieta studies theater at the Vanadzor branch of Yerevan State Institute of Theatre and Cinematography. Arpik is a student at Vanadzor State Technological College’s Department of Design.

The orphanage social worker Anahit Petrosyan described the three sisters as joyful, lively children. “They participate in every event with great enthusiasm. They always try to contribute,” she said.

They have different professional goals but the same aim — to be the best in their field. Margarita dreams of becoming a journalist and of bringing issues related to orphans, youth and social inequality to the public’s attention. She also emphasized that her most important aim is to one day have a tight-knit, healthy family of her own. Marieta dreams of being an actress, playing parts in film and also on soap operas. The youngest Arpik wishes to paint and one day have her own exhibition.

I was pleased to see that these three sisters seem happy to be surrounded by friends and attentive instructors. But I also noticed that they exhibit some anxiety about the future. What is in store for them? Success and happiness, I truly hope.


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