Armenian Olympic Champion Gor Needs a Home


GUMRI, Armenia ( – Yesterday [August 17], several people became greatly upset when I published pictures of [Olympic wrestler] Artur [Aleksanyan]’s school.

This [see photos] is the “domik” or shack of Gor Minasyan, who won a silver medal in the Olympics. His family has lived here for years. We have said for years that there are around 3,500 to 4,000 families in the city — nobody knows the exact figure — who are homeless. One out of seven or eight people in the city is homeless. Gor is too.

One out of seven or eight of our champions is the child of shacks, having been born in shacks, having gone to school while in a shack, to stores, barbers, and training schools in shacks, and till now is still in a shack.

Gor lives in a neighborhood of shacks at Gumri’s bus station. There are 96 neighborhoods of shacks in the city. During the last 28 years, of course the number of their shacks decreased. They are identified by two three-digit numbers. The first three-digit figure is the number of the quarter of the shacks, while the second three-digit figure is the number of the shack in the quarter. They consist of 2 to 3 up to 300 shack households.

They are all rotten and in ruins. In some cases, the owners have succeeded in covering them with stones and wood, but the conditions are unbearable. It is not possible to describe them. You could not understand through any film what it is without living there for a few days. You could not imagine it.

In many huts, they place bread for the rats in passages between the floor and the walls so that they do not creep into other places, especially in the winter, when they go under blankets and gnaw on children’s ears and fingers. In the summer, these huts practically turn red from the sun’s heat. It is not possible to breathe then. In the winter, half an hour after turning off the furnace, it becomes an icebox. In the morning, water is frozen. You have to break the surface of the ice of the container so that you can wash yourself. The holes in the floor are covered by thick rugs. They are no longer subject ot repair. These huts were intended for two or three years of use. However already people have been born and lived there 28 years, with marriages, first nights, and removing the dead from the window because it is cramped.

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We said for years on end that it appeared to the Robiks [i.e. Robert Kocharian] and Serzhiks [i.e. Serzh Sargsyan] that we wanted to pull out their chairs from under them so that we would sit in them. It appeared to those seated at the state feeding trough that we hated their chief from childhood and we want them to remain in starvation. It appeared to the old diaspora [i.e. pre-Soviet] that we were reviling their observation point for taking pictures of Mount Ararat from nearby, which bears the name of the Republic of Armenia, out of idleness…No, this is incomparably serious.

Gumri has several dozen serious problems, including homelessness, ruined streets, ruined playgrounds, unbearable dust in the air, streams that are garbage dumps, other contamination of the surrounding environment, corruption at the local and state levels, unemployment, poverty higher than 15 percent greater than the average in the country on the whole, on the average one family emigrating per day, ruined sports schools, smelly libraries, slowly crawling public transportation, ignored handicapped people, and starving children. We can demonstrate each set of words with hundreds of proofs. I cannot be bothered to write many statistics here.

Approximately 120 million dollars are necessary just in order to fix the first two problems (around 35 million to take care of the homelessness and 85 million for a fundamental renovation of the streets), while the city budget for ten years is barely 7 million dollars. This is obviously not an issue that can be solved through the city budget.

The state — hurray for the state, let them gorge themselves and run around at our expense. Every time that they come, if they come, the bigwigs of the nation, they look, shake their heads, and leave. I do not understand where we became responsible for the cost of their abortions. Excuse me for this barking. They do not understand human speech. They do not understand, that’s all. Whoever does not like this, should not read it.

Gumri now is exhausting the remnants of its glory. The inertia of its richness is being exhausted. It is like the pleasure of a car rolling down from the peak of a mountain. It rolls, reaches the base and stops. Either the travelers have to get out and sit in another car, or by pushing it they take it to be repaired. Either it can be repaired or it cannot.

Our glory is also our brave people, the heroes of war, sport and culture. Look and see how Gor’s family wins and keeps his medals with care — with what heart and love. Compare the Olympic pictures with those of the shack. It is unbelievably. Which country’s government in which such a boy lives would not stride around proudly showing him off?

I would very much like Gor’s family tomorrow to have a house, to be someone who would be able to give a house as a gift to this boy and to do so. I have never asked for such a thing before. Now I ask for it. Whoever can do it should stand up for him. The city authorities have no money. The Shirak Center and SOS over the last six years have gotten approximately 100 homes through donors, and moved 100 families from shacks to houses, but who will solve the matter of the remaining 3,500 families? The state authorities have died. They are not ours. It is a government of casinos and saunas. If they were ours, we would not have starving children and champions who live in mold.

(Translated from the Armenian)

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