Eugenia is not afraid of winter anymore

Eugenia, 12, doesn’t like speaking about the hardships she faces everyday because of the cold. Instead, her frostbitten face and hands speak volumes. Her skin is always dark red and hardened beyond her years, scarred by bitter winds and long winters.Eugenia hates mornings the most. She wakes up in an icy room, puts on her shabby clothes and goes to school hoping that at least the classroom will be heated.

“In the mornings it is so cold that I want to cry. My clothes don’t keep me warm enough because they are old and worn out,” says Eugenia.

In Ayrq village, where Eugenia lives with her family, the mornings are a chilly -30 to -35Cº. The village is situated high up in the mountains of Gegharkunik marz and is well known for its terrible winds and snowfalls, which cut Ayrq off from neighbouring villages for weeks and even months.

“I usually put on two even three light sweaters and several socks, because I don’t have a warm coat and my boots are all torn up,” says Eugenia.

Eugenia is the eldest daughter of Marlene and Edik Araqelyan. Besides Eugenia they also have two little sons, ten-year-old Ishkhan and eight-year-old Sevak, who are World Vision sponsored children. Sevak suffers from a serious bone illness that slows down his growth.

The Araqelyan children do not enjoy simple winter joys like playing with snowballs or making a snowman. “It is very cold outside and we always catch a cold when we go out and play, so mother doesn’t let us go,” explains Eugenia.

Edik Araqelyan, 56, fled from the city of Kirovabad (Republic of Azerbaijan) with his 78-year-old mother when the Armenia-Azerbaijan armed conflict broke out in 1988.

Leaving behind all their possessions and their house, the Araqelyan family arrived in Armenia empty handed. “All we took with us was the clothes we had on and nothing more. We lost everything,” says Edik.

The family was given a house in the remote village of Ayrq, a 40-minute drive from the nearest city of Vardenis, where World Vision is facilitating development in the community.

The small house of the family stands isolated from the other village houses, and the path that leads to this house is covered with snow until May. The wooden door of the house doesn’t fit properly, so it’s always half open. The bedroom is separated from the sitting room by a thin piece of wooden plywood. The kitchen, dark and humid, has no water system, so the family carries water in small plastic cans from a spring in the school yard about 150 meters away.

The family lives on small disability and poverty allowances provided by the government.

“The allowance is so small that I can\'t decide whether I should buy bread for the children or wood to heat the house,” explains Marlene, embracing her small children. “Our meal is always restricted to a piece of bread and a cup of tea. We cannot afford anything else.”

Sometimes neighbours help the Araqelyan family by giving them flour and dried sheep dung to heat the house.

One frosty morning, the family received more life-sustaining gifts than they could imagine. World Vision Armenia staff delivered warm clothes for each and every family member.

“We need this help to survive through harsh winters. At least I will not worry about the warmth of my children. I know now they are warm both at home and at school,” said Marlene.

Eugenia, who received a warm coat, trousers and a hat, could not conceal the delight and sheer relief on her face. “It is so great I have these wonderful clothes. In the mornings, I will not cry from the cold,” exclaimed Eugenia, holding the garments tightly.

While Eugenia is happy for summer to be here soon, she feels a bit sad because she won’t be able to wear her new warm coat and trousers. “But it is ok,” says Eugenia with a smile,” I will keep the clothes for next winter, and I will never feel cold in the mornings.”