There was apricot jam from their apricot tree, pears, apples, plums and walnuts from their garden, and a large grandmother in black, rolling cabbage rolls.
A picture of their son in uniform was on the mantelpiece, a cross leaning against it. I did not need to ask – many Armenian mantelpieces have a crucifix leaning against a picture of a 20-something boy in uniform. It was their son, killed like so many other sons, in the 1988-94 war with Azerbaijan.
These people were my hosts. Around the place were an accordion, a violin (which the husband used to teach), dusty Beatles records, a 1950s gramophone, books in Russian, English and Armenian, carpets on the wall.
There was always food out somewhere and food being cooked. That night at dinner:
“We have homemade vodka *and* homemade wine.”
“Ah, sorry, I don’t drink.”
My host did not think this was worth discussing:
“You are in wrong country. You will drink”
Hospitable people. Civilized people. All the greater pity that they live in a depressing, deforested, industrial wasteland. Left by the Soviets as they retreated from history:
Not just me who got depressed. An Armenian friend Aleksandr, posted here once, described it:
“Alaverdi…even food changes taste…suicide trigger”
Yet living here, this boy tending his pigs:
One afternoon after walking on the plateau just above Alaverdi, I was hungry so hung around the Sarahart town square eating peanuts, bananas and dried apricots. I bought and ate apples and oranges from these people:
though the gent on the left was unable to persuade me to buy any of his meat:
And this dual headstone, following the custom of husband and wife to be buried together:
Even in death nice people, serious people, people worthy of respect:
People who somehow have kept their souls despite the destructions of centuries and the desolations of today. I finally start to understand. Armenians.