by Sevak Hakobyan

In his native village of Jujevan, 70-year-old Armenak Chilingaryan is known as Siraj. His wife, Anahit, says jokingly, “I found out his real name only recently, after so many years of marriage. He has been called Siraj ever since he was a little boy.”

Anahit and Armenak have been married for 44 years. As they don’t have kids of their own, they dote on the children of Armenak’s brother. Mr. and Mrs. Chilingaryan are retired. And even though their pensions are barely enough to cover the cost of their medications, they have no complaints.

“We have an orchard,” Armenak says. “Since we grow all sorts of fruits and vegetables, our food expenses are minimal. I’ve worked as a driver beginning in 1966. I’ve worked in Noyemberyan and Vanadzor. I’ve also lived and worked in Russia. Let me tell you, there’s no place better than our village.”

“We live close to the border, yet Jujevan is not considered a border village,” he adds jokingly. “That’s probably because not a single bullet has hit the village in the past five years. I retired seven years ago, and now I work as a farmer.”

“We don’t even buy honey,” his wife says. “We have ten beehives, with enough honey to share with friends and neighbors.”

Anahit, 66, says beekeeping is not easy, but the work gets a bit lighter in the fall. Today, after feeding the bees their vitamins, she has rushed to the Noyemberyan Hospital, where her husband has been recovering from a surgery performed the day before.

About three years ago, Armenak was diagnosed with abdominal hernia. More recently, a soft tissue mass has formed on his left hand. That was when a nurse in Jujevan told the Chilingaryans that a volunteer team of healthcare professionals from Adventist Health Glendale (AHG), comprising over 50 doctors and nurses, were to provide free examinations, primary-care services, and surgeries at the Noyemberyan Hospital from September 16 through 21, 2017, as part of a medical mission to Tavush organized jointly by Armenia Fund and AHG.

“I couldn’t be on my feet for too long because of the pain the hernia caused, while the pain in my hand wouldn’t let me do any manual work,” Armenak recalls. “I had heard about the medical mission last year. As soon as I learned that the doctors were coming back to Noyemberyan this fall, I went in and signed up.”

The AHG doctors decided to perform two simultaneous surgeries on Armenak: one to remove his hernia, the other to remove the growth on his hand.

A day after the complex procedures, Anahit is helping her husband get dressed to go home. But they’re arguing.

“Let me chop the firewood myself this year,” Anahit is beseeching him, “just until your hand has heeled completely.”

But Armenak won’t have any of it. “That’s not something a woman should be doing,” he shoots back. “If I have no trouble walking only a day after my surgery, then for sure I’ll be able to work within a few days!”

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Photo Credit: Areg Balayan