by Sevak Hakobyan

We’re in the village of Krasni, in Artsakh, visiting Mrs. Tsovinar. Her curved back, a result of years of hard work, doesn’t prevent her from being a most gracious host. She hastens to make coffee and serve us fresh walnuts picked from her own tree.

“I was born in this village, married in this village, and will live here for the rest of my days,” 69-year-old Grandma Tsovik says. “I have worked all my life. My husband died at 47, so I raised my three children on my own. Then I lost one of my sons.”

In her younger years, Tsovinar Grigoryan was the village-storehouse keeper. She proudly says that she was in charge of Krasni’s entire wheat supply.

“I was young, ‘flying high in the sky,’ but then, suddenly, I went down,” she says, referring to her chronic leg pain and curved back, which was caused by sodium accumulation. But she quickly adds, “I have never regretted any of it. And now I have eight grandchildren.”

Grandma Tsovik’s family is her only wealth, she says. Otherwise all she has to show for her years of work are a pension totaling $100 a month and her health issues. There is neither a health clinic nor a nurse in Krasni. The last nurse has left the village after finding a job elsewhere.

“If, God forbid, I get worse, we have to call an ambulance from Stepanakert,” Grandma Tsovik says with a tinge of sadness. Then her eyes twinkle and she adds, “One of my grandkids has come to live with me, so that I won’t be alone.”

So that village residents won’t have to be alone in facing their health issues, this year the team of volunteer doctors from Adventist Health Glendale provided a broad range of medical services in various Artsakh communities, in addition to performing surgeries in Stepanakert. During its weeklong mission in Artsakh, made possible by Armenia Fund USA, the team of doctors and support staff from Los Angeles saw more than 500 patients in eight communities, including Krasni, and provided them with medications, all free of charge.

“I was working in my orchard when I heard that a team of doctors from America has arrived in Krasni,” Grandma Tsovik recalls. “So my son and I went to our community center right away.”

Armenia Fund has implemented development projects in every corner of Artsakh, including schools, community centers, and highways. In Krasni, the Fund has built a multifunctional community center, with the support of the late benefactor Hacop Baghdassarian and his wife, Hilda, of Los Angeles.

Grandma Tsovik has the deepest admiration for the volunteer doctors from the US, for crossing thousands of miles to volunteer in Artsakh’s border communities, despite their busy work and family lives back in America.

“I am extremely grateful to them,” Grandma Tsovik says. “They gave me painkillers. Such medications are very expensive here. There’s no cure for my leg pain. But it can be treated with painkillers. I hope the volunteer doctors will come back next year. Everyone in the village will be waiting for them.”

“I help my son, daughter, and grandchildren, and they help me,” she continues. “We manage. And the assistance of the volunteer doctors makes us very happy. The free medications are also important, of course, but, first and foremost, the doctors’ assistance makes us feel appreciated.”

Grandma Tsovik then puts her medicines in a drawer and bids us farewell. Her work will continue afterwards. She will take a bowl of freshly-harvested garlic heads in her lap and begin to peel them.

Photo Credit: Areg Balayan