Death by Demolition: Brain hemorrhage kills Buzand resident after home is wrecked

18.11.2005 at 09:56 Оставьте комментарий

Losing her home, Lilia Ghazaryan lost her life.

Hundreds of residents on Buzand Street, Lilia’s street, are being displaced by oligarch-enforced urban renewal. Lilia’s turn came November 4.

On that afternoon Lilia came home after several hours away and found that court bailiffs had taken her belongings, and the steps to Buzand No. 9 were already demolished.

She might have been prepared for what happened. Little happens in this neighborhood these days without not only the attention of residents, but of mass media. The street in the city center is itself the center of a controversy that broadens the gulf between the “haves” and “have nots” of Armenia’s capital. (See related articles section, for previous ArmeniaNow coverage.)

Prepared, maybe, for the eventual reality her neighbors have endured with varying degree of resistance and endurance, Lilia was not prepared for the effect of a State-sanctioned home invasion.

If home is where the heart is, Lilia no longer had a place to put hers. And what her heart could not accept, her mind could not endure. She had a stroke. She died Tuesday (November 15).

Lilia Ghazaryan, 69, was a retired economist. She lived alone.

Last spring she was offered $18,500 for her apartment — $230 per square meter, in the most expensive part of the city where $1,000 per square meter is a normal rate.

Had she agreed to this compulsion within five days last spring, Lilia would have also received $12,000 as an incentive (a total of $32,000, or $395 per square meter). By a government decision an incentive sum was envisaged for those who submitted to the compulsion within a five-day period.

“What is an incentive? Is it a bribe?” Lilia’s sister Aelita asks angrily. “What is this compensation for, does it mean that if you submit, they will give you money? Don’t I have the right to think, not to agree quickly?”

Nine months ago the water and telephone were cut off in Lilia’s apartment. Her sister bought a mobile phone for her.

“Sometimes I visited her so that she would not be alone,” says Tanya Baghdasaryan, a Buzand Street resident. “I told her: ‘You are a single woman, take this money (she was being offered), go and live peacefully’.

“She would say: ‘No way, they don’t believe that this is not a dispute over money, I must do what I can and fight to achieve justice’. Her gold items, everything was at home, she had not taken anything from home, she had no intention to leave. The authorities knew very well that Lilia was very resolute, and so they came at the time when they knew she was out.”

On November 4, Lilia participated in a protest near the Presidential Palace together with other residents of Yerevan who have lost their property to development. Returning home she saw that the arch was closed. Somehow she managed to get to the yard, and saw that the steps had been destroyed and the door of the apartment had been broken. Her neighbor said that her property had been taken away.

“At that moment a postcard came from bailiffs, they sent it back without opening,” says Aelita.

It turns out that it was a notification of eviction. Lilia became homeless, she went to her friend’s to stay there at night. The following day she had the stroke. She was taken by ambulance to hospital, and 10 days later she died.

Part of Lilia Ghazaryan died, too, more than 50 years earlier. This, it turns out, was not the first time a state order has “evicted” her.

In 1949, when she was 13, Lilia’s family was among 2,754 families (12,316 citizens) who were exiled to Altai, under Josef Stalin’s regime.

Lilia’s father, Vardan (who escaped the Genocide by fleeing from Van), was accused of having corresponded by mail with relatives living abroad. (Indeed, he had written to an uncle living outside the Soviet Union. Vardan simply wanted to find out the year of his own birth.)

For this “crime”, the family was sent to Siberia.

“They came suddenly at night and took us without explanation,” Aelita recalls. The family returned to Yerevan in 1952.

“Ignoring all sort of repression, we rose again,” Aelita says. “Helping each other our family got back on its feet.” Her father prohibited all talks about the exile in their home:

“My parents wanted our life to be started from a clean slate so that children would not feel pressure. We had erased the past and started everything from scratch. I also hid this fact from my child. I did not want my child to grow up in this country as a vulnerable citizen. I wanted him to be a full citizen of his country, of the country where he lived. I didn’t want the Soviets to be his enemies like Turks are to us now, because he was to live here.”

This week, burying her sister today, Aelita can’t dismiss comparisons to her family’s first tragedy. This time, though, it happened in broad daylight.

“My sister comes home and sees what our neighbors saw in 1949. Our door was sealed and they said they had been taken away,” Aelita says. “Now we were not taken away, we were thrown out. My sister was thrown out.

“My sister was not strong enough to bear it all. She shouldn’t have rebelled against the State and claimed her rights. I feel sorry that my sister proved so stubborn, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t have acted the same way if I were in her place.

“I was saying to her: ‘Take this money, you will buy an apartment in the 3rd district (a working class district). Don’t do this, who are you trying to measure up with?’ She should have understood what state she was dealing with.”

Like many others, Lilia applied to Armenian courts to save her apartment. And, like in every case of Buzand Resident vs. Developer, courts at every level ruled for the developer.

On October 21, Lilia had received a notice that the development company, Glendale Hills, had withdrawn its application for eviction against her and, according to the notice, eviction was suspended.

Lilia was relieved. Until November 4.

Aelita has sued the bailiff’s office, saying that it became the cause of her sister’s death. However, she hasn’t yet decided whether to continue her sister’s struggle:

“I don’t need money. I want those responsible to be punished. If they are not punished, I will take the matter to the European Court,” she vows.

“They should have sent a notification. She would have left; she was ready to leave,” says Aelita. “But they had sent a notification that there would be no eviction. It rekindled a hope in her that there would be some kind of compromise. She thought perhaps something had changed. They say that hope is the last to die. She died with her hope.”

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