The first time Felix Avetisyan told his wife he loved her, she was 13 and he was 16.
She laughed at him.
“I was a child. What love? He was like a brother to me, but then things changed,” Lena, 77, recalls.
Four years later, they married in secret and a year later, they had a son.
The couple went on to have three children, raising them even as they finished university in Gyumri, a city in northwest Armenia.
Felix became an engineer and Lena became a mathematician. Life was difficult at times, Lena recalls, but the two were committed to building a life together.
“There are many difficulties in life, but if you live with the one you love, you should not be afraid, but go forward hand in hand and overcome the difficulties,” Felix, 80, says.
“Years pass, but Lena does not grow old for me. She is the same beauty I met in our yard.”
A decade ago, the two faced a new challenge: Lena started to lose her eyesight.
“I don't even know how far I can see now. I do not go to the doctor. It may seem strange, but I find it comfortable to live like this. My husband's eyes become mine very often and very naturally,” Lena says.
“Felix helps me with almost everything. Of course, I try to clean the house myself, cook, but my husband is always ready to be by my side, so that if I have a problem or I mess up, he helps immediately. I cannot live without Felix. He is my everything: the greatest love of my life and, now, my eyes.”
Over the years, Felix has learned how to do Lena’s hair, sew clothes, and even make slippers.
“It is not difficult for me now that Lena does not see, I am happy to help her. I'm sure she would have been by my side if I had the same problem,” Felix says. “Our love has lasted through the years. I always advise young people not to be afraid of difficulties and always to go with confidence: if you are afraid, you will not achieve results.”
For now, Felix is focused on keeping Lena safe despite the pandemic. He does the shopping and Lena mostly stays inside. Visits with the family are short: they stand far apart and try to keep the conversation short.
“We look at our children and are full of longing,” Lena says. “We haven't hugged or kissed them for a year. We have a 5-year-old great-grandson. We miss him the most. We are counting the minutes when we will be able to hug and love him as before… I wish the day would come when Feliks and I will hold hands and walk again in the park, and what is important, without a mask.”
This feature story was prepared with support from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) South Caucasus Regional Office. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of FES or Chai Khana.