"Life as A Lottery"

Author: Suren Stepanyan
Edition: Migration

For 20 years, Ukraine was a second homeland for the Hovasapyan family. Aramayis, the father of the family, after moving from Armenia to Mariupol, in the Donetsk region, found a job and bought a new apartment instead of the one left in his homeland. But according to Hovasapyan, during several years, the Ukrainian crisis from the Maidan of Kiev reached to the port of Mariupol. He tells, that almost every day the city was bombed by the National Guard of Ukraine for not obeying orders from Kiev.


“The life in our city was like a lottery; every morning we would choose a ticket and in the evening find out, whether we won our life, or not”, -says the son of Aramayis Hovasapyan, who went back to Armenia a year ago with his family.

In his phone Armen still keeps the photos he took on the 9th of May, 2014. According to him, on that day the Ukrainian army entered the city, as he says, and opened fire towards civilians without warning.

The building of the Ministry of Internal affairs. The armed clashes were taking place around this building.
Armen Hovasapyan took this photo by his phone. On May 9, 2014, the attack of armed groups from Kiev took dozens of people's lives.
The second son of Anahit Hovasapyan is still in Mariupol. She misses her grandchildren so much that she often looks at their pictures.
A dozen medals are left from Armen’s sport career.

For 10 years, Armen was engaged in sports. He was the member of the Ukrainian national team of kickboxing and became a champion six times. Now the 29-year-old sportsman has no stable job. He is hired as a worker several times during a month and gets 3000 AMD ($6) for each day.

Aramayis, with the help of his son, somehow makes ends meet. He is driving a taxi in the commonly known streets of Yerevan, but sometimes mixes up the addresses.

Though in Armenia everything has changed comparing to Soviet times, Anahit Hovasapyan has adapted to the new life easily. The rented small apartment in Yerevan reminds her of her house of Mariupol with one difference; there are no sounds of flying bombs here.

The first place that refugees apply when they come to Armenia is the State Migration Service. This is the body where the issues of residency and documentation are discussed.

The building of the State Migration Service.
In the building of the State Migration Service.
Hovasapyans keeps Ukrainian and Armenian passports side by side. The first one is associated with war, the other one with refugee life.

“Refugees from Ukraine usually have problems with accommodation. They are given a room in a special dormitory. The State covers food and utility expenses. Also they are given a special status as a refugee, which allows them to use all the services available for Armenian citizens, including the medical ones”, -says Petros Aghababyan, the head of the Asylum Issues Division of the State Migration Service.

Yelena Yashchyan is a chief specialist at the Asylum Issues Division. She has personally communicated with Ukrainian-Armenians and prepared their personal files.

“Those refugees, who wish to obtain Armenian citizenship can apply and get Armenian passports in an accelerated procedure” says Yelena.


Yelena Yashchyan is a worker of the State Migration service. She takes care of the legal issues of Ukrainian refugees in Armenia.
Making personal files of refugees sometimes takes months, as their documents haven’t been found in the archives.
Since 2005, Petros Aghababyan is engaged in providing asylum for refugees. The last flow of refugees was from Ukraine.

Hovasapyans got a document which proves their refugee status. Armen has also gotten a  travel document which is valid for 2 years. It is designed for free movement outside of Armenia. The other members of the family have only Ukrainian passports.

As many Ukrainian-Armenians do, Hovasapyans too, uses the aid provided by “Mission Armenia”.

Simon Grigoryan is a social worker for approximately 50 Ukrainian-Armenian families in the “Mission-Armenia” organization, including Hovasapyans.

“We cover the rent of Hovasapyans’ apartment, and also give money for medical expenses and the heating of the apartment during winter”-says Simon Grigoryan.

"Mission Armenia" organization is a “rescue ring” for many refugees. They help depending upon necessity and priority.
Every month, Simon Grigoryan visits Hovasapyans’s family to learn about their problems and solve the issues connected with aid supplements.
Simon himself creates personal files of Ukrainian Armenians. Dozens of families are waiting for the aid of this organization every month.

However, generally the refugees from Ukraine hardly adapt to the life in Armenia and the social problems that exist, unlike the case of Hovasapyans. Many families have to leave Armenia, trying their fortune in another country and forgetting the pains of war.

This material may contain terms, which are not favored by all the parties of the dispute/conflict. Terms used in a material belong to the author and not Chai-Khana.

We are a non-profit media organization covering the topics and groups of people that are frequently ignored by mainstream media. Our work would not be possible without support from our community and readers like you. Your donations enable us to support journalists who cover underrepresented stories across the region.