Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Today I went to have my hair cut at Nershik’s barbershop. Nershik has been my barber since the first day I came to Martuni and for this whole time I have always left his shop happy.

Like any good barbershop, I leave with new views of life in our small town, as well as events that effect our lives in Artsakh.

Though I heard a little bit of this a few days ago, today I learned a few more details about Esh (donkey) Edo, the guy that a couple of summers ago took his son swimming in a reservoir even though the two of them didn’t know how to swim resulting in his son drowning. After that his wife divorced him.

Last year Esh Edo’s father, Esh Albert left his wife and married some young girl from a neighboring village. At that time it was the talk of Martuni about how wrong it was for Esh Albert to do this.

The other day, Esh Edo went to she his father and after arguing with him for whatever reason, he left. Esh Albert a little while later died due to reasons that have not yet been made clear. All we know is that Esh Edo has been seen walking the streets of Martuni, which means that he didn’t kill his father, though people say that in the argument that he had, he hit his father.

Nershik and I also talked about the Armenia Fund telethon and the used car sales pitch our president gave. Nershik could only shake his head and say that he too was an unwilling victim of this con and was forced to give 250 dram (50 cents).

He said he would not have objected to the forced donation, but knows that they will down some gravel, then put a thin layer of asphalt and call it a road, which in a short period of time not be fit to drive on. On top of that he said that people can’t afford to drive cars these days, so who will use it?

So how did Nershik get taken for 250 dram? The same way dozens of other people who are members of the combinat (workers collective) were taken for 250 dram. First of all let me clarify what the combinat is. It is a collective of small service businesses where you pay in each month and automatically your taxes (income and pension) are paid. Because of my stone factory I too am a member and each month pay 18,000 dram of which I receive 4,000 dram as a salary.

I was in Yerevan the day my 18,000 dram was due, so I sent someone to pay it and they had mentioned to me that they were asked for a voluntary donation for the road, to which they were told I was in Yerevan and when I return, I will stop by if I wish to make a donation.

I took this information as an opportunity to visit the combinat to find out what these donations were all about?

I walked in to find two ladies that work there and asked them what the donation deduction was all about? They told me it was strictly voluntary and if I didn’t want to give, I didn’t have to. I said that this is not what I heard and asked by name what Nershik gave? They didn’t answer and again said that it was strictly a voluntary and showed me a list of who gave. It had 25 names with figures from 105 dram to 500 dram.

I returned to Nershik’s where I told him that he had voluntarily donated and asked him if they personally took the money from him? He said no, he sent the money with the shoemaker next door who is also a member of the combinat.

I went next door to the shoemaker to ask him if he voluntarily made a donation? He said no, he was forced to donate and present were the two ladies and the president of the kombinat.

If you read my log from a year ago, this shake down for donations from no voluntary individuals is a repeat performance. Last years example came from someone in the president’s building who refused to sign the paper stating they will donate, to which Oleg Yesayan, the president of Parliament gave instructions to the persons collecting the signatures to sign for those that refuse.

Later on in the afternoon, I found myself in the office of a government official and mentioned what had happened with the kombinat. Though I won’t get into the details of the conversation, in short they said that if we don’t show that we are giving, why should the Diaspora give? We then got into a disagreement of money from such projects being stolen and how we must do what we can not to feed into such things.

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