The Overburdened Young Wives of Migrants
These women are assuming the tasks of both male and female work. In the poverty-stricken village of Zolakar, Armenia, almost every second male has left for Russia to earn money.
35-year-old Ruzanna’s wedlock started with seeing off her husband to Russia as a guest worker after only a few months of marriage.
“I’m not unhappy, but at the same time I’m not happy either, as my husband is and was in Russia in my good and bad days. He wasn’t present when our child was born, nor did he see its first steps. He wasn’t by me when I was sick,” says 35-year-old Ruzanna from Zolakar.
Zolakar is a village in Gegharkunik province. It has the highest level of emigration in Armenia. A male representatives of every second family has migrated to different cities of Russia to earn money, though their families live in poverty or extreme poverty.
Ruzanna says that she is taking care of her looks and doing some makeup stuff only during the 3 month period when her husband is back in Armenia, otherwise it would undermine her moral image as a woman.
However, some of them managed to provide financial stability and good living conditions for their young families. In this province, men are at home only three months in a year, and mostly during the winter. Some of them even spend less time with their families. All the household work is on the shoulders of young women. In the absence of husbands there are mothers, fathers, women and men. Young women are involved in agriculture and ranching; they cut wood and mow grass. The complete absence of entertainment in the village, and the conservative traditions make women wake up early in the morning at 5 am and do only housekeeping. It is a shame to take care of your looks if your husband is not in the country.
Traditional culture and shame block young women from being filmed. Armine’s husband [name changed] and husband’s brother left the country for work. Three women and 5 children were left alone in Armenia.
Because of conservative traditions and fear of the public’s opinion, many of the women refused to be shot, though they were ready to speak about the difficulties that they face. This is what they said;
“If villagers know that I have been filmed, I will die of shame. My husband is not in the country, I cannot be filmed.” Many mother-in-laws said that their sons would be jealous if their wives were filmed, and there would be a huge fight. We got the permission of the women to shoot their children and tell their stories through them.
Though it’s the fathers of these children who went to Russia to become breadwinners, their mothers still have to work as a shepherdess to solve the financial needs of the remaining 6 members of the family.
There is no place of entertainment for the youth in the village. Women start the day early in the morning, at 5 or 6 am and, and stay up until late at night.
After some months of marriage, Agnessa’s husband went to Russia to earn money for building a house.
In their semi-built house, the family of Agnessa is waiting for their junior son to come back from school.
Agnessa says that because they couldn’t afford to buy sport shoes for her boy, now he is not taking part in the physical education classes and doesn't play football.
35-year-old Hermine is one of the few women in the village who have higher education. She is teaching Armenian language and literature at the village school. Her daily routine is a little different from the one of others.
During the 18 years of her marriage, every spring 35 year-old Gayane sees off her husband to Russia.
Early marriages, the hard physical and household work make these women look older from their real age.
Almost all young mothers are mentioning that it is very hard to raise children without a father. Staying alone, they act both as fathers and mothers for the children.
Meline who is a graduate of Yerevan State University department of philology has 3 children. She does not want to go to Russia with her husband as she thinks that it will be hard to raise children there.
The young man of the family, who has a third rate disability went to Krasnodar to work on construction. Answering the question about why they don’t want to go and see their father, one of the children said in tears, that if now they miss only their father, after going they will miss all their relatives. Their mother is working at school and teaching English.
There are two ways for young men to go to Russia; either being recruited directly in the village, or going on their own due to previously made connections.
The main fear of mothers is that their young boys may have a relationship with Russian girls and create a family there.
His father and uncle left for work abroad. Now his family consist of only children and women.
The only place of amusement is the center of the village, where only elders gather. Every day they put their jackets on and started from 10 o’clock to gather at the center of the village and discuss issues connected with their village, Armenia and so on. They are joking that only elders and children are left in the village.
Young women are mentioning that because of the double devaluation of ruble, working there has become unreasonable.
These children still live in poverty, though their father, grandfather and uncle are guest workers in Russia.
“If there is such a little opportunity to earn a living by agriculture, our men will never go abroad for earning money and be far away from their family and relatives".