From slavery to freedom: “No one can change your life except for you.” / Alina Vardanyan
Alina has no regrets about the past 12 years of her marriage, since it has given her two wonderful daughters. Instead, she is sorry that she lost her self-esteem throughout those years and waited too long to make a decisive step.
“I don’t blame anyone for my decision to marry him. After all, it was my life and my choice. I thank God, because my daughters are unharmed: they are still with me, they are not left alone and there is no need to regret anything. I would advise women who still tolerate domestic violence to get rid of those chains as soon as they can. Change your life. Remember that no one can do it for you,” says Alina Vardanyan, 37.
She divorced her husband three years ago and says she has regained self-confidence and become a fulfilled person since then. Alina admits that now she is able to take independent decisions and live a truly happy life, despite all her concerns and challenges.
“First of all, my daughters are now at peace with themselves. My elder daughter is 13. She was unsocial, constrained and sad all the time, but now she has completely changed. She was under constant stress because of her father: she had become a servant for him. At least I was able to protest, to speak out, but Suzanna endured everything with tight lips. Now she is a completely different person. My younger daughter was only three years old at that time and went to the kindergarten. So, hopefully, she was less affected by the negative atmosphere at home,” says Alina.
The woman got married in 2002, full of hopes and life, but only two months later, she realized that she had made a fatal mistake. She was already pregnant by that time and this was the only thing that made her accept the situation and carry on.
“It was a senseless decision: I should have given up all this back in those days. At first, I blamed his mother’s interference, because she would not allow him to communicate with his own child: she had a strong hold over him. Then she moved to Spain. Six years later, I gave birth to our second daughter, Sona. I was hoping for a change, but in vain. His mother’s absence gave him а free hand and he started neglecting not only me, but his own children as well,” she recalls, adding that her husband, Mher, drove a taxi at night and slept in the daytime. He kept bad company and even invited some suspicious-looking men to their house.
“He used to chauffeur prostitutes, strip club dancers. One of them even rented a house in our neighborhood, and Mher was more often seen at her place than at home. That woman visited our house too, I was against that and we would often fight over that. I did not want my daughters to see such people around or hear their conversations. After our fights, he even refused to buy bread for our children,” says Alina.
She now remembers how she used to save cash, counting every penny to buy sweets for her children or how she started visiting her husband’s relatives with her daughters, so they did not stay hungry at home.
“Physical violence came along in recent years, when he started raising his hand at me while shouting abuse. Before that, I was subjected to such a terrible psychological pressure during the entire married life that I was about to go crazy. At some point, I started thinking about suicide. Even my children could not keep me away from that thought. I decided to take psychotropic drugs so that my death wasn’t too painful. One of my neighbors prevented me from doing this, but I still felt down. Although my parents told me to leave him and move back to their house, I did not want to become a burden on their shoulders. The fact that I did not have a job and a separate place to live made me carry on, otherwise I would not stay in the same house with him even for a day,” says Alina.
Her husband, who not only isolated Alina and their daughters from friends and relatives and exerted psychological pressure on them, started to act strangely and often came home battered — all bruised and covered in blood.
“Now, he only left the house holding our younger daughter by the hand, to ensure he would stay unharmed. They would not touch him if they saw him with the child. This is what he thought. Although I had no proof, I still suspected that he was using drugs. I could guess that from his behavior. Even other people noticed that. Staying with him under the same roof was becoming really dangerous,” says Alina.
After 12 years of marriage, she started to look for the ways to overcome the situation. A nurse by profession, she began working at a first aid station and met a divorce attorney who helped her familiarize herself with the legislation.
“One day, when he threw at me a piece of firewood from a pile near the stove, I realized that there was no point in staying any longer. I just collected my belongings and went to my parent’s place together with my daughters. I went back a few days later and decided to give him another chance, but nothing changed.”
Alina and her children finally left her husband’s house on her brother’s birthday, when she told him they were going to stay overnight at her parent’s house.
“He told me not to set foot in his house and I said alright. I was self-confident enough and knew well what I was doing. Two days later, I went to civil registry office, where I called him telling to come over and sign the documents for divorce. He was stunned. I think he just could not believe I had ventured upon that step. They gave us a month to think before finally signing the documents, and I continued living in his house in that period,” she recalls.
“At night, he would open the door of the bedroom to check if the children and I were sleeping. He started to carry a pocketknife with him. Spending that one month in the same house was a horrible experience, but we were going to get rid of him: this is what mattered most.”
Alina finally divorced her husband in 2014. In the years that followed, Mher never attempted to see their daughters again.
After the separation, she attended retraining courses to improve her professional qualifications. Today, she is working as a nurse, pays the apartment rent and takes care of her daughters.
Despite life full of challenges, Alina says they are still happy.
Her life has completely changed and she is grateful for that to her parents as well, who, unlike, other traditional families, did not shut the door on her, but offered help instead.
“The support of my parents was very important for me. It is essential to regain self-confidence, overcome the obstacles and move on. You are someone who is able to stand on your own feet and move forward. Remember that you don’t have to depend on anyone throughout our entire life. You should take a decisive step despite everything, irrespective of your parents support. You have to be independent in any case, in all you decisions and further steps. This is what really matters,” says Alina with a smile.
She shows off what she has recently bought on credit for her house – a refrigerator, a washing machine and a TV set. She demonstrates everything that she purchased with unabashed pride, as proof of her independence.
“I left that house and never took anything from there except for our clothes and personal belongings. We need water supply at this house to start using the washing machine, but I did it; I bought the machine on my own, for us. This is what really matters. And we are happy, notwithstanding all our concerns: we live a full life, without feeling as slaves to someone,” she concluded with pride.
by Gayane Mkrtchyan