From “Our Home” to husband’s home: Mer Doon celebrates another wedding

Twenty-year-old Lusine Hunanyan carefully puts on her wedding dress, trying to not spoil the festive hairdressing that has been elaborately crafted. Lusine’s friends help, and the wedding white dress finally the excited bride.

“We must prove to society that we also can become as good brides, wives and mothers as other girls brought up in common families,” the bride says.

Lusine lived at the orphanage in Gavar, Gegharkunik province, since she was 11 years old. After becoming adult, she moved to ‘Mer Doon’ (Our Home) organization in Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin), Armavir province. Here she studied at the Faculty of Law of Echmiadzin Grigor Lusavorich University.

Now Lusine is getting married.

Head of ‘Mer Doon’ NGO Tigranuhi Karapetyan recalls how people come to seek for her “daughters’’ hands in marriage.

“To tell the truth, when I was founding this home, I did not think that people would come and seek for my girls’ hands in marriage, that I would have to marry them off. Our program has an educational nature, and our objective is simply not to allow young women to end up in streets. Lusine is the sixth young women at our home whom we marry off. We have five grandchildren,” Karapetyan says.

Before getting married, the young women living at ‘Mer Doon’ write a statement saying that they get married of their own free will, with love and without being forced to do so. Karapetyan says that their girls are not allowed to date young men unless their (boys’) relatives are informed about it.

“These children did not have their own families, and they are very sensitive, so they should not be broken. I must definitely know about a young man’s intentions. Moreover, when our girls go for dating, they write a note, saying that they will be back in an hour or two. And when everything is clear, the young men visit us with their parents for matchmaking,” Karapetyan explains.

She states that young men and their parents are always interested in their girls’ health condition.

“It is quite natural. We deal with children [young women] having biological problems. So, one of the rules of our organization is to submit health cards of our young women, as well as information about the [biological] parents to them.”

On this day, Lusine’s friends have decorated ‘Mer Doon’ with ribbons, flowers and balloons. Even neighbors know that there is a wedding at ‘Mer Doon’. The festive table is ready. Lusine receives congratulations wearing her wedding dress; she takes photos with her guests.

Her eyes fill with tears, when she hugs Nikolay Nalbandyan, director of Gavar’s orphanage, where she lived almost nine years.

“Of course, I wish there were no orphanages in our country, but we could not have seen Lusine like this today, if she stayed in her own family. May it not sound insulting, but, unfortunately, there are such families in our reality, that sometimes it is more preferable for a child to be brought up at orphanages than in those families,” Nalbandyan says.

Lusine is lost in bouquets and she is shining with happiness.

She knows she is seen as a chance to break stereotypes among Armenian society that holds young women from orphanages in disrepute.

“My parents were against the marriage,” says the groom, Artsvard. “But I fought, and as a result, our love won. My relatives themselves saw what a nice person Lusine is.”

Nalbandyan says that such beautiful days are the results of their common work.

“They [young women] get married and we see them off with clear conscience. Life shows that orphanage children create nice families. The reason is that they are deprived of a family roof since early childhood, and they are brought up feeling that shortcoming all the time. The idea of family is very noble to them,” he says.

The lack of family is an open window, which is closed in lives of those girls only after they get married.

Khachatryan does not it like when a family of a young man who marries an orphanage young woman is called benefactor.

“It is not these children’s fault that they are brought up at orphanages. Very often, children, being brought up in average families do not have such aspirations and desires as these children have. It is good that the gap in our society is being closed, but let them not think that they do these children a favor taking them to their houses, let them never say such a thing to them. Whatever they didn’t get from their lost families, they would give it to their own newly-created families,” Khachatryan says.