26th of November 2018, I received an email from Lusine Avanesyan, jobsite coordinator in Yerevan, that suggests in it to volunteer in Gyumri for a month or two. I agreed to having no idea about the city which was split in two during the 1988 earthquake. Three months after this email, I arrived in Gyumri. But, three decades later, Leninakan “Gyumri” yet to recover from this huge disaster. I arrived in Gyumri by a small van “Marshrutka” with other volunteers; we were a group of five. Unfortunately, the first thing we noticed was the ruins that were left from the earthquake.
One of the many abandoned dogs that we encountered on the streets
Volga Gaz-21, a Soviet remaining car
Inside one of the temporary shelters in Gyumri
Watching the photos above, one might think that Gyumri is still in a bad situation. Perhaps it is, but not as much as it was two decades ago. I fell in love with the architecture, culture, and the people (they have the best humor, trust me). I volunteered in Gyumri a month and a half only, but it impacted me more than Yerevan, where I volunteered for two months. Everyone kept asking me: “Which city do you prefer, Gyumri or Yerevan,” and my answer was always: “You can’t compare the two, Gyumri is completely different than Yerevan, both cities are in the same country, but Gyumri is different, it is amazing.”
I loved every milli-second I passed in this beautiful city which Armenians, probably, forgot that it is the second largest city in Armenia. My jobsites in Gyumri were both HAH (Historic Armenian Houses) and Armenian Caritas; I loved everything about my jobsites, everything! Thanks for the Gyumri Myumri squad that I spent my time with! Nanor, Raffi, Sereena, Nechan, Razmig, Talar, Tina, Shant, Razmig, Bianca, Sophia, Ani and Mary, you guys are the best! Not forgetting BR staff in Gyumri, Sona and Berj, love you guys! Did I mention that I had the best host family ever? I will leave it for you to figure out who they were