Bread Lines in Yerevan – How It Was

At the beginning of each month, the Housing Office issued cards allocating 250 grams of bread. The cards were printed on thin gray paper, and you had to have it in your pocket every day. To preserve the cards, people would glue them onto a piece of cardboard, wrap in cellophane, or make a special pocket for them.

The cards really solved the bread deficit problem. Before their introduction, there was simply no way to get bread, and people would stand in line for bread day and night. After the introduction of these cards, people were distributed into shops, and a new important daily duty appeared – to manage to buy bread. Even though the cards solved many problems, by four o’clock, the bread in the stores ended like before.

“Ararat” on Amiryan became our bread shop. It was a large grocery store, and the bread department occupied at least half of it. It would take an hour to buy bread here, which gave people an opportunity to have a better look at each other and talk.

The lines always had the same faces. Frozen grannies in knitted berets. A flock of agile boys who bought bread for the whole residential building. Children who learned fractions on the halves of loaves and mastered natural sciences and physics, picking up dry branches in the parks and melting potbelly stoves.

Ladies with dogs and men with briefcases. Tired and confused faces of people. One woman, with bright black arrows at her eyes, would come with her neighbor and retell her some movies: “And then, this one leaned out of the car and said: ‘Hi, officer’ [in English].” In the bread line, it was strange to hear English.

In line, it was possible to ogle others. For example, that tall guy – he had such a mocking smile. It seems that he was constantly chuckling at the line, over the saleswoman Tamar, over wet sawdust, and over the eternal impassable winter of those years.

Once, I got offended. I was standing in line with my cousin, and we were speaking in Russian. “How dare you speak this language?” someone suddenly said behind me. It was a girl in a crimson coat with her girlfriend. “Speak Armenian, you live in Armenia. You have no right to Armenian bread!” Her friend was whispering into her scarf and pulling onto her sleeve.

I tried to respond that is was “my personal business which language to speak.” The girl smelled of vodka and perfume, and she was clearly amused.

Today, I wouldn’t allow such disrespect in my address. But then, I was a 15-year-old clumsy heron wrapped in a Pavloposad shawl. And she was stylish, confident. In such a beautiful, beautiful crimson coat. And I stayed silent.

On Amiryan, I still meet people from the line. The lady retelling the movies has not changed a bit. Boys with cards became men. The mocking guy that I had liked aged, turned gray, got slouch. And he seems to have become even shorter.

But I haven’t seen the girl in the crimson coat after the lines. She must have left the country.

Posted by: ogostos




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