For Melsik Sargsyan, 79, FAR’s Gyumri Soup Kitchen has become a second home, a place where he can still enjoy the kind of meals that are reminiscent of the quality of his wife’s cooking. She passed away 33 years ago.

“For four years I’ve attended the soup kitchen. It has sustained me and my older brother through our rocky times; we live alone and there is no one to cook for us. My wife died in 1985, and my mother the year after,” said Melsik, who lives with his brother Marat, 81.

Melsik was born and raised in Gyumri. When asked about his unique name, he gently explained. “As devoted bearers of the Communist ideology, my parents decided to name me after Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin, so they took the first letter of these leaders’ names and created the name ‘Melsik,’” he said. The “ik,” which means “little,” rounds it out with a touch of endearment.

From 1955 to 1959, Melsik studied at Gyumri Textile College. In 1959, he began his three years of service in the Soviet Army where he was posted in Ukraine as an intelligence officer in the 129th Division and served during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 1962, Melsik returned to Gyumri and spent 31 years working in the local textile factory. “Our factory was second in the Soviet Union in terms of production levels; it later became the first, after I joined. We all felt very proud. I worked well with everyone,” he said. Melsik lost his job after the collapse of the Soviet Union and never found another.

Melsik has three sons, all of whom have emigrated to Ukraine. While he would love to join them, he feels unable to leave his birthplace. “I love Gyumri very much. People respect each other, they help each other during difficult times. Now times are difficult as well, as I recall during my childhood. But we need to live with the reality,” he said.

Melsik is a very easy-going and polite person, according to FAR Soup Kitchen Programs Manager Rafik Martirosyan, but like many soup kitchen beneficiaries, his path has been difficult. “Melsik and many of our beneficiaries come to receive a hot meal, encouragement and companionship in a place where they are treated with dignity and respect,” said Rafik.