Once or twice a month, Arsen, 7, Nora, 6, Narek, 4, and Nane, 3, eagerly wait by the front doors of the FAR Children’s Center for their dad, Artak Mirzoyan. The most impatient one is little Nane who seems to push aside the curtain to watch the moment when daddy appears. When at last he arrives, the four of them rush to hug him tightly.

Earlier this year, the children found a temporary shelter at the Center after their mom left them.

“It’s very hard for a parent to leave his or her children. I can’t live without them; every time I visit them I am heartbroken; however, I have no other choice,” said Artak.

In the autumn of 2017, Artak’s wife, Anzhela, left the house to buy some school supplies for Arsen. She never came back. Just a few days later, Artak learned that she supposedly married another man in another province. Since then, she has never visited or called the children.

At first, the children were temporarily in the care of Artak’s parents who are elderly and sick. Artak currently serves in the Armenian army at one of the military border posts in the Berd Region, which keeps him away from home for at least 15 days a month. Apart from his military service, Artak also does construction and sanitary work, earning about $450 a month in total. He decided to bring the children to the Center until he can finish his service and find a job that would allow him to be at home more. Artak hopes to be able to take his kids back to Charentsavan, where he rents a house.

“It was the hardest day of my life. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” he said, recalling the March day when he dropped off his children.

Upon arrival, the children felt stressed and isolated. After some psychological, art and healthcare therapy sessions, along with constant support, the children established their own routines at the Center and began socializing more with others.

Moreover, two months after their arrival, little Nane started walking and greeted her father with slow but steady steps.

“That was a big surprise when I visited them in May and saw my little baby walking and talking. That was incredible; the whole world belonged to me back then,” Artak said.

Artak brings a snacks and gifts each time he visits his children. Narek likes bananas a lot, he said. Nora and Nane like “girly things,” but Arsen doesn’t ask for anything. “Arsen misses me a lot. I can see that in his eyes. He is my oldest son and doesn’t like to demonstrate his feelings, but I feel that,” said Artak.