These days, 70-year-old FAR Vanadzor Old Age Home (VOAH) resident Rita Dallakyan is known as “Lightning Lady”. In early September, she took second place in checkers at Armenia’s National Sports Tournament for the Elderly, held by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Just before that she placed first for the Lori Region in the first round of the tournament.

“Men don’t play with me because they are afraid,” said Rita, laughing. “They will challenge me to backgammon, cards, but never checkers.”

Rita has participated and won prizes in checkers competitions since she was in school. “One day, Manush Ohanyan [VOAH’s Managing Director] asked if I would go to the checkers competition and I said, ‘yes.’ How could not I go?

“We went to Tsakhkadzor with a few people. I played with 10 people, beat nine of them, and was in a dead heat with one of them. Despite my high blood pressure and a warning from a nurse I didn’t stop until I won,” recalled Rita. “They were amazed that I won, even with my high blood pressure!”

She earned her nickname due to her agility, said Rita. “Whatever I do, I do it quickly,” she said with a proud smile.

Rita lost her husband two years ago after 52 years of marriage. “My husband used to work at a local apartment management service. In 1997, he found himself involved in a scandal and we had to sell our apartment for $3,000. However, we managed to rent the same apartment for the next 20 years, until my husband’s death.”

When Rita’s husband passed away she went to her only child, her adopted son Arthur, who had been living in Russia for 20 years by then. “I didn’t like it there so I came back. Unfortunately, by then our apartment had been rented to somebody else, so I rented another house. However, three months later, in October of last year, I came to VOAH. It is very good here. The people are very good, and I don’t feel alone. I have friends, I love everyone. At first, my son fought with me so I wouldn’t leave him as his dignity would be harmed if I did. But I talked to him and I explained that I want to stay where I feel happy and that is at VOAH.”