To the wails of her mother, Svetlana Arikilyan was laid to rest in this devastated city on Saturday after grave diggers cut a hole in the black frozen earth with a jackhammer.
"Oh, my darling girl! Farewell! Farewell!" a weeping Varsik Arikilyan exclaimed as pallbearers holding two worn ropes lowered her 36-year-old daughter's wooden coffin, draped in a royal blue cloth, into the ground.She cast a handful of dirt on the coffin, then turned away in agony.
"For us Armenians, there can be no holidays this year. No New Year's, no Christmas," said Edik Kasparyan, a Leninakan teacher. "There has been too much loss, too much death."
Armenia's second-largest city, 11 miles east of the Turkish border, is still reeling from the Dec. 7 earthquake that Soviet officials estimate killed 55,000 people.
As Soviets elsewhere prepare for the New Year's holiday and its rituals of gift-giving and family get-togethers, Armenians still are counting their dead and digging out from the ruins of the deadliest earthquake in their nation's history.
Survivors come in gratitude to kiss the stone walls of Leninakan's Armenian Catholic Church of the Seven Wounds, whose bell tower toppled to the ground, but whose sanctuary was spared by the great quake.
For the survivors, there is also sorrow, pain, hunger and anger. Day and night, when the temperature drops near zero, the grisly search for the dead goes on.
Shortly after dawn, rescuers combing the wreckage of a nine-story apartment building gently freed the body of 29-year-old Dina Mikhailovna. By her side was the body of her child, who could have been no more than 11/2 years old, a smashed baby stroller and a plastic fir tree that the family had bought for the holidays.
Mother and child were placed in a coffin made from particle board and painted black. Six men struggled to carry it down a snow-frosted mountain of smashed concrete and twisted pipes to a truck.
Armenians, an ancient people who embraced Christianity as a state religion more than 1,600 years ago, have canceled Christmas festivities on Jan. 6, the date they and the other Eastern rites usually celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Martin Pashayan, 42, an Armenian who teaches French, was counting on receiving a new three-room apartment for his family in time for the New Year. Instead, his wife Knarik, 42, and his daughter and son died when their eighth-floor apartment crashed down around them.
"For the first week, I was out of my mind with grief," said the haggard, sunken-eyed Pashayan. "But then I realized that if I had been left alive, it was to live. I asked, `Why me?' When I look around I see that everyone here suffered. Every family."
Once home to more than 280,000 people, Leninakan today has only 100,000 inhabitants, thousands of whom now live in tents. Many residents have been evacuated.
Tens of thousands of homes, schools for 63,000 students, nurseries for 15,000 children and hospitals with nearly 5,000 beds will have to be built or repaired in the disaster area in two years, Tass said.