Edmund looks very serious all the time – he doesn’t like to be photographed. The rare moments when he smiles are, when Ani laughs in remembrance of their wedding day.
“What is love for you?,” I ask them, sitting on a small couch in their living room that is at the same time the bedroom of the small apartment. “Like Romeo and Juliet – also nobody knew about us and everybody was ‘Eeeey’ how can this be with you and Edmund.” While Edmund sits quietly beside her on their bed, Ani giggles, remembering their romance story – a romance nobody knew about for 13 years. Now, since one and a half years, Ani and Edmund are living in a small apartment together, sharing their daily life and taking care of each other.
They spent their whole life in Beirut, endured the years of civil war and finally, met the love of their lives. But it was a tough road for them, as Ani and Edmund are blind, living as students in the Evangelical Blessed School for Students with special needs. When the principal of the school, Linda Maktaby, first found out about them, they were worried that they had to leave the school, but Linda was going to make possible what was merely a dream. “It’s like a family here,” says Ani. Together with the staff of the Blessed School, Linda worked hard for the both of them to give them the chance that everyone in love should have, to spend one’s live with the person you love and to marry.
But the Lebanese bureaucracy was in their way, since when a student marries, his student status is lost – therefore both of them would have had to leave the School. But Blessed School was the only place for them to stay, they would have ended up on the streets. But Linda brought the case before the authorities and miraculously they renounced their policy in their case.
Lebanon doesn’t have civil marriage, therefore hundreds of couples who want to escape the religious boundaries of their society book all-inclusive wedding packages in Cyprus or Turkey. But Ani and Edmund wanted to marry with their friends and family in a church in Beirut anyway. At first, the pastor refused, “how should a blind couple marry and live together?” But Linda got him to meet them and they changed his mind with their sincere love. Finally, he was willing to grant them their wish. And so on the 7th of October 2016 they got married and had a big fest with their family and all the people form Blessed School. They even organized a red car, Ani’s favorite car she always dreamt for her wedding. Afterwards the two of them got a small apartment for themselves on the compound of the School.
Ani tells their story like a funny anecdote with little to worry about, “if God wants he makes everything good for us.” But the road was a long one until today – they are in love since 18 years. I ask her, “do you have a wish for your future?” Intrigued Ani replies “I don’t know, I’ve lived here for a long time.” Blessed School is their life and their universe.
I drink my cup of Arabic coffee and take their portrait. Before I leave, Ani smiles and asks me “Do you want to learn Armenian?” I smile and promise to return.
When I leave, Ani still giggles.