Armenians Alone Again

On the morning of Sunday, September 27th, I woke up from a nightmare where I visualized my home left in ruins and ashes, and how my family and I were seeking safety at some dark place while bombs were constantly being fired on us. Minutes later, I checked my phone to see my entire social media timeline flooded with news about a war happening in Artsakh. My grandma told me that our bombed house in my nightmare symbolized Artsakh that was actually being bombed, since: “Artsakh is our home.”

At first I didn’t want to accept this terrible news, I had enough of the tragedies of 2020… But there is no running away from the harsh reality that we live in. Everyone was saying that it was probably going to last for 2-3 days. It is the 25th day today, and it hasn’t stopped yet. Each and every day feels like a whole year full of cruel and depressive thoughts, never ending uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and heartbreaks. 

On September 29th, I received the tragic news that my classmate was sacrificed on the frontline. From that day on, he has been the symbol of this war for me. I wasn’t so close to him, but we had many classes and projects together. I knew him, I knew how kind and strong he was, I knew how hard he was working to balance his classes with his work, and most importantly I knew how much he loved his homeland. Everyone in our university who got the chance to know him knew how much he loved his homeland. Till this day, I still can’t process the thought that days before the war started we were in our online class, trying to understand what our next assignments were about, and that now he is gone. Why? Why was his destiny so cruel? Why should him and many other young and bright souls sacrifice their gift of life in order to keep lands that righteously belong to our nation? I cannot imagine the amount of pain that my classmate’s family, and every other hero’s families feel and are going to feel forever.

Because of vile politicians and their evil political schemes, innocent lives are being taken away, leaving hundreds of families broken. I cannot find words to describe how cruel and ignorant the world that we live in is, since no international organization or country has done anything to try to stop these violent attacks. With each “I demand Azerbaijani officials to stop…” statement, an Armenian soldier falls. With all the evidence, let it be historical monasteries, ancient texts, books, etc. the big nations haven’t taken serious measures to stop criminal Turkey and criminal Azerbaijan. We are once again left all alone with no help from any other country.

There is no such thing as developing countries, or 21st century developments, since the tragedies that us Armenians are facing today is the modern version of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Nothing has changed. Turks are still in desperation to erase Armenians from the world. Ever since the 1850s, they have always had a sick obsession with us Armenians, specifically jealousy and hatred towards more civilized people, rich in culture, arts and crafts, literature, and history. They have tried to erase us, end our race, ruin our churches, burn our schools, and wanted to hang the last Armenian in a museum… Yet they have failed. They have failed miserably, because I am still here. Graduated from an Armenian school, with a rich knowledge of Armenian history, having read numerous Armenian literature, sang numerous Armenian songs, and prayed in numerous Armenian churches. I got to know the survival story my grandmother’s grandmother told her. Having escaped the 1915 massacre with her little brother,  witnessing her entire family being murdered.. It’s just unbelievable how her and many other Armenians survived and still flourished and flourished and never lost faith. 

105 years later, and the turks are determined to continue their sinful ancestors’ schemes. The Europeans and the Americans are still unwilling to go against Turkey, all because of political agreements. How ironic is that if Armenia had some kind of benefit for those big nations, they would be the first to jump in and stop Turkey. But Armenia doesn’t have petrol, it doesn’t have a sea, etc. so all big nations go blind on the matter. I have to say I have lost faith in humanity, but it is not exactly the case, since I have not lost faith in my people. Seeing how Armenians all around the world protest and raise awareness in front of international institutions and media organizations, how all Armenians grieve the loss of each and every one of our fallen heroic soldiers, and how Armenians around the world unite and become one makes me keep my faith in humanity, in my people. And the turks still wish to see the last Armenian hung in a museum?

We Are as Strong as Our Mountains

by Diana Aghumyan

The morning of September 27th was not one of those ordinary mornings for Armenians. We all received the sad news about Azerbaijan’s large-scale offensive launched against Artsakh. At first, I could not fully realize what was going on as I was half-asleep and half-awake. I rubbed my eyes and reread everything. I was paralyzed for the first few minutes and could not believe it was happening again.

The situation on the Line of Contact between Artsakh and Azerbaijan has been tense from time to time. The most intensive escalation after the ceasefire of 1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan was in 2016, also known as Four Day April war. Just when we were thinking 2020 could not get even worse, Azerbaijan attacked the Tavush region of Armenia in July. Being not fully recovered from those events, we were forced to get involved in another yet more serious fight, which we neither wanted nor started. However, deep down, some Armenians, including me, thought that this would not last more than a few days. Unfortunately, it has been 25 days since Artsakh was under heavy attacks.

With the support of its major ally Turkey, Azerbaijan uses all the means to occupy the territories that historically belong to Armenia. They even hired Syrian mercenaries to fight against us. Although Armenia is outnumbered and does not have the modern and powerful military equipment that Azerbaijan has, our soldiers are fighting against terrorism and Azerbaijani aggression with dignity. They are sacrificing the most precious thing for us, their lives. They are fighting till the last breath, not to let the enemy take away our right to live in our ancestors’ lands.

The most disappointing aspect of this situation perhaps is the international community’s response. Some countries picked the side of the aggressor, while others still remain neutral. Along with this, we also see some countries being extremely “concerned.” They condemn the actions of Azerbaijan. However, they are just concerned, and that’s it. They do not do anything to stop Azerbaijan and its war crimes. Some people might think that as long as the problem is not related to them, they do not have to interfere. They believe that as long as they live in safety and this conflict does not put their lives at risk, they can carry on living their lives and neglecting the fact that others’ lives are in danger. While our boys are fighting against terrorism at the expense of their lives, the international community just pretends to be unaware of what is going on. However, this toxic neutrality and ignorance might lead to disastrous consequences as the local ethnic conflict may spiral into a regional war.

Indeed, we do not have oil or something else to offer other countries and have them on our side, but we Armenians have each other. Armenians all over the world are united as always. I am proud of my Armenian brothers and sisters living in different parts of the world. Their protests, donations, and tremendous support are more than enough for us not to give up and stay strong. When I try to recall our history and all the struggles our nation underwent, I cannot think of a time when Armenians gave up. Our strength lies in our faith in our country, people, and history. This war is not an exception. There is no doubt that we are going to survive this too.

Even though they destroyed our homes, churches, and schools, we will restore all of them and build even more beautiful ones. The saddest part is the children who became victims of Aliyev’s ego and political games. Many children had to leave their homes with their families and move to different parts of Armenia. What is more devastating is that some of them lost their fathers, brothers, and other relatives on the battlefield. Instead of enjoying their childhood, they have to experience the ongoing war.

This war is definitely going to affect their mental health. That’s why my friends and I found it quite important to organize an interesting and entertaining event to alleviate their situation a bit and enable them to detach themselves from the harsh reality for a few hours. I must admit that meeting these children was the best thing that could happen to me these days.

“Even though the people of Ashtarak welcomed us very well, we want to return to our homes. We are looking forward to our victory,” Artsakh kids said.

I am looking forward to it as well, and I am sure that we will be victorious. We will not allow the second genocide to happen. We are going to live and prosper.

A Stream of Thoughts During Times of War.

Ever since the war started, friends and family are constantly telling me to relax. They tell me that I look worried and that my face has gone permanently pale. Apparently, I seem overly stressed. This is not like the regular stress I usually feel when I have school assignments due or the chronic stress caused by lack of money, but rather something more overwhelming that seems to crush my spirits. Apparently, the world can visibly see me be overcome by despair and sadness whenever I check the news on my phone. Despite how frequently I check, with no respite, my face gets even pailer and I fall more deeply into gloom. 

Close friends have told me that they never knew they would witness the day where I would be the quietest in a room full of people. They always joked around and told me that they would give anything to see that day. Now, they regret ever saying that. They have since acknowledged that an existential war was too high of a price to pay in return for a few hours of them not hearing my many bright ideas. 

Do not get me wrong, I am sad. I have been to Yerablur twice in the last week and it has been painful. I have seen grown Armenian men, who are infinitely stronger and braver than I am, who already live the toughest lives, who have been told to never show weakness,  sob relentlessly and mourn the loss of their sons who they loved so dearly. 

The grief of the family members of those fallen soldiers is cut short by authorities who reluctantly tell them that they need to finish with their ceremonies. There are other young men who are coming in caskets to be laid to rest and there is not enough time. There are other fathers waiting to give their brave sons a last farewell as they sob and allow themselves for once to be weak and vulnerable. There is no shortage of heroes and hero-birthing parents on Yerablur these days. 

Emotional exhaustion is what I am really feeling. Thanks to the internet, the day is filled with a roller-coaster of emotions. I can wake up feeling functional in the morning by hearing that the clashes at the border were “relatively stable” and an hour later my heart is broken as pictures of a wounded Artsakh load on my phone. 

I never realized how the internet had changed war forever. News spreads so quickly and so frequently that it is impossible to shut yourself off. The flow of news is constant and every piece of information takes its toll on me. However, the information often raises more questions than it answers. It is information that keeps us in the dark and slowly drives us crazy as we ponder and think about all the worst possible scenarios.  

I feel like I have been slapped in the face by reality, by history, and by the shere indifference of humanity. I have heard and reheard about the unfortunate geographic location of Armenia that has been the cause of so many wars as the world’s greatest empires marched and trampled on our land for thousands of years. I have heard and reheard about the genocide and all the culture that was taken away from us. A hundred years later, old grumpy men in my community who have met only a handful of Turks in their lives, reiterate that “The Turk won’t ever change.” 

But, I have also heard and reheard all the stories about how the ancient Armenians, against all odds, have again and again fought for their survival and won. Stories of Aram Manukyan and Sartarapat have been played like a broken record in my home. My dad believed he would fail as a parent if the echoes of those stories were not heard throughout the lives of his sons.

Since the fighting started on September 27th, being Armenian suddenly felt way too real. Those stories that I have heard growing up were not fiction and I feel the weight of them on my shoulders. Nothing has changed for the Armenians. Our homeland is still at the crossroads of civilizations. Our existence is threatened once again when the world is too preoccupied. In reality, perhaps that is where the real exhaustion comes from –  that the world continues to disappoint. Yet again our cries for help fell on deaf ears and once more we, and we alone will be the deciders of our fate and the guarantors of our survival.

A look into the future when my father and I will visit a free Artsakh again.

We Didn’t Expect This After 105 Years

Arax Kassouny

As an Armenian, these past couple of weeks have been filled with emotions that I did not know exist. My eyes are filled with tears, my heart gained a ton of sorrow, and my head is going three different directions, thinking about our brave-hearted soldiers, their families, and not being able to focus on my daily tasks. As we all heard by now, Nagorno-Karabakh, also referred to as Artsakh, which belongs to Armenia, has been under attack by Azerbaijan since September 27th. With the help of Turkey’s military and other terrorists sent from Syria, Azerbaijani troops are destroying our country, Artsakh, and killing its citizens. However, with our fearless soldiers, countless donations from Armenians all around the world, we are united like never before, one hand, and walking through the mud together until we find the light at the end of the tunnel and celebrate a new independence day.

           It is never easy to witness your enemies try to steal your lands and turning them into ashes. But it is unbearable to see your enemies not being held accountable for their actions, and not taking responsibility for bombing parts of your country, which led to the death of hundreds of innocent souls and still coldheartedly accuse us, Armenians, for being the aggressors. Yes, we are shuttered, sad, heartbroken that Azeris and Turks did this again, but are we surprised? 

           We, Armenians, are not surprised by Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s actions because they have always been our murderers, stealers and aggressors. As the saying goes, “history repeats itself,” and unfortunately, this part of our history is definitely repeating itself. It goes back to 1915 to 1923 when the Armenian genocide happened, where the Ottoman government murdered 1.5 million Armenians. Turks raped, tortured, and killed Armenians to wipe our race off the earth. The rest who escaped Armenia survived, and this is the reason why Armenians are scattered all around the world. Since then, Turkey had always been denying that a genocide ever happened. After that, in 1923, Former Premier of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, gave Artsakh to Azerbaijan because he wanted Azerbaijan to join the SSR (the Soviet Union), while the majority of Artsakh’s population was Armenians However, after the SSR collapsed, Armenians voted to gain their independence back. Fast forward to 1992, when the war happened, we, Armenians, reclaimed our land, Artsakh, and a ceasefire was implemented. Azerbaijan has been violating the ceasefire ever since. Of course, Turkey has Azerbaijan’s back because they share the same goal: killing all Armenians and living in a world where not a single Armenian individual and piece of land exist. Now Azerbaijan is still striking Syunik, Stepanakert, and we do not know what is next. 

           After all these years of damage to our country and killing our people they still refuse to admit that they were our killers. After all these years of denial and not letting the world recognize the Armenian genocide, they continue bombing our land and blaming us for killing their soldiers, citizens, and stealing their land. 

           However, nowadays, we are much stronger and prepared to survive every crime that Turkey and Azerbaijan does and now we are showing the world our true colors. They are striking Artsakh and demanding war and preparing their children to hate Armenians, while we are demanding peace. At every age group, countless men and women are volunteering and putting their lives at risk for our safety. To keep the small land that we have. One of my Syrian-Armenian friends, who came to Armenia four years ago after escaping the Syrian war, volunteered and went to war without hesitation as soon as he heard about the conflict. He came back last week because he got injured after a bomb exploded near him, and he told us stories that filled my heart with sadness and joy at the same time. I have never felt as mixed emotions, where I smiled while having a smile on my face. He told us how he felt empowered by the other volunteers and our hero soldiers to fight with his full power when he felt low and scared. Also, he said that they could not eat, drink, speak, nor smoke at night, because any kind of sound and even the light of the cigarette will give away their location to the real aggressors, who are the Azeris. I cannot imagine the fear that they are living with, the thought of the possibility of not seeing their parents, kids, siblings ever again, the sleepless nights, and the panic every time an explosion happens. 

           After hearing these stories, I felt more motivated to help the families that escaped from Artsakh and came to Yerevan and do what I can to be a part of this victory because we will win. A nation who was the first to accept Christianity, our faith is enormous. We’re a peaceful nation; we have proofs and pieces of evidence. The history is with us.

To summarize, the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, joined with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is killing Armenians and want to steal our lands. We are a small nation, but we are strong and united. We already lost enough brave souls and for these heroes and our great great-parents who survived the genocide, hence why I am here writing this blog, will continue on fighting. Like the saying, “We woke up to a war” that went viral, regarding our situation now, one day, “we woke up to a peace” will be too. 

We woke up in the war

By Margarita Zakharova (Margot)

I never was a real patriot, but the spirit of patriotism always lived in me somehow. It’s like I was realizing that it is not fashionable or “cool” to be a patriot, but that was not a real reason for my not being a “true” patriot. I cannot give a proper explanation as to why I always avoided being a patriot of my country. Recently, I posted a picture of me holding an Armenian flag on the top of the castle, and my caption to this photo was the following: “I’ve noticed that being a patriot is not “fashionable” nowadays. This is the right time to appreciate our country and become a true patriot.” After this post, one of the girls I know texted me, saying that she wouldn’t ever think that people like me would ever support their country or found themselves patriotic. I still do not know what she meant by “people like me” (it sounded a little offensive though), but I told her that during these hard times it would be absurd if I did not support an Armenia if my heart didn’t ache for the country in which I spent most of my adult, conscious life, the country, where my favorite people live, in which I study, and in which I spend my best years of life.

I live in a small country called Armenia. It is situated right between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Already for 30 years, Armenia has been involved in the Artsakh conflict with Azerbaijan, and after years of the conflict, Azerbaijan decided to resolve this conflict with violence. On September 27, 2020, I and my nation woke up in the war.

It’s been 19 days since the war started. I remember the morning of September 27, when I woke up in a pretty good mood for a morning. My mood immediately changed when I opened the news and saw that Azeris started bombing Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh in the early morning. I remember me thinking that our nation will go through a lot of changes starting from that day. It was obvious for all of us, that this war won’t last 4 days as it happened in the April War in 2016. It got even scarier when Armenian PM Nikol Pashinian announced mobilization, which meant that all men who were in the army once had to immediately leave their families and friends for Artsakh. 

Artsakh president Arayik Harutyunyan drinking his morning coffee with soldiers at the front line.

On that day, despite the fact I was ill, I decided to meet a person who is very important to me. It’s like we remember about people we love the most in the hardest moments somehow. I also needed the motivation to do my homework, as I couldn’t make myself do it at home, and went to Cascade, one of the most famous parts of Yerevan’s downtown. I sat in one of the cafes and tried to do something, at least write one sentence of my essay, but I couldn’t. My head was busy with my thoughts about war. I was thinking about my friends who could go there. I was thinking about the fact that maybe I won’t see them again after they leave. It was very sad to realize that such thoughts have become a part of our reality.

Later on, some of my friends came to the cafe we were sitting at. After constant talking, I caught myself on the fact that I got silent. After analyzing myself for years, I learned the fact that if I suddenly get silent, it means that I have many thoughts that are eating me from inside, but I cannot speak up about them. What was happening in my head was a mix of the recent events of my personal life and more global problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war. The saddest thing about that mix was that when it comes to your personal life, it is a drama which is connected only to you, and it touches only you, so you can solve your problems and continue to live. But when your problems become more global, such as the current war, and it is not only your problem but the problem that touches the whole nation, you cannot focus on your personal problems. Moreover, your personal problems do not make sense anymore, but they still concern you on a subconscious level. And then you sit and realize that now besides your personal drama you have more serious drama to deal with and you sit there feeling a big ball of stress falling on your head.

Besides all of these thoughts in my head, sitting there, I was watching my friends. Their eyes were full of fear of the war. It is something that nobody should experience in the 21st century. I was also watching a couple sitting at another table. We knew them. When they came into the cafe, a boy looked at us, we asked if he was also leaving for Artsakh, and he said: “Yes, but don’t tell my girlfriend.” One hour later, I noticed that the girl started crying, and her boyfriend started calming her down. It was one of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever seen in my life. He told her that he was leaving for Artsakh. I was staring at them, and my eyes were full of tears. I was happy that at that moment, the person I loved was by my side. At least we had each other, I thought.

Armenian volunteers heading to the war on September 27 in Yerevan.

My mother always used to tell me that she likes Russian movies about WW2, and I never understood it. She still talks about it whenever the topic that we discuss touches the theme of the war. I remember watching these movies together with her when I was younger, and I remember the feeling I had every time I watched them. We still watch these movies sometimes. Every time we watch them together, she starts to tell me about her grandfather and how he participated in WW2. I was always amazed by everything that brave soldiers and my grandfather went through, the way they fought on the battlefield, and the way they were fighting for peace and justice. There were times when I was thinking that I also would like to participate in a war if I lived back then. One may think that it is very dramatic, tragic, or terrifying, but listening to the stories or watching movies about war is one thing, and experiencing the war and being a witness of its process and its horror is the whole another experience, which you wouldn’t wish to get even to your enemy.

Russian-Ukrainian movie “Battle for Sevastopol” (2015) – my favorite war genre movie.

I am half-Russian and half-Armenian. Most of my life I lived in Russia. But now I feel like my true home is Armenia. My whole life is here, in this beautiful country. I cannot stand the thought that my country is going through something so terrifying as a war. I and my friends, who are not at the front line, are trying to do our best to help people in Artsakh. We collect food, clothes, and other needs. We fight against Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression online, trying to spread awareness about the conflict among international people. We also try to live a normal life, but life is not the same when people around you are stressed when you are stressed. Life is not the same when every morning you have to look for your friends’ names in the list of dead people. I can say that it is the hardest time of all I had in my life. It is the hardest time that all Armenian people had in their lives. We have to stay strong, and at this point, the only thing we can do is support each other and hope for the best. I feel like I have to say that it is the time when people who love each other have to stay by each other’s side because nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. I have never seen such a powerful nation, and I am proud to be a part of it. This is a true spirit of patriotism, of healthy patriotism. It is something we will remember about, and something that we are going to tell our kids about, and make them proud. This is my message to the whole Armenian nation – do not lose your spirit, because we will win.