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.