– Commander, there is advancement by the enemy.
– Do you see the village in front of us?
– We will take it and name it as we want, do not worry.
Serob Melkonyan’s comrade-in-arms recalls.
Serob loved the army very much, he was very devoted to it, he was always self-educating himself. He served in the air defense, as well as in the anti-tank defemse. No matter how much competition there was, he had to be the first. He did not accept that he could be weak; he always had to win.
He was the head of the headquarters. Once the war started, he became major and a battalion commander. The territory of Mush was under his control. He ruled very well, so well that they had already crossed over to the enemy controlled territory and went deep in it, but they had ordered him to retreat. He had built the trenches there with tunnels: it is the only one in Karabakh. Even the Azerbaijani television had shown that trench. He said, “Mom, I made it so good. If there were sponsors, I would make such good trenches.”
“It smells like war”
On September 25, I went to a store, where people were talking and someone said, “Have you heard, a war will start in two days?” I was kind of surprised and told my folks at home, but we did not pay attention to it. In fact, it was true and the war started in two days.
When the war started, Serob was in positions. He was supposed to be on vacation, but he was called back a few days earlier. He still had five days until the end of the vacation. He did not know that a war was going to start. But later his friends told us that, when they saw the gathering of Azerbaijani troops in the positions on September 25, they looked at each other and Serob said: “It smells like war.”
We were in Shushi on September 27. In the morning, we heard the sounds of bombing. It was unexpected ․ We immediately jumped at the thought that the war had begun. Why? Because that is the first problem for all the people of Artsakh. I always told my students: we live in paradise if we did not have an enemy. We pray every day before going to bed, every day. We prayed that there would be no war, then we lay down and slept.
When the bombing started, I opened the window. The whole area was shaking. My husband and I looked at each other and said, “The war started; what should we do with the children?” They were staying in Martuni at that time. We gathered everyone in Shushi thinking that Shushi was safe, but at the end, happened what happened.
The children stayed in Shushi for a couple of days, but when they were bombing, they were constantly going down to the basement. We felt that they were suffering from stress, that’s why we thought it was better for the children to leave Artsakh. They could not persuade me: I said, “do not ever tell me to leave.” But then the situation got worse ․ The church was hit, and it is right next to our house. When they hit is first time, we were in the basement. The strike was so strong that we thought they hit our building. I thought, well, since they hit it already, they won’t do it again, and I entered the house. I was already at home when the second strike was made. On the evening of October 16, Serob called and said in an alarming voice, “Mom, you must leave right now.” And we left. He was not coming home at all. I asked if it was possible for him to come home. He said:
– Oh, no. I do not have such a luck.
It turns out that, at that time, he had already gone with his battalion to organize the defense of the Red Market. Friends say that he saw with his own eyes how thousands of Turks were moving towards Shushi. He called and warned the Karin Tak village head that they were coming. He told my husband me, but he did not tell me where he was.
He died on October 26 from a drone assault. There were 4 people; one of them survived. When Serob went to lead the defense of the Red Market until they liberated the Shekhers. He felt that something was going to happen to him, so he held everyone back: he found reasons to send the soldiers somewhere else so that he could be away from him.
I, the mother
I did not believe that they would take Shushi. But then, I felt that because, from the beginning, they were bombing and bombing, they they were not bombing Shushi, and I thought that they were not bombing Shushi, so they do not want it destroyed, maybe they want to take it. And so it happened. I do not think about the house, it does not even cross my mind.
The people are strong, the leader is weak. Theenemy saw that whoever becomes the leader, thinks about himself only, he found a very right, convenient moment. If I were an enemy, I would do the same.
Serob through the eyes of his comrades-in-arms
Serob was a very good commander. All the soldiers of the battalion loved him for his discipline, for his punctuality. He considered everyone equal and led the military operations correctly. Most of the time, when we did not expect to survive, we breathed freer when we heard his voice. During the service there were moments when we were depressed, he helped us in every way, he was a parent for us, a friend, a brother, in a word—he was everything for us.
When a soldier from our battalion was scared, he sat down, talked to him, and raised the spirit. When he was alive, everyone’s spirit was high, no one scared. But after his death the battalion was not the same anymore. On the day of his death we retreated: we were in a panic, we could not understand how the commander who always had inspired us could die. During the fight, when we talked to him, he was so inspiring that we became calmer, as if your father was with you, that was the feeling.
“My son was strong”
This is how Serob Melkonyan’s mother, Varditer, answered to the question “Was your son strong?” And added: “It is not me saying this: his friends write about it every day, they say he was God for us. He was the only commander standing in front of the troops. He has said, “I will not send my army onward and lead it hidden in its back.”