“I came to celebrate my son’s 21st birthday today, to kiss this cold stone”

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Levon Manukyan would have turned 21 years old on December 27. This year [in 2021], his family celebrated his birthday in Yerablur cemetery. The conscript was killed on October 14, 2020, in a battle to retake his position in Mataghis.

In the early days of the 44-day war, he miraculously escaped an eight-day blockade. Just four days later, he returned to Mataghis, which was already under enemy control, believing that it was still possible to retake it.

The soldier’s mother, Nelli Ghahramanyan, is now expecting two babies, who will be born in March next year. “I came to celebrate my son’s 21st birthday today, to kiss this cold stone. It’s very hard for me. No matter how many new kids I have, the first one is different. Levon was a child full of life. He really wanted to live. But he did not… I have to be strong to be able to keep Levon’s memory alive with these kids, to always visit his grave.”

His mother tells us that Levon loved his birthday, on this day he always said, “Mommy, I was born!” “He said “it is my birthday, dear mother’. He loved that day very much. He last celebrated his birthday on December 27, 2019. I sent a cake with ‘Talish, Levon of Lightnings’ inscription. He was happy. He kept a half of the cake to celebrate his friend’s birthday with it. His friends say he was so happy that day. I do not know; may be, he felt that it was the last time he was celebrating his birthday.”

There were 50 people in Levon’s platoon. Only nine out of 50 survived. Some were killed in Talish and others in Mataghis. Levon was under siege from September 29 to October 8. During that time, he did many heroic deeds, saved his friends, volunteers, helped all the wounded to get out of the blockade.

“On the 8th of the month, he called and said, ‘Mom, I’m out of the blockade. The good deeds I have done have been returned back’. I can still hear his voice. He was so happy!. He said, ‘I saved my friends, I saved my commander, they are in the hospital, go and see them’. I went to see everyone. And, when I was there, everyone told me that I have a hero son, I should be proud of Levon,” the mother had told us earlier.

Nelli Ghahramanyan says she no longer celebrates any holidays, especially the New Year, at home. She is going to be Yerablur cemetery on December 31, notwithstanding her pregnancy and cold weather.

Ani Gevorgyan