“He looked taller, became handsomer. I used to say: Dear Vakhtang, how did you become so handsome? He was happy to hear us saying nice words to him,” Mrs. Heghine remembers some episodes of the last meeting with her son Vakhtang. Last year, in July, the mother saw her son, who was in temporary service, for the last time.
Vakhtang Stepanyan served in Meghri. During the combat operations of September 2022, he was in the positions of Nerkin Hand, at the observation post. The mother says that the boy was hit by a shrapnel of an enemy anti-aircraft missile when he left the observation post to inquire how his fellow soldiers were doing.
“It was a very hot war and the most tense and strongest fight took place at exactly that time. He constantly came out of the observation post, asked: ‘Are there any wounded, are there no victims, are you guys okay, is everything normal?’
Vakhtang is from the Spandaryan community of Syunik district of Armenia, but the family did not live there for long; they moved to Yerevan. When Vakhtang entered the service in Syunik, the excitement was great: he would protect the borders of the homeland, which are close to his heart.
The mother says that her son was in the hospital and asked to be taken to positions. “We just found out that he is already on the positions. He was a great patriot and loved his Syunik very much. He had health problems, they gave him a postponement, but he said no, I am going to serve. He served the motherland until the last second of his life.”
At midnight on September 13, 2022, when the enemy attacked the Armenian positions, the Stepanians learned about it from their relatives living in Syunik.
“Our relatives in Syunik said that there is a war here. We called, but he was unavailable. My eldest son came to my place of work and said that Vakhtang was injured. He lied, he said that it was his arm, but it was his head that was injured. I spoke to him only once; he spoke very briefly, saying only two words: ‘Mom, everything is normal, it’s good, I will definitely call you’. I asked him to call, but he didn’t…”
Vakhtang did not receive first aid for a long time after being wounded in the head, according to his mother, it was not possible. “The blow was on the head. For three days, they did everything for Vakhtang’s life. He had remained in that position for so long, they couldn’t take him out because they [the Azeris] were shooting all the time… If they had taken him out, maybe he could have been saved,” says Mrs. Heghine and notes that her son was taken to the Erebuni Medical Center, where he died without regaining consciousness.
Despite the unspeakable pain, the mother speaks with pride about her son’s feat, patriotism, friendship and bravery. Vakhtang was to finish his service in July this year, and his mother is still waiting for her son to return. “I can’t talk about my son in the past,” she says.
Vakhtang was posthumously awarded the “Combat Service” medal by the RA President for defending the homeland. However, no one visited the Stepanians, neither offered condolences nor thanked them for the Vakhtang feat.
“No one visited us, even if they offered condolences. It was very insulting. He sacrificed his life for the motherland. He wanted to live, walk, he had many big dreams, but none of them happened,” says his mother.
Vakhtang is buried in the Yerablur military pantheon. His 20th birthday whould have been celebrated in Meghri in April, but his mother says, we celebrated in Yerablur, like many parents…
After the death of her son, Mrs. Heghine’s health problems worsened. She says that there were problems even before that, but it was possible to endure: they put everything aside and waited for their son to return from the army. But now, only the unfulfilled goals remain. During this period, Heghine Stepanyan underwent several operations, one of which was of an oncological nature.
“I don’t have the strength anymore, after my Vakhtang my whole life disappeared. I can’t go even to Yerablur. Our folks always go, I tell them to say to Vakhtang that mom says I’m sorry, my dearest boy, I am sorry… I talk with his photos, comfort myself. I took care of him, raised him… in a second my child flew out of my hands.”
The Stepanians live in difficult social conditions, Mrs. Heghine and her husband have serious health problems and do not work. The only income of the family is the salary of the eldest son, Artur. They do not have a house, they live in Yerevan on rent, on the semi-basement floor of a residential house. Ms. Heghine hopes to be able to obtain an apartment with state support.
Narek Kirakosyan is a journalist, works on the principle of "a person is an absolute value".