Today, Mary Harutyunyan found and posted on her social media page the pictures of her only son, Baghdasar, who was killed in the 44-Day War. In the photo, he is happy, surrounded by friends, having fun on Vardavar Day [an Armenian national festival during which people drench each other with water]. He has no t-shirt on. Tattoos are visible on the shoulders, through which Baghdasar’s body was later identified.

It seems that not three but 100 years have passed since that Sunday in July 2020 [in the photo]. “Fortunately, on that day, my son was living carefree: everything was different, and we were different, and so was our country,” Mary sighs.

Baghdasar Gharibyan is one of the heroes of the Four-Day and 44-Day Wars, a native of Janfida village of Armavir region of Armenia. He volunteered to the army on October 5. He died in Fizuli in just 5 days.

Bhdo [short for Baghdasar] was sent off by his father and a girl named Ruzik before going to war. Bhdo told the girl on the way, “not suddenly start crying, so that papa doesn’t cry either.”

He fought alongside the late Rustam Gasparyan, the commander of “Black Panthers”. And before that, together with his friends, he transported people fleeing the disaster from Shushi to Armenia.

He was a shooter, and shooters were in demand in those days. He went to the front without waiting to be called. Died in Fizuli on October 10, 2020. The family could not find the body for a long time. They say that when Bayraktar blew up the car in which the injured Baghdasar was, another boy’s jacket was on him. Under the name of another boy, the relics of Baghdasar were kept on Heratsi morgue.

“That’s why we couldn’t find Bhdo’s body. For 11 days and nights, we visited all the mountains of Armenia: Goris, Metsamor, Abovyan: we saw horrible things. In one place, we saw that the Azeris separated the legs and hands of our boys from their relics. There were bodies on which crescent moons were tatood: it was clear that these were not our children. They were kept separately in morgues. Then they exchanged these bodies with bodies of our soldiers. Bhdo’s body was nowhere to be found. We had no hopes anymore when we found him in Heratsi morgue. There was a lieutenant colonel whom we knew. He said that there was a boy, his name was different, Artur Gharibyan, his face was missing, he had tattoos on his shoulders. My son-in-law, Armen, suddenly started feeling terrible. He said, “I feel it is my child.” We went there and saw they were Bhdo’s tatoos. On one shoulder there was the first initial of his mother’s name, on the other shoulder — his father’s initial. That’s how we found the child. His face was gone, it was burned, but we recognized him from his shoulders,” says Baghdasar’s grandfather’s brother, Hovhannes.

When Baghdasar died, his mother, Mary, was in Russia, working abroad as a cook. She says that from the very beginning she was against her son going to war.

“There were seven boys who volunteered with him, a group of seven people. Among them were two boys from Masiv, they informed Bhdo’s friends that Bhdo was no more. One of his friends also came to our house, kneeled in front of me, said, “I apologize: Bhdo saved my life, but I couldn’t save him.” We learned from his friends how he died. He heard the voice of a wounded boy, went to save him, and was injured himself; his leg was damaged. They put him in a car, it was a car like a truck, full of injured people, an unmanned aerial vehicle hit from above,” says Mary Harutyunyan.

Now every detail of Bhdo’s life seems valuable to her. She tells in detail how he brought refugees from Shushi, how they offered him money, how he refused, saying that he does not help people for money. He tells about the accident, how he broke the car when he came from Shushi, he didn’t tell his mother and promised his father that he would come after the war and fix the car.

On the day of her son’s death, Mary called her husband and said that she felt something bad in her heart, and asked if he talked to their son? Bhdo called home once and said that everything was fine, not to worry. But on October 10, Mary suddenly felt a sharp pain in her back and fell down. She called her husband and said that her heart felt a bad thing was going to happen. They told her that Bhdo was injured. Later it turned out that he was not injured, but died. The car in which Bhdo was hit by an UAV and burned. The boy’s face was completely burned.

“I went to Heratsi [morgue]; all present there were men. There was no woman. I was horrified… I asked myself, am I ready to hear my child’s name if he is here? I didn’t want to hear that he was among the dead, but I wanted to hear some news about him. They announced that 6 bodies were left, one of them being Artur Gharibyan. At that moment, they brought the bodies of 6 people in cellophane and put them on the ground. I looked… I was horrified. Wow, what is this am I looking at? And I was not imagining that one of them could be my son. One of the employees there said, don’t look at him like this; remember him as he engraved in your memory. They did not let me look at his body. My husband’s uncle came to identify the body and recognized him from the tatoos. He is not coming to his senses up to this day. After getting those tattoos, “Mary” and “Armen”, on his shoulders, he told me: ‘Mom, I’m putting you on my left side, the side of my heart, daddy’s– on the right, daddy won’t be upset. I remember that Vardavar day. I found it among his photos. They recognized him with this Vardavar day picture,” Mary remembers the cruel days she lived.

Today, she thinks that if her son had survived, he would have gotten into bigger fights. “After signing the document of November 9, his friend was among the glass breakers. Then he left and sat for several months. In my opinion, my Bghdo would have been among them if he had seen what would happen next [means the defeat of Armenia in the war]. If you were going to deliver the lands, why you did not do it sooner, so there wouldn’t have been so many victims.”

Syuzan Simonyan

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