30-year-old Zhenik Sargysyan, with her three minor children, found herself in a desperate situation due to the pain of losing her homeland, home and husband. At the moment, this family from Artsakh does not benefit from any support program of the RA government. The state keeps orphaned children in poverty, arguing that they left Artsakh earlier and are not considered forcibly displaced.
“They rejected me; they said you came in April, you are not considered forcibly displaced. But I do not have a house or a job here now. We lived on my husband’s salary. I don’t get any support, my friends help me, my husband’s brother helps me, my brother has three children of his own. My mother and I are here, and my father is in Kapan’s positions,” said Zhenik Sargsyan in an interview with Forrights.am.
Zhenik Sargsyan said that that, in April 2023, her husband, Abel Gabrielyan, forced her and the children to leave Artsakh, because he was a contract soldier and almost always spent his time in positions. “In April of this year he said, if, God forbid, a war starts, you will be in my mind and thoughts. Go to Armenia,and then, when it’s all right, you’ll come back with the children.” We constantly fought on that topic, I said: How can I leave you here and go? But he convinced me, I came here with three children.”
The family lived in Artsakh on Abel Gabrielyan’s salary and 47 thousand drams allowance. “We applied to the Welfare office to receive benefits, but since we were not organized, the this office of Etchmiadzin rudely rejected me. They ssaid ‘We cannot be sure these are his children’. They have birth certificate, but the children have my last name, because he [the husband] had lost his passport when we were getting the birth certificates, so they have my last name, but the father’s name Abel is mentioned there,” said Zhenik Sargsyan.
Abel and Zhenik moved to Artsakh in 2017-18 and lived in Kolatak village of Martakert region. The mother and her children were forced to leave Artsakh during the 44-Day War of 2020. They came to Etchmiadzin, Armenia, but after the ceasefire, they sold and donated the property they brought with them from Artsakh and returned to live in Kolatak. During these three years, they created the conditions for living from scratch; now they have nothing again.
38-year-old Abel Gabrielyan was killed on September 19, 2023, when the Azerbaijani side started a war against Artsakh. “On the night of September 16, he called me and said that the situation was bad, he was going to the positions, to a place where there woild be no means to contact anyone, don’t worry. We didn’t hear from him since September 16, until we found out that he is no more,” the woman told Forrights.am, noting that her husband sent a voice message once.
“He was saying not to worry, to take good care of the ikds, and at the end of the message, he told me not to get upset, everything will be OK.” After that I called, he was unavailable. On September 24, when all the survivors were being brought down from Martakert, I called one of the numbers and asked, ‘Where is Abel?’ Somebody replied, ‘Dear sister, I offer my condolences, he died…’. I didn’t believe until the end, until my mother-in-law’s brother went to identify the body. They brought him to Armenia in two days”. Now the only consolation of the woman in the midst of so much pain and suffering is that her husband was buried in the Yrablur military cemetery: as she notes, “at least they have a place to cry”.
“When the fight started, he and his company fell into a siege. He realized that he will not get out of there. He told his friends: we’ll hold you, you get down, then you hold us, we’ll get down. They helped, six of his friends got out, but he and the commander did not make it,” The woman says that his friends barely managed to get his body out of the area under the control of the enemy. Abel’s last words were about his family. “Before his death, he said: I have one dream: to see my family,” said the woman, who is now facing a serious problem of how to raise her three minor children. She has two sons and one daughter.
“They made him a senior sergeant because of his heroism: he saved his friends. The Turks came to them, it was in 2022,” the wife recalled while talking about her husband’s patriotism and dedication.
Abel’s father was also killed during the first Artsakh war in 1994. The mother, Mrs. Rita, notes that it was not possible to keep her son away from his father’s fate.
“He came to Artsakh. I said: why did you come, there is a war here? He said, ‘Mama, there is a war, that’s why: I came to serve’. He was shouting at me, telling me if he did not come, the other one did not come, who would come and protect the country? I used to say, ‘Son, your father was killed then, he too told me not to say such things.”
Those who wish to help the family can contact the editorial office of Forrights.am in order t oget the telephone number.
Narek Kirakosyan is a journalist, works on the principle of "a person is an absolute value".