“My youngest is asking, where is daddy? Didn’t he take his phone? I call him, he doesn’t answer. Maybe the phone is discharges. Let’s charge it: I want to talk to him.” The six-year-old boy listens to the words of his tearful mother standing between the doors. These are familiar questions: after September 19, he asks his mother these questions every day.
In the cold living room, Nubar Avetisyan’s stories follow one another. The boy, who will turn seven in a few days, is waiting for his father. “He says, ‘mom, who are the helicopters bringing with broken legs and a broken arms? Maybe, if I break my arm too, they will take me with the helicopter to bring my daddy, uncles and grandmother’?”
Nubar Avetisyan’s husband, Zori Danielyan, was killed on September 19 in Martuni positions; his brother and cousin were killed during the 44-day war, and Nubar’s mother died in the cemetery near her sons’ graves.
Nubar did not attend her husband’s funeral. She was in Stepanakert with her children, there was no opportunity to go to their village Machkalashen: the villages of that region were under siege by the enemy. It was also not possible to move Zori’s body either to Stepanakert or Machkalashe. He was buried in Chartar.
“The bodies were somehow removed and brought to Martuni, but, since there was no way to keep them, they told my brother to come and take them. My brother said I will bury him in the best possible way. There was no possibility to go from Stepanakert to Machkalashen, nor from Chartar to Machkalashen. Chartar was his friend’s village: they buried him there at night in the friend’s family cemetery. There were three of them: my brother, his friend and my sister-in-law. I was not present: the road was closed,” Nubar remembers the cruel days.
The woman only has a handful of earth from her husband’s grave: se had asked her brother to bring it from his grave.
“I have a handful of soil, but I don’t know where to put it… I asked my brother to bring back some soil. When it is the seventh day, the 40th day of his passing, one wonders where to go to visit him… I’m going to Yerablur, I’m walking, I’m putting flowers on other people’s graves, I’m crying, I’m coming,” says Nubar.
In the last three years, grief and mourning have been inseparable from Nubar. Three years ago, her brothers were buried at night. “During the 44-day war, we buried my brother again at night… There were four of us. My mother died after less than two years. She went to the cemetery and did not return: she had a heart attack right there. For two years, every day, three times a day, she went to visit her children…
Nubar remembers the last days she spent with her husband, cries, argues with him why he didn’t retreat. The commander has visited Zori’s family, told them what exploits he has done and to say that he did it for the sake of children, everyone’s children.
He disobeyed the order to retreat, he said: if they have to reach the children, let them do it over my body. His commander came here, he said he is a hero; he fought for an hour and did not retreat. His friend said that the three of them fought in the positions for more than an hour, Zori was killed.
The woman did not have information about her husband for three days. The last time they spoke was on September 18, the connection was interrupted in the middle of the conversation and was not restored. “I could talk to my relatives, but I couldn’t talk to my husband. My brother went to Chartar. I somehow survived that night. I talked to my brother, he said that he couldn’t speak to my husband, there was no connection. On the third day, my brother said, “Sister, we have another loss, we have to be strong… He grew up fatherless and motherless; they died early. He used to say ‘I will give everything to my children, I will buy everything when the blockade ends’. How could he?…”
Nubar lives with three minor children in Jrvezh, in the house of one of her relatives. She does not have a permanent place of residence. After the forced displacement, the children are deprived of the opportunity to go to school, the mother does not know where they will live to take the children to school in that area. Her daughter and two sons stopped attending dance, sewing, sports and other classes. You need money to get to Yerevan… there is none.
“My 16-year-old son tells me he will work and support us. Does a 16-year-old have the right to think about that? No, in the 21st century, he doesn’t have the right: he has to spend time with his friends, but…”
At the end of the interview, the youngest son appears again between the doors, silently watching his crying mother. In a few days he will turn seven. He is wondering if his birthday will be celebrated. Two days ago, it snowed in Jrvezh, the child asks how many days after the snow they should put up the Christmas tree.
“In the last three years, our life consists only of visting graves. For three years, the children have seen only grief and hardship. We don’t celebrate birthdays; we don’t put up a Christmas tree… But the child asks…”
Narek Kirakosyan is a journalist, works on the principle of "a person is an absolute value".