On September 25, during the gas station explosion in Stepanakert, Irina Grigoryan lost her two sons, 24-year-old Gennady and 15-year-old Aren. The boys had gone there with their father to find an opportunity to transport the women of the family to Armenia by a car. And, on September 19, the grandfather of the family, Shabo Grigoryan, was killed by Azerbaijanis.

43-year-old Irina Grigoryan is from Sarushen village of Askeran. Now she lives in Oshakan, in the village where his sons are buried.

Grigoryan says that she stopped understanding or feeling anything: she cannot imagine how such a thing could have happened.

“On September 19, at 14:10, we heard the first bombardment: it was nearby. We panicked. After staying in the village for three hours, the village head informed us that we should go to the nearest stadium so that the men could defend the village. Then they said no, the stadium was not safe, we had to go to the woods. We went a long way through the forests. We — children, women – went… we stayed in the forest for two hours, then we all gathered to understand what was happening. It was not possible to stay there long; the ground was wet. We decided to reach the nearest village. We crossed [the forest] and reached the nearest village. In the middle of the night, the village head came with buses to tell us that we should go to the city, and was no other way. We had many victims, but the village could not be held anymore; the village was empty. We came to the basements of the city, stayed the night, then they took us to the airport, and before daylight they said: whoever has a relative, let them go, whoever don’t, let them stay, let’s see what happens. My mom was in town; we went to her house and stayed there. Then we found out that our grandfather was killed… He had a big car, with which he wanted to come to our resque when we were in the woods. He did not know that the Turks had already taken the road leading to the city. We found out later that he was killed on the road,” says Irina.

The woman says that on the day of the fatal explosion, the men of the family were trying to find fuel. “On the 25th of the month, my mother-in-law came to Armenia with my brother-in-laws children. We stayed: our car didn’t have gas, so we stayed. The boys went to get gas with my husband. They went and that explosion happened… We couldn’t get any information from anyone. Then my husband called and said that Aren called, he is okay. We called Aren and found out that he was in the intensive care unit. We talked with him; he said, ‘Mom, I’m fine, but I want to see you’. We were not allowed to see him that day. We returned in the morning; Aren’s death was already registered. I saw Aren in the morgue. After the forthieth day of his death, we found Gennady here after a DNA test…”.

Irina Grigoryan says that she does not know what new trials await her family, but it is impossible to live with such losses.

“The war was over, but the fire took their lives… My husband and Gennady were ambushed in the village of Ningi: they were there for three days, and after three days they went and brought them. And, I thought, well, despite everything, at least my children are alive… I don’t know what to say anymore… I don’t know how we are coping…”


Ani Gevorgyan

Ani Gevorgyan is a journalist, photographer, and the winner of the Freedom of Speech Award. She has participated in photo exhibitions at the UN headquarters (New York) and the Geneva office, the Palace of Europe (Strasbourg), Paris, Rome, Berlin, Vienna and elsewhere.

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