“For me, my village, my homeland is my father,” 19-year-old Arpine Simonyan told Forrights.am about what she experienced in recent months. All events and emotions revolve around the same person: the adorable father, Sergeant, contract soldier of the Artsakh Army Vitaly Simonyan. He was 42 years old. Displaced residents of the Kochughut village of Martakert region in their homeland say that Vito died while taking the wounded soldiers out of a dangerous place.

30 corpses will be brought from Karabakh to Armenia

Daddy is buried in Stepanakert, in a fraternal grave. The Turks did not destroy it, I assume. They didn’t post a picture: if theym had destroyed it, they would have posted a picture, but they didn’t. I don’t want anything, except to go to Stepanakert, to my grandfather’s grave, at least to put a flower on it. When we go to Yerablur, we put flowers to the villagers one by one. There are people [graves of people] who have no flowers. I put a flower on them and think that I am putting it on my daddy. Papa is in line: they will bring 30 corpses from Karabakh to Armenia and, as soon as they go to bring them, they will exhume Papa and bring him too. But well, it’s getting delayed… I always think that if it happens so that people return to Karabakh, I will be among the first ones. Nothing attracts me in Yerevan, everything is foreign to me. We live in Bangladesh [a neighborhood in the capital of Armenia], on Zoravar Andranik Street. There is a place like a stadium here, it looks like our Stepanakert stadium. Here, everything is developed, it’s different, people treat us well, I really like how the people of Yerevan speak sweetly. In our Karabakh they speak rudely, here people are gentle, but one thing is missing for me. In our Stepanakert, or village, I was outside all day, I knew everything, every nook and cranny. But I didn’t find anything dear to me here.

The Armenians from Armenia were transferred to Armenia; only the people of our Karabaghs remained in the position

My father was serving for 3-4 months. Before that, he worked at Base Metals. Mase Metals was closed during the blockade. My father had to become a contract soldier. He had two students: my brother and I. We also have a younger brother; he is studying in the 5th grade. He [the fther] had to join the army so that he could take care of us. On September 1, he went to the position. Its location was visible from our house: it was in the mountains of Omar; we could see it from our balcony. It was a difficult to reach place, in the mountains, a car could not get there. Because it was snowing, they couldn’t even carry food. Papa was supposed to come on vacation on the 14th of the month, but he didn’t come because there was no one to keep the positions. The Armenians from Armenia were transferred to Armenia, only the people from our Karabaghs remained in the position. There was no substitute for my father. And, on the 19th of the month, the fight started.

He always said that some day he would be brought home in a horizontal position

We had a monument in the village, a cross. As soon as you enter our village, you pass by that cross. I went out that day, I was near the cross, and it seemed to me like another person pushed me from the back, as if to say, “Oh, you daddy… and I screamed, I started crying, I cried until I reached Stepanakert. That same day, mom fainted. Bot my and my mom’s hearts felt that papa is no longer there. We called, we talked to everyone, but we couldn’t get in touch with papa. Later we learned that on that day daddy asked his friends: ‘Tell my folks to get in touch with me: this will be my last conversation.’ He knew what was going to happen. He always said that some day he would be brought home in a horizontal position. His place was a bad one: he wanted to move, but he did not manage…

They had already entered Horatagh, next to our village…

On the 19th, at 8:30 am, we left the village. We kneaded the dough to bake bread: we baked corn bread: it was a blockade. I wanted red pepper toeat. I went and picked it, brought it to wash, and I hear shots. I thought, maybe it’s excercises, the soldiers are training. But the noises of shots were getting louder. I was alone at home. I was very scared. My brother came and said let’s go to a relative’s house; the fight has started. I took all the money and some documents that there were, and we left. We went to my father’s uncle’s house. No one had slept all night. The house was shaking from shots. In the morning of the 20th the shots calmed down a bit. We were arranging the house when one of my brothers came and said ‘we are leaving, if we don’t leave in 20 minutes, the Turks will enter; they had already entered Horatagh next to our village. I put on my clothes, took one more set, and we left.

People excreted in the streets: there was no place to do it

There was no fuel in the car drive. We went to the airport, Stepanakert. I looked at my village: only the last three houses were visible. I grew up there for 15 years, took my first steps there… I will never forget that scene in my life: the last three houses of the village were moving away from us… We went to the airport. We were buying wood to burn, to cook something. They brought lamb, I don’t like lamb. I was hungry that day. There was no place to take care of natural needs. We kept blankets to take care of our needs, or we waited until the evening. There were thousands of people, what could we do? We were waiting, it was getting dark. People excreted in the streets, there was no other place to do it. Then we moved to Khojalu. We were able to wash, bathe, wash clothes there. We baked lavash [Armeian bread], but very few. Those who passed by, ate, those who could not stop, remained hungry. There was only lavash, lamb was found here and there, or they bought Stepanakert canned meat from the hospitals, we managed somehow, half-starved. We stayed there for three or four days. Then they heard the news of papa. I was doing laundry, I heard my mother’s scream. I went to the room, found out that papa was gone, and I don’t remember what happened next because I felt terribly sick.

He saw a dead body put aside

My uncle had gone to fetch his body. Father was taken to Martakert, to the morgue, but they could not do autopsy: there was no light, there were no people to do it. My uncle went and saw countless corpses. He was scared: the state of the corpses was such that it was impossible to enter inside, even with a gas mask. When my uncle was looking for papa, he saw a man with a severed head. He suspected that it was Papa. But it wasn’t him. Then he found another one, it wasn’t him either. Then he went and saw a dead body lying on a side. He understood from the ring that it was him. He called my mother and asked if the gold in the bag or on Vito’s finger? Mama said no, it’s on his finger. That’s how they knew for sure that it was papa. They took it out and cleaned it. His face was fully covered with soot and he looked as if he was asleep, half smiling. They took a photo of him like this for the last time… I cannot look at that picture. There was an opening on papa’s back the size of a penny, he had bled. Many died that way. Bleeding. Help had not arrived. If they came to help, he would have been saved. They told my uncle that when they brought him to the morgue, the blood was still flowing from his back.

We were one of the few well-off people in our village

I was very close with papa. Whatever I needed, I told my dad about it. I am like my papa. Everyone says it. He spared nothing for us. He used to say, don’t stay away from your friends’ circles, you should participate in all parties and gatherings, and we did. We lived very well. My father and I were working. I was a manicurist. We were one of the few well-off people in our village: we had two houses and a car. Now we are sitting and waiting for the state support money, they give us coupons for assistance, they don’t give us any support, we don’t have any support, whatever numbers they give us to apply for help, we call, they don’t answer, we haven’t used anything. We need food, clothes, hygiene items. The money given by the state is used for house rent: 220 thousand drams. The only person working is my 17-year-old brother. He works in warehouses. I am a student; I study at the base college of the medical university. This year the state compensates the rent for us, but I don’t know what will happen next year. It would be good if they gave a military pension for my father. We filled in the papers and gave them. They said wait.

Syuzan Simonyan

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