For 35-year-old Raisa Sahakyan (Aghabekyan) and her family, the last three years have been difficult and full of trials. First, they were displaced from Shushi, then, not being able to enjoy their new apartment, they were forcibly displaced from Stepanakert.

The professor of Shushi University of Technology had to leave her hometown in the first days of the 44-Day War of 2020. She, together with her brother’s large family and parents, moved to Sevan, Armenia for temporary residence, leaving her husband and two brothers on the battlefield.

They searched for her younger brother, 30-year-old Sasun Sahakyan, for 77 days. “I didn’t have any information from my younger brother. We were looking for him for 77 days. His last call was to the commander: ‘I am near the gas station in Shushi, my knees are injured, come to help.’ But no help arrived,” says Raisa. Sasoon’s death was confirmed through DNA examination.

After the war, her family and her older brother Grigori’s family had just received an apartment, spent the last money to furnish it, but a new and more severe trial was coming.

“We got a house with our families in Stepanakert, furnished it, refreshed it, created everything again. We somehow were going back to normal life, because it was very difficult to look at life with a different perspective after my brother’s death. I always said that as long as there are no human losses, material things will be restored. But it didn’t happen that way,” says Raisa.

Raisa’s elder brother, 42-year-old Grigori Sahakyan, died from burns he received during the big fire at the gasoline warehouse in Stepakanakert during the forced displacement days in September. She says that when they had already decided to move to Armenia, they went to stand in line to get gas.

“They saw me standing in the queue, they called me, they filled the canisters with gasoline, saying that there is no need for a woman to stand in such a big queue. I took the canisters, I saw my brother standing in the queue, we smiled at each other, and I took a few steps forward. I had gone a little further when the explosion occurred. They were shouting, pull back to pull back, take the cars back. The people had not yet regained consciousness, the second explosion occurred. I saw that the people coming out of the fire were already melted, their clothes were burnt, blood was flowing from their mouths. It was very hard… We tried to save people, we tried to tear off their clothes as best we could and save them. During that time, I was constantly shouting to my brother; there was no sound… People were coming out of the fire from different directions, I was running to see if my brother was among them, but he was not there. The rescue service came a little later, but mostly the people who got out in the first 3-4 seconds were saved from the fire,” Raisa says.

The fire could not be extinguished for a long time. “One of the rescuers in special clothes came out of the fire. I asked if we have any victims. He said, “Dear sister, we have many victims.” They searched for her brother in all possible places. Family members were not allowed to approach to more than a dozen bodies in the morgue to be identified, because they were burned unrecognizably. They submitted a DNA samples on the advice of experts, and the examination was confirmed in Yerevan. Now her brother’s body is still in the morgue. The family appealed to the relevant authorities to allocate a place in Yerablur to the soldier who spent 24 years in military service. But there is still no clear response.

35-year-old Raisa, her brother’s wife, their 5 minor children, parents and her husband and their three minor children were forcibly displaced at the end of September and now live in Aygestan village of Ararat region of Armenia. They live here in a house, the wind blowing through the old windows of which has filled the corners of the house with coldness. The walls of the house are worn out, in some places they have been demolished. The family is tired of constant moving and is thinking of selling the car, buying that house and settling in Aygestan.

“During the days of the deportation, the children slept in the car for several days. We had a very difficult journey, but we tried not to break down, because there was a lot to do: we had to stand on our feet, we had to give answers to the children,” says Raisa.

Hasmik Hambardzumyan

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