27-year-old Lusine Gasparyan, a musician by profession, is one of the forcibly displaced people from the city of Martuni in Artsakh and has now settled in Gyumri. “We were received so warmly in Gyumri,” says Lusine in a conversation with Forrights.am.

She is raising two minor children alone, has taught in several art schools in Artsakh, and was also a musician in the folk instruments ensemble of the city of Martuni. Now she lives in Gyumri with her parents and is trying to gradually integrate into Armenian life.

The nightmare of displacement for Lusine and the people of Martuni began on September 19, 2023. “The children had just come home from school and suddenly we hear gunshots, and the panic begins. At that time, we were more afraid than in 2020, because we thought that this time our defense was not at a high level. We all understood that we were surrounded by Turks, and that was what caused the panic.”

At the time of the fierce battles, Lusine and her children spent three days in the basement of one of the buildings in Martuni. They ate the meat of domestic animals, expecting bad news at every moment. “We all expected that the Turks would enter at any moment and kill us in their style. These are not mere words. I don’t want to differentiate, but I can say that Martuni’s defense was at a higher level. In any case, when we left the city, no Turk had entered Martuni at that time. The guys from Martuni, who all went to the front line at once, defended us very well.”

Lusine says that at first, they did not expect that the Azerbaijani attack would have such a tragic end, but over the course of days it became clear that the task was to empty Artsakh. Realizing this, she says, they tried to enjoy the last days of their stay in Artsakh.

“In the process, I realized that our defense in Artsakh was not good, that the leadership was not developing defense mechanisms, but encouraging to leave Artsakh. All we had to do was to be able to overcome the difficulties on our own. The last four days of leaving Artsakh were the best days for me, many may not understand what I am saying, but I tried to enjoy the last days in Artsakh with my children, because we already realized that we had to leave our native territory. The head of the administration gathered everyone in the square and announced that we have to leave.”

Lusine left Artsakh with her family on September 26. She says that people were in a panic, the lack of fuel caused fear of massacre among many.

“I was able to get out of Martuni with five liters of gasoline. When we got to Stepanakert, there was an explosion at the gas station. It was terrible, I think if I had gone a little earlier, I should have been in line and… I am terrified of that thought. The road to Armenia was very difficult. My car broke down on the way. What have we seen on the road were death from hunger, terrible accidents, hungry people, empty, broken cars… It was complete chaos, helpless people… And finally, we set foot in Armenia. We entered Yerevan where life was lively, happy… It was unbelievable: what a reality a few kilometers away, and what a reality here!” says Lusine.

The children immediately integrated into Armenian life, she says. After the siege of Artsakh, life here seemed like heaven to them. They could eat everything they wanted, have fun, be happy.

Lusine’s father got a job in Gyumri. He is an electrician. She was able to work for two months in the ensemble of folk instruments attached to Gyumri municipality, but after the end of the contract, she was no longer called. “To tell the truth, I enjoyed working there a lot, I would have liked to continue working there, I would have learned a lot, but they didn’t call me. I don’t know what the problem was: was I weak, was there no position, or the budget? I cannot say”.

In addition to her main profession, Lusine has mastered photography skills and provides services when there is an order for it. In addition, she recently responded to the announcement of creating a band to perform a wedding song, and she is the leader of a small band. During the wedding ceremony, the band sings and praises the bride after taking her out of her father’s house. “Tatev is a singer from Gyumri; she had published an announcement, and we found each other, tried to create a band, publicize about ourselves to get orders. However, there is no order yet.”

It is about four months since Lusine has no job. She has plenty of free time, and that’s when the longing for Artsakh grows stronger, the memories renew.

“Even though it was peaceful in recent days, there were no shootings, but in the eyes of people everywhere there was longing, pain, farewell, and at the same time there was a lot of positive energy. I probably cannot describe how different life was during those few days, the moments of farewell. When I came here, I definitely decided: I will block everything, I will not remember, I will not miss, I will try to invest all my energy in integrating here. But it didn’t work out: I look back regularly, I miss it, all my energy is wasted on longing. I can’t let go of the past because of the uncertainty. There is chaos in my mind.”

Hasmik Hambardzumyan

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