As a result of the military operations that preceded the depopulation of Artsakh last year, Vaghuhas village of Martakert, NK had three victims. The residents of the border village in some way managed to leave before the enemy penetrated into their settlement.

Asatur Verdyan, who settled with his family in one of the settlements of Ararat region of Armenia after the forced displacement, says: “The enemy had already entered the village; we took the people out with trucks. We left 150-200 cars in the village. There was no army anymore: the village boys kept the posts, each one with 4-5 children. The boys remained there in ambush so that the others could leave the village. We couldn’t get half of the people out… We went through the forests, we stayed in Drmbon village for the night, and in the morning we moved to Stepanakert. The situation there was also very bad. There was no bread, no other necessary things. After that, we traveled for two days… in some way, we got here.”

Asatur reminds that during the 44-Day War, the village also had victims, as well as missing persons. There was also a woman among them. As is known, 42-year-old Irina Musayelyan is the only woman missing after the 44-Day War. Her name was mistakenly included in the list of the dead ones, family members took DNA tests many times, but there was no match. Relatives believe that Irina is a prisoner in Azerbaijan.

Asatur Verdyan remembers what was happening in Stepanakert when they arrived there. “Well, it is clear: blockade, terrible situation. The young boys were not there yet: they remained in the ambush for three or four days. After just three days, people started coming to find out who was alive and who was not… The families of those people were scattered, half of them were in the basements of the university, half of them were in the basements of the schools… We went and found diesel with seven people, we got into a Ford with that many people. We found cattle from the neighboring villages, butchered them, collected potatoes from the gardens, cleaned them, put them in 40 kg pots, cooked them. There were families whose men were still in the blockade. They were in a bad condition. We brought some meat in bags and gave them. We kept people like that for a week, then we left for Armenia. About 40 people were in one Kamaz track alone. It was already the second day on the road, but we had gone only a hundred meters… When they say genocide… this is it. You can’t do anything with so many hungry and thirsty people, children, old people in cars for two days. The villages we met on the way were already empty, people had hurriedly got out and left. Our wives said, if you can find flour, bring it, bring a piece of metal sheet, we will make lavash [Armenian bread]. We found flour, women started making lavash on the side of the road. I remember that moment. We started walking past the convoy, handing out lavash to people, at least with that we were able to be useful to people.”

Asatur smiles and tells that he became a father only ten days ago, and the appearance of a grandson helped the elders of the family to get away from their grief a little.

“The elders of the families are in a very bad situation because they have lost what they have made for thirty years. Now that there is a child at home, they are a little distracted by it. But in the first two months it was a terrible situation, they could not talk to each other. Many people here do not imagine, do not understand, or do not want to understand what happened to us. They say a lot of bad things about us. They say you left, ran away to Armenia, and I say, why didn’t you come to stay with us? Many people do not understand what we leave there, how we lived, how we built our life, created everything… Now we live until we understand what will happen. We live with today’s problems; we cannot think of more. We left everything behind, we didn’t even take the old pictures. Now when one wants to show someone a picture of his/her childhood, there is none. As if our life, our childhood were erased,” says Asatur.

He says that he is very sorry that his son was born far from the house of his grandparents, his father, and there is not even a photo with which he can one day illustrate his child his former life.

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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