All Title Simple Truths Newsroom Ethnic Code Artsakh exodus Armenian literature: Audiobook Alpha Economics 7 portraits from the history of the Armenian people

‘Azerbaijan did not allow the Red Cross to transport the wounded; people died because they did not receive medical care’: Artsakh exodus #11

October 23 2023, 22:00

“I dream of returning to my place of service, to our home,” Alvard Avagyan, 38, told Alpha News, recalling her happy years in Artsakh and the cruel displacement.

Alvard served with her husband in the Artsakh Defense Army, first as head of the canteen, then as a warehouse manager. In addition to military affairs, the family was also involved in livestock farming.

“Both my father-in-law and I had a big farm. During the blockade, we provided the area with meat and dairy products. We were ready to live in these conditions. We only wanted to stay on our land and support our children,” said Alvard, the mother of four.

On September 19, when Azerbaijan attacked Artsakh along the entire line of contact, Alvard was at home with two children. Hearing the sounds of rocket fire, they immediately hid in the basement. After staying there for several hours, they realized that the enemy was continuing the attack and that the basement of the house was unsafe. Then Alvard and the children went to the school basement, where they stayed until midnight.

“My husband was at the operating site. It was very difficult. We did not know who was alive and who was not. The sounds of the shelling did not stop; the 3- to 4-story building was constantly shaking. There were a lot of people in the basement; someone already knew that they suffered a loss. People were crying. They were anxious; they were scared. Then my father-in-law came; he took us to the village of Mokhratag, but in the morning we returned to the city again. Until September 24, we remained in Martakert, hoping that we would stay at home, waiting, thinking that this was just another provocation,” Alvard said.

She recalled that, as a result of the enemy’s attack on Martakert, the city was under a double blockade. The Azerbaijani armed forces entered Drmbon and Chankatagh. The two roads leading to Martakert no longer existed.

“After the capture of Drmbon, Azerbaijan did not allow the Red Cross to transport the wounded. A lot of seriously wounded people died because they did not receive medical care; there was no medicine because of the blockade,” Alvard said.

After the ceasefire, there was no electricity in Martakert, and communications were interrupted.

Alvard recalled the last, most terrible days of her life in Artsakh.

“Some of the people lost their relatives, others were looking for missing people. There were also people who lived in basements, fearing that the enemy could enter the city at any moment. I saw four wars, but this one was the most terrible, as if it were a genocide of the people,” she said.

After the disarmament of the Artsakh Defense Army, Alvard’s family was forced to leave their homeland. The exodus lasted three days. Alvard doesn’t want to recall those days; she only talks about the behavior of the Azerbaijanis.

“After leaving Drmbon, on the way to Gandzasar, the Azerbaijanis misbehaved, shouted at us, and showed us the ‘gray wolves’ sign. They tried to provoke us by hitting the cars so that one of the men would lose his temper, react, and start a conflict. But the Russian peacekeepers were with us, urging us not to pay attention, not to react, and not to do anything,” Alvard said.

On September 27, the family was already in Armenia. First they settled in the village of Sis, Ararat region, in the house of a relative, and then began to look for another place. A family of 14 forcibly displaced from Artsakh currently lives in the city of Hrazdan, Kotayk region.

“There are 14 of us: me and my husband, our four children, my brother-in-law’s family of six people, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law. It was very difficult to find a house, but we managed to settle in Hrazdan. It was important for us to be closer to Yerevan because my daughter is a student.

If not for this case, it would make no difference to me where I would live; anyway, this is not the place of my birth,” Alvard said. Alvard does not have a stable job now; she makes a living by baking jingyalov hats. “I have no shortage of orders; I’m not complaining, but at this stage, the most important thing is to find a job. Everything is fine; we are grateful that people are helping us, but we feel uncomfortable. We have always lived with dignity, we used to have a job, but now we are waiting for someone to help us. I feel bad about this—very bad; it’s not my thing. Here we were warmly received. Everything is fine, I don’t feel like a stranger, but as if something is missing,” says Alvard, longing for her homeland and home. She will return to Artsakh on one condition: she does not have to live forcibly as part of Azerbaijan. “How can you live with people who kill your children? It’s impossible. My family is ready to return, as long as we are not part of the Turks. If they let me go to Artsakh, I will definitely return, build a house again with love, and rebuild my life. Deep inside my heart, there is hope that we will return,” Alvard concluded.