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

 ‘Bombs flew over our village and the children were counting them’: Artsakh forced exodus #34

December 08 2023, 18:52

After the forced exodus from Artsakh, the family of Rosa Barseghyan, 30, settled in Yerevan. Rosa lives with her husband, two sons and her husband’s parents in a rented apartment in the Davtashen district of the Armenian capital. For now, only her husband is working, and she herself decided to take up her favorite hobby—making pastries.

Rosa’s family was forcibly displaced from the village of Aygestan in the Askeran region. Her husband and mother-in-law were government employees. The Barseghyan family was also engaged in farming. The last nine months spent in Artsakh under the blockade were difficult, but now, after painful experiences, Rosa recalls them as happy moments.

“Artsakh is a historical Armenian land. I would be very happy to return and live there as before. Now we have everything to eat, but there is no appetite. I would like to eat that piece of stale bread that we ate with our neighbors during the blockade and drink tea with thyme and mint. I will live in a free and independent Artsakh, but not as part of Azerbaijan,” Rosa says.

On September 19, the day of the Azerbaijani attack, Rosa was at home.

“After the 44-day war, the walls of our house were destroyed. But this time, everything was just terrible. My eldest son has not yet returned home from school, and for some reason I did not take my youngest son to preschool. I picked him up, and we immediately went down to the basement, where, besides our family, there were also our neighbors. We all stayed there overnight, and only a few hours after the ceasefire were we able to get out. There was a military unit near our village; bombs flew over our village, and the children counted them,” Rosa says.

After they left the basement, they returned to the house and stayed there until the night of September 24-25, when they left Artsakh.

“Getting out of the basement, we went from house to house in the village to get news about the men who were in combat positions. We went through hell. The women came out to their gates and waited. The village became a ghost. We ourselves were like ghosts. We didn’t ask each other about anything because we understood each other without words. Then we went to my father’s place. There was no news about my brother and brother-in-law either, and then we heard that they were alive,” Rosa says.

Rosa says that after the war, they had no intention of leaving Artsakh; even her mother-in-law prepared pickles for the winter. They heard that the road would be closed until January, but on the same day they learned that the Lachin corridor was open and people were leaving Artsakh.

“We were unarmed, and there were rumors that armed Turks were walking around everywhere. My husband told me to pack everything we needed so we could leave. So, we got ready and left on the night of September 24-25,” says Rosa.

Rosa’s mother-in-law probably felt that the road would be clogged and that an ordinary ride to Armenia would take more than a few hours. She took food and tea with honey with her, which became their salvation.

“There were children in the truck that was driving in front of our car, it was raining heavily, and they were soaked through. Then, near Shushi, we met Azerbaijanis; on their flag it was written ‘Shusha’. It was also a way to put psychological pressure on us, they made fun of us. We wondered what would happen at the Azerbaijani checkpoint on the Hakari Bridge. The road really took a lot of time. We were tired of sitting in the car, so we got out and walked. And I noticed that a child, about a year old, was crying from hunger. His mother didn’t even imagine that there would be such a large flow of cars. We treated them to tea and shared food with them. At that moment, we were all thinking about turning back, but no one said it out loud. And it was impossible to turn back as the cars were driving right next to each other,” recalls Rosa.

At the checkpoint on the Hakari Bridge, the Azerbaijanis forced the men to get out of the car. Rosa’s father-in-law was forced to give an interview to Azerbaijani journalists, and only then was he released. Already in Kornidzor, the Barseghyan finally sighed with relief, but soon they heard the sad news about the blast at a gas station in Stepanakert.

“As it turned out, we have not seen all the colors of hell,” Rosa says sadly.