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Ani Sargsyan

Diana Ghazaryan

Waiting for Peace: Two Rooms in Armenia Serve as Temporary Refuge for Artsakh Extended Family of Sixteen 

67-year-old Yevgenia Aghasyan takes a deep breath and utters the words "victory ... victory ... peace" 

She was forced to leave her home in Artsakh on September 29 with her three grandchildren.

The family moved from the Martuni region to Stepanakert, and then to Armenia.

Mrs. Aghasyan says she’ll never forget what happened on September 27, when the Azerbaijani military launched its attack.

"It was a terrible, terrible thing. We got the feeling that they had attacked in several directions. We figured that war would break out again one day, but not so horribly. Our young men in Artsakh always said that if there was a war, they’d march all the way to Baku. But who would have imagined they’d attack from the air?" says Mrs. Aghasyan.

In Armenia, Mrs. Aghasyan was joined by her fourth grandchild and great-grandchildren. The family of ten lived for about a month in Yeghvard, in the house of her brother. But gradually the family got bigger and conditions were no longer satisfactory. Mrs. Aghasyan’s granddaughter found a house in the Kotayk village of Nor Gyugh that was rent-free.

Sixteen people now live in a two-room building next to the barn. There’s Yevgenia Aghasyan, her two daughters, her daughter-in-law, and her mother, her seven grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There are no adult men. They’re all serving on the frontline or safeguarding homes back in Artsakh.

It’s an unusual family reunion, more the product of the war than anything else. The extended family’s priority is to get larger accommodations.  Sixteen people in two rooms is a tight squeeze. The Aghasyans are nevertheless grateful for the help and hospitality they been shown since coming to Armenia.

They have no bathroom. Drinking water is brought in buckets and bottles from other houses in the village. They’ve applied to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs for housing on three occasions. They’ve been told to wait each time.

"My days are difficult here. I think all day. My grandchildren, my son, are at the forefront. It’s good here, not dirty. I don’t complain much. I am surrounded by my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I am pleased with God. Just let there be peace. I miss Artsakh, the country’s nature, my fighting grandchildren, my children, my yard," says Yevgenia Aghasyan.

The family’s children seem to have other things on their mind. They’re constantly on the move, playing, drawing, and running outside when they hear any sound.

There are figurines on the living room table and a photo of Arkady Avanesyan, the 23-year-old son of Mrs. Aghasyan’s daughter Hasmik Avanesyan.

Arkady Avanesyan was killed on October 15 while fighting in Artsakh.

Hasmik says that Arkady took with him his dreams and the goals that he talked so much about achieving. Hasmik is grieving, but finds the inner strength needed to put on a brave face and not dampen the spirits of her other son serving on the Artsakh frontline.

If it were not for the children, if we were not gathered with so many people, I could not live with my grief. I will take my grief with me, but as soon as I see my other son depressed, I gather my strength. I just hope this one son lives a normal life and achieves his goals. Arkady’s goals were left partially fulfilled. His life was in full swing, but what can we do? We are not alone. We must be strong and live. I wait for peace every minute. When I hear that the war is over, I will immediately go home,” says Mrs. Avanesyan.

Mrs. Avanesyan left for Artsakh as a bride in 1995 from the Kotayk village of Nor Hatchn. She hasn’t been in Armenia for the past thirteen years. She arrived five days ago and joined family already here.

"I’ve always dreamt of visiting Armenia. But when they put me in the car and sent me to Armenia, the closer I got to Yerevan, the more my heart was pounding. I wanted to return," she says.

Yana Aghasyan

8-year-old Yana loves to paint and write poems. She brought her workbooks from Artsakh and sits down every day to study. But the little girl’s mind is also on her brother fighting in Artsakh.

"My mother was cleaning. I woke up. My mother told us to get up, there was fighting. Well, we got up, left, e and hid in grandma’s basement,” the girl says.

Yana wants to meet see her friends back in Martuni and play their yard games.

“I miss our home, our Karabakh, our villages. I want to go to our Karabakh,” Yana says.

David Aghasyan

The eldest child of the family is 12-year-old Davit Aghasyan.

The boy is reserved and exudes a demeanor more mature for his age. He looks after the younger kids, making sure they play safely in the backyard and don’t venture outside. David enjoys pitching in to help.

"Here, I mainly look after the children. In the morning we go to fetch water. In the evening we take wood home and burn it so that when the children come home they don’t catch cold.”

David is with his mother, sister and brother in Nor Gyugh. His father and older brother are in Artsakh. His other brother is studying at Yerevan’s Vazgen Sargsyan Military University.

David has no friends in Nor Gyugh yet. There are no boys his age. He feels cooped up. He has many friends in Artsakh and there was much to do there to pass the time.

"All day long, I keep thinking about when the war will end so that we can go home,” says David.

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