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Anya Sarkisova

Artsakh Mom Recalls September 19: "A nightmare with no end in sight"

Stepanakert resident Ani Hovhannisyan's younger daughter had just been brought home from school by her husband's aunt on September 19 when Azerbaijan launched its attack on Artsakh.

They were sitting down to eat when they heard shelling. She panicked when her youngest daughter started crying.

There were three people in the house: Ani, her youngest daughter, and the aunt. They left the food on the table, quickly dressed their daughter in warm clothes, and went down to the first floor. There is no basement in their house.

Ani then remembered that her eldest daughter was still at school.

“The house was shaking from the shelling. I decided we couldn’t stay,” she tells Hetq.

 The three of them tried to quickly get to the school quickly, Ani imagined the worst scenarios on the way, thinking the school might be hit and the children, including the eldest daughter, would be left under the rubble.

"We entered the school; it was a terrible scene. It was empty. Everyone had gone down to the basement.  There was crying and shouting all around. I called my daughter Mariam. There was no answer. No one knew where she was. I.  managed to find the school principal. He said the third-graders had taking shelter in a nearby basement.”

Ani rushed to the other building to find Mariam. She found her daughter crying and shaking with fear.

Ani tried to calm her daughter a little, then took her and together they returned to the school basement.

"This is a nightmare with no end in sight. I don't know, everything seems more terrible this time. My phone's battery is dying, there is no light, I have no news from my husband, my brother. I have no news from my parents, my sister, and I think that at least the four of us should all be in one place, so that no matter what happens, we can all be together. My daughters don't sleep at night. I'm shaking with fear. I feel powerless, I feel that it's really getting worse. We spend the night on cold concrete, big and small, in the cold, with blankets," Ani says.

Ani, like other Artsakh residents, does not know what to do. No one tells them anything clearly. The waiting merely compels the overall anxiety they all suffer.

Photo: Alyona Hayrapetyan

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