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Mаry Mamyan

25 Years Later: The Refugees of Hakhtanak Village In Armenia’s Tavoush Province

Out of the 160 families residing in the Hakhtanak village of Tavoush Province, 45 moved here in the late 1980s and early 1990s as refugees from Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Like native residents, members of these families either work the land or go abroad in search of seasonal work.

A few families still live in the village pension building, which belongs to the community, where they all were housed when they first arrived. They’ve been allocated the rooms free of charge.

Those who’ve remained in the pension never received housing under an earlier program for refugees and haven’t been able to move elsewhere.

The Ayvazyan family was the first to be resettled in the pension that still lives there. They arrived in Hakhtanak from the Tzalka region of Javakhk in 1990.

The head of the household, Grigor Ayvazyan, leaves for Russia every year for work. His eldest son has accompanied him these past few years. His other two sons work in the village.

The family has converted their living space into a three room apartment. Mr. Ayvazyan says he wants to repair the roof of the building, change the windows and doors, but since the property doesn’t belong to him he can’t.

“One day, they can tell us to leave. We’re in the air. You don’t know whether to fix things or just leave them,” says Grigor’s wife Maro.

74 year-old Rima Hakobyan lives a few doors away. Neighbors call her ‘our Karabakh grandma’. She and her husband resettled in Armenia but since he died, Rima lives alone. Sometimes her daughter and grandson come to visit. Rima’s only complaint is that her pension barely is enough to buy essentials and her medicine.

The woman would also like her 10,000 rubles in savings that turned to dust with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The family of Rayik Miskaryan also lives in the pension. She and her husband are engaged in agriculture. When we arrived, the husband, as per the norm, was out working in the fields.

“This year we got three sacks of flour from the one hectare of land we cultivated,” Rayik complained.

Rayik and her husband share the living space with their son, his wife, and the two grandchildren. Their son Artour served in the army as a contract soldier and then left for work overseas. He’s currently unemployed.

She doesn’t want her son to sign up with the army again since she’s fearful of a flare-up on the border. Anyway, the mother believes that she already has a permanent soldier in the person of her daughter who lives in the Tavoush village of Baghanis.

“We finished with that one (pointing to her son) but my girl is still there. She also has a young child and is expecting another. There is firing all the time there. They come here when they get afraid and then go back,” says Rayik.

Unlike his neighbors, Armen Shahverdyan came to Hakhtanak from the town of Vanadzor in Armenia. He says that at the time the Bagratashen-Sadakhlu market was bustling and that they had work. That’s no longer the case. He lives in the pension with his wife, his son and daughter-in-law, and the grandchild.

“We get by. We have no side income, just the one cow. We’ve been here for twenty years,” says Armen’s wife Elmira. “They allocated houses to the refugees but left us dangling.”

In 2001, some of the Hakhtanak refugees were resettled in the fourteen houses built with financing from the Norwegian government.

Karo Harutyunyan’s family now lives in one of these houses located in a neighborhood appropriately called ‘Norway’.

The family resettled in Armenia from the Vardashen region of Azerbaijan. What matters to Karo and his wife Knarik above all else is that they and the families of their three sons all live in Armenia. Most of Karo’s relatives live overseas. He’s been invited to join them on many occasions and to work alongside them, but Karo and Knarik have so far refused.

“I told them no. Armenia is under threat. If I go and the others go, who will stay?” Karo says.

“This is our country. Here, we can walk freely,” adds Knarik.

Photos: Narek Aleksanyan

Comments (2)

Здраствуй Валерий, очен рад что ест хорошие напоминание о Ахтанаке, Овсеп живет здес но сеичас в Россия.
Здравствуй, Ахтанак! Мы здесь жили, может кто помнит, в пансионате с 1987-1990 гг. Научные работники из России (Москва). Владимир Николаевич, Валера, Сергей. Персик защищали от бабочки одной. Овсепу Мушегяну привет большой, если он живет в Ахтанаке.

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