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Edik Baghdasaryan

The boys call me at night

The sound of a violin could be heard in the twilight. The fiddler was wandering through the gravestones like a ghost. Nobody else was at the cemetery. A shiver ran through me. I had come here to stand for a while near the graves of my friends. It was Wednesday, the late fall weather was foggy and cold. I had picked this time to go there. I have always believed that you should go to a cemetery alone. The ghost would stop at each grave, and then move on to the next, playing all the while. This was years ago, before the cease-fire.

It has been ten years now that this man can be seen at different times of the day in theStepanakertCemetery, where local boys who died in the Karabakh war are buried. His name is Boris. Everyone in Stepanakert knows him.

Boris Babayan graduated from the Yerevan Conservatory and works at theStepanakertMusicSchool. He has been coming here to play his violin since 1992, when the mounds at the Stepanakert Community Graveyard began to multiply. During the war he was always with the artillery brigade. He would play in the military barracks, at the front lines. “When we had a new loss of life, I would have to come and play. And it became a tradition. I knew many of them. They were very young. Look at the dates - they were 18, 19, 20 year old boys, they had hardly lived at all. I come here in the morning and in the evening when no one is here - to be alone. Because from time to time I shed a tear, and I don’t want anybody to see me crying,” Boris says distractedly, as though he is talking to himself. He is embarrassed to see me here, and my questions make him nervous at first. I have shattered his peace and quiet.

Sometimes the relatives of the dead ask Boris to come and play at the graves. During the attack on Martakert, all the portable radio transmitters were turned on and the boys marched into battle to the accompaniment of Boris’ violin. He didn’t know that at the time. The boys told him later on. Boris knew many of them, and he likes talking about them.

“Sometimes it makes me feel better. I reminisce with their relatives and friends. You know, there are parents who sometimes see me playing and say - it’s nice, it means our boys are not forgotten. And that soothes me, but also I consider it to be my duty. Perhaps it’s true when they say that the soul exists. I don’t know, but isn’t it possible that they listen to my music? Sometimes at night it seems to me as if they call me and say - come and play something. And I get up very early the next morning and come here and play. The melody soothes me, and it seems to soothe them as well.”

I am standing in the dark by my friends’ graves, and listening to the melody of the violin. And it seems to me that I have come too late-my friends have already been carried away by Boris’ tune.