The enemy’s drones struck Sisian’s… I could no longer understand what was going on…
It made my blood freeze. I called Bagrat with my shaking hands. He answered immediately. I heard his voice; that was all that mattered most. I couldn’t talk.
During the 2016 Four-day War, my son Bagrat was serving in the army in Sisian.
The bus with the Sisian squad was shelled. Death toll of the Four-day War surpassed 100. We knew the names of every fallen soldier, but we could have never imagined that four years later there would be a much more harrowing war counting over thousands of deaths.
It is an extremely difficult situation for women like me who have sons.
While making this photo story, I talked to and took images of women and mothers of different ages. I talked with them about this important and distressing issue – how it feels like to have a son in Armenia?
Their sons are of different ages: from a seven-month-old to a war veteran.
However, the same questions haunt their minds: what to do? How to withstand new challenges?
I enjoy being a mother of a boy. I never liked girly things. But I am not prepared to send my son to the army, and I won’t.
My dad was a military officer. He has served in Special Forces for twenty years. During the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, he was under Monte’s command.
In 2020, he volunteered to go to the front line, but was rejected because of his age.
He always says that a man must serve in the army. But after all this…
I’ll get my son to take some training so that he becomes stronger to protect his sister and himself. Maybe, as he grows up, he listens to his grandfather’s teachings and decides to serve in the army. I don’t want that, but it is up to him.
I moved to Armenia from Artsakh in 2011 when my son was four. Until the 2020 war, I had an inner feeling. I was worried about my father. He has five stents in his heart.
At the dawn of September 20, my friend told me to get my family out: the war was to break out. How could I get only my family out? What about others, most of all children?
Then I went to bring my mother, sister-in-law and the children at night.
My father’s neighbour called me and told me he knew I was driving. He said there were cars driving from Matenadaran and bringing food for soldiers. He asked me if I would get in one of them, come to their place, and then drive his car to Artsakh to bring his wife and children to Yerevan. And so, I did.
It was the day Shushi was surrendered. The bridge of the Lachin corridor was blown up and I was driving that man’s Mercedes bringing his family to Yerevan. The drones were striking… I was stopped by servicemen. They told me to turn off the headlights, otherwise the drones would strike us right from above.
Meanwhile everyone was weeping in our house. My mom and son were crying. “Don’t go there! Your child will be orphaned because of others.”
I told them I had to go. That was how I could be of some help. I housed all my family in a one-room apartment. I bought air mattresses, and they would sleep on the floor. I even slept in others’ houses.
My family said they wanted to return home even if they had nothing to eat or drink. They didn’t put up with the situation.
Davit has a Karabakh residency. There were rumors he should serve in the Azerbaijani army. It’s not possible; no one will allow that, not a single parent. It can’t be.
Davo is stressed. He cannot believe he won’t go to Karabakh for holidays. He just cannot put up with it. He doesn’t like Yerevan. He loves Karabakh.
I couldn’t get pregnant for fourteen years. I was already thinking of adopting a child. We went to Egypt for the New Year. We didn’t plan to go to Jerusalem. I went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by chance. I put my hand on Christ’s tomb. I don’t know why I left the sanctuary crying. I had a feeling that something evil had left me, and I felt relieved.
A month later I found out I was pregnant.
After the 2020 war, I was thinking of leaving Armenia. But I cannot stay anywhere else for long. I love Armenia. We will live here till the end.
I hope everything will be all right. We will regain everything. I don’t know why, but I am calm. We must struggle to keep and raise our children, so that they become good people. This is our only hope. The only dream a person has in life is their child’s wellbeing.
While talking on the phone, I heard the shots.
“It’s a drill, isn’t it?” “Yes, mom, it’s a drill.” As if I was prompting him what to tell me, so that I wouldn’t know the truth.
During the Four-day War, Khachatur was serving in the army in Karvachar. After an announced cease-fire, the news reported about two deaths. My neighbours were by my side, holding my hand until the names of the victims were announced.
When I learnt about September 19 attack, I blacked out. I think I fainted. It turned out that my blood pressure dropped from stress.
My son went through the war twice. Once during the Four-day War, the second time during the 44-day War. We wouldn’t have thought it would last so long. From then on, I am devastated whenever I hear any bad news.
Every day, my daughter and I went to the square where people were collecting supplies for soldiers. One day we would take a blanket there, the other day: shoes. I felt I was in touch with Khachatur this way.
Khachatur is very much like his grandfather. Though he has never seen him, they have many features in common. His grandfather had a very high sense of civic responsibility. He was a veteran of World War II.
During the 44-day War, Khachatur was working on his technical drawings at home, but I knew he was up to something. He lied that he was going to run a mortar fire training for the mobilization forces. He volunteered to go to the front line: Karvachar again.
Sometimes I think I commit myself to the arts as a jazz singer and a collage maker for twenty percent, while family is all that matters. When you are cooking dinner in your kitchen, you have a greater contribution in the wellbeing of your family, because mothers are the pillars of stability.
I could give birth to my three sons in America, as I resided legally in the US when I was pregnant. But I came back so that my children were born in Armenia, beside their father. It was my husband’s and my decision that we should live in Armenia.
Our love for our country grew even after the war. Mothers must be very strong, as our sons look up to us and strive to be stronger.
Our sons will serve in the army, but we must do everything now to ensure that their service is peaceful.
The 2020 war was a turning point in my life. My husband, who had been released from compulsory military service, went to the front line almost without any military training and knowledge. After his return, a group of scientists and programmers like Hakob founded ‘Azatazen’, the first civilian shooting range.
On March 8, my husband gave me my first firearm. I think it’s important that everyone owns a gun and is ready to defend themselves. When we are deprived of the right to carry arms, we will be victims. If you are armed, you will kill at least two enemies before you die.