For as long as I can remember, there is war.

My hand has stiffened from switching TV channels of the television sets Rubin, Horizon, Ц-355, Panasonic, SONY, Grundig, andSamsung.

War changed its location, language, armory, cost, but it was never off screen. Nothing changed even after selling the last macabre TV set through…We continued to exist through the war, with the war, and from war to war.

In the eternal expectation of an endless return, we remained imprisoned in the perpetual captivity of war.

War remained an obsession to outdo, dominate, prevail and conquer for

the kingdom,

and the power,

and the glory,



Norik Hakobyan, 27 years old, Yeghegnadzor
In war: Volunteer (signal operator, private)
Military action location: Martuni
Profession: Iranian studies specialist, tour guide
We live in a country where every generation has witnessed at least three wars. War is part of our collective memory, because war resumes with the new generation, and our mindset does not change.

We were hiking in Vayots Dzor when I learnt that war broke out… After walking several kilometers, we saw helicopters and felt the situation was grave… I went to the frontline on September 28, and returned fifty days later, on November 17.

I have been in the battlefield for fifty days. I felt their military power – weapons, equipment – but I did not see men. It is hard when you are fighting against an invisible enemy; when you know the enemy exists, but you don’t see them. They fight with artillery and drones, we fight with rifles…

I was a signal operator when I was serving in the army. I first felt the spirit of war during duty. It just so happened that we lost connection in the positions for three days, and I had to climb the mountains without relevant equipment in snow and poor visibility to restore connection… The enemy started shooting then… I laid on the ground to avoid the bullets and fell into 150-meter-deep gorge… I dodged the enemy’s bullet, but was badly injured by nature.

…One’s mindset changes completely between a rocket fire and dawn… So, does one’s attitude towards appreciating life. Now I feel the value of every moment more acutely. War “motivates” this way. When you get to a point where everything can be ruined, the thought of losing scares you…

That’s why I am working more now, trying to find ways, so that if I fail somewhere, I can definitely make it somewhere else. I try to bring some change into society.

Megalomania leads to wars. When you think whether or not humanity will change, it is like thinking about infinity of the universe.

I know that after war mind may become dull, alertness decreases, because we want to quickly forget what happened… We should live one day as we would do in five – more efficiently and consciously.

I do not blame anybody at all. I was fighting, because I felt it was my responsibility, I am that type of a person. We shouldn’t reproach those who didn’t go to the frontline. In general, blaming divides, while we need to be united especially after war… If I blame someone, the gap between us will grow.

There is a gene of the mountains. Mountains make us realize what we cannot grasp.

One cannot “conquer” the mountain. This is megalomania… Several centuries later, man becomes a tiny particle in the foot of the mountains… Hence, you put up with the fact that you cannot “conquer” the mount, you start to succumb to it, love it, climb it and come back. There is a bigger view from the mountain top. It gives you a broader vision. You need to view from the top to understand more clearly, to think and see…
Mesrop Badalyan, 21 years old, Yerevan
In war: Draftee (artillery man, commander of the 1st battery of 120 mm grenade launcher, sergeant)
Military action location: Varanda (Fizuli), Shushi
Profession: Judoka
My father raised me a patriot. He would always say, “Nation first, family and other things next…” He would say that homeland started from the border and one should serve in the army… You must be ready to give your life for your country.

I knew I would be among the first to go to the frontline if war broke out.

On the third day we had casualties and serious injuries in our battery. What I saw that day was not common. Everything was even harder because it all happened to the people you lived with under the same roof. We were like a family; we saw each other every day… Suddenly, you see that someone is no longer there; his body may be mutilated or detached from the waist… You want to help, but how? You cannot even put a bandage on the wounds, because half of the body is missing…

Eight of us, out of 22-24 people, survived in an open field. Others were either seriously injured or killed. Ponch took the wounded to hospital by car, the rest of us walked.

The moment we entered the military unit, I realized that I did not exist. I burst into tears. I was wasted… I don’t know… The man inside me was dead.

I felt bad also physically. I had chills and shivering, and high fever. I would tell to myself, “Pull yourself together! Aren’t you a man? It is OK to feel like this, it is war…”

I wished we received an order to attack so that we could move forward… …When we had to pull back, I felt terribly bad. The fall of Shushi was the last point… It’s hard when you wear a uniform and realize that you could stand to the end and protect your land at the cost of your life, but you retreat… This thought is unbearable.

…Each of us has had an acquaintance, a friend, a relative who died in the conflict… We all lost someone… But there is no consolation for this loss. It is hard to live through this humiliation…It is painful to realize that the next generations will go through war again and again…

… But I am not afraid of having a son. You must have a son in this country… The thought of sacrificing your child is frightening, but I will raise my child the way I was raised. First of all, my child belongs to my nation, my country, then to me. I do not know if it is normal what I am saying, but this is how I think.

Well, I am an athlete. I live my life. I love freedom, but I am also patient and through clenched teeth, I am waiting for war to break out. And in case it resumes, we should accomplish what we didn’t manage to. We have to try to bring changes that are good for us.

I have never felt being a soldier, and will never do, because I didn’t like the service on the “asphalt”, and the fall in… When it is war, you are not a soldier, you are a fighter. This is a completely different feeling… That’s why I know if war breaks out, I will be among the ones to go to the frontline first.
Narek Babayan, 20 years old, Yerevan
In war: Draftee (Commander of the 2nd Infantry Fighting Vehicle)
Military action location: Martakert
Profession: Advertising specialist, call center operator
It always seemed to me that war should exist in the form of a text in books, and that all wars are gone; they are far from us, and would never reach us. We could only hear sheer facts – someone killed someone, one side won, and the other lost, that’s it… We learnt about war when we were playing fighting as kids and watching action movies. We wanted to be like our favorite protagonists of these movies. And at school from history lessons, we learned that Armenians were always “winners” at wars, and that’s it. I could never imagine the horror of war…

…It was Sunday, and the reveille was supposed to be later, but we were woken up earlier. The soldier on duty that day, a guy from Leninakan , shouted, “Guys, hear how close the sound of the drones is!” I went out, walked and stood next to my lieutenant colonel. The entire borderline was burning like the lights on a Christmas tree. I laughed as I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t have thought it might ever reach us… But the distance between us was about 3 km…

The lieutenant colonel ordered everyone to hide in the basement… We were looking for the key of and couldn’t find it. We broke the door with an iron tool (one of the guys was so nervous, that he realized the key was with him only when we were inside)… We were waiting for an order, but never received one. We kept on waiting…

I am running and carrying 5-litre bottles. Everything explodes and bangs around me. I cannot say I am a reserved person; don’t do that to me… I am running and thinking why should I be a pawn in great power games? It shouldn’t be so.

Being in an emotional shock, you forget your parents, your homeland, everything. You can only think of what you have seen. You are motivated but with your fellow soldiers. You do things that might help them survive. There was a day when we woke up and remained packed with 5-6 people under a hill, and we couldn’t get out as the fire wouldn’t stop. I was drawing a photography studio floor plan. I thought I would open a studio with one of the guys after duty… I used to keep the “floor plan” in my service book… During bombings, I was reading in the basement (I was drafted to army the next day I was admitted to university). The guys were teasing me, “It is war, we are going to die, and you are reading…”

And I would answer laughing, “If we survive, I will be the one who gains…” Perhaps reading was a way for me to escape from that horrific situation, not to lose hope that I would return and do the things I love (I was admitted to Advertising and PR department without tuition fee).

There were no shootings in the night of the defeat. When we learnt fighting was over, we couldn’t sleep… We were happy that it was over, but it was also unusual not to hear the explosions. It was painful that it all ended like this.

You cannot complain about conditions if you have seen war. Right now it is cold, isn’t it? I am shivering, but I won’t feel the cold until someone tells me…

I do not believe that war will resume. Well, I don’t want to believe that it will happen again. I don’t want to be a soldier, and probably no one wants either. No one wants to die for their homeland. Everyone wants to see it. But… I know that if war resumes, my friends will go, and I will go with them.
Zareh Gasparyan, 27 years old, Yerevan
In war: Volunteer (machine gunner, private)
Military action location: Martuni
Profession: Musician (electric guitar player)
After my term of service in the army, I was dreaming that I was in Artsakh. A month or two before war, I saw the last dream. I was walking through a dusty terrain with gun on my shoulder towards my friend who I served with in Stepanakert. I was supposed to walk along the paved streets of Artsakh’s capital Stepanakert, instead, I was walking through dust… War broke out and I got the answers of my dreams that have been haunting me for 5-6 years.

I knew I would return from war, because in my dreams I was saying we would get home.

On September 28, on the second day of war, I became a volunteer soldier. I had to lecture later that evening. I went home, took my army service book, conducted my lesson and left in an hour…

The beginning is hard at war. Your whole life changes, and you are not ready to embrace that change, because no one gave you a notice; no one asked for your opinion. You think what a strong creature is man! How quickly he adjusts to this change? How can he be so cynical and make jokes in the battlefield…? Then, he turns into the person he should be at that very moment.

I hardly recall myself before war… I experienced unbelievable emotions during 44 days. I have changed. Now I say to myself I “needed” that war to learn to love people and learn not to waste time… Our time will not come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow; it is now… Today’s so called peace may be lost tomorrow, and we may not have time to love. You have to do what you must do today and now.

It was hard to be back to daily life after war; it was hard to look into the eyes of people who stayed in Yerevan, who kept on living the way they used to live before. I was trying to struggle not to blame them… Now, perhaps, that feeling is gone.

I have realized the fight our cultural figures fought. When asked who Komitas is, people give simple answers – musicologist, teacher, Vardapet… Yes, it is so, but in fact, Komitas had understood that we would be erased as a nation without culture. He reaffirmed that Armenians had their own music, which he collected and passed down from generation to generation… If he did not do that, it would be easier to erase us. I brought music as an example, but there are many other figures who have contributed greatly to our survival… There is no other way.

I would not lie if I tell that for me this struggle was for culture’s sake and for the sake of Armenian culture. Now, I want to have my humble input in our culture. Every time I teach music and see progress, I feel happy. It has been a year since my friends and I are realizing the “MshakutaMet” (Pro-culture) initiative. Every weekend, we travel five to six hours to the borderline communities – Aygedzor, villages of Chinari, Yeraskh, Aghavno village in Artsakh, and Chambarak. We teach music there and return to Yerevan. We donate the most precious thing to these children – time. We don’t take extraordinary things with us; we take along knowledge and love. These children change and start to appreciate life…

Our country is not the Republic Square. Our country starts from the border and from paying attention to its people. When a boy is born in an Armenian family, his name is ‘Armenian’ and surname is ‘Soldier’, and this is not the second or third role in our life. It is in fact the life we are given. We were born in a place like this… As long as we haven’t achieved peace through victory, we have to be ready not to repeat the same mistakes… Time is not then; it is now.

We need to be educated and educate. If we think like this today, we will not have to protect our country tomorrow.
Sedrak Velikodny, 48 years old, Yerevan
In war: Mobilization (private)
Military action location: Dzhokhki Dzor (The Hell Gorge)
Profession: Painter
I learnt about war when I woke up. It was 11 past something. I woke up, received some business call, I talked, hung up the phone, logged in Facebook and the first thing I saw was the “WAR”.

My friend’s son served in “Yeghnikner”. First, I called her to know what was going on, whether or not she had talked to her son… Last time her son was in touch with her was October the 2nd… I had already found acquaintances to go to “Yeghnikner”, to somehow help, but Alen was killed on the night of October the 2nd. We learnt about his death on October the 6th.

I volunteered to fight, while also receiving a draft notice. I left on October 21.

I quickly understood what was going on there, especially after Alen’s death. Displaced people from Artsakh were living in our studio, hence I got information through them… I had no illusions.

First, we went to Sovetashen. On the first day, we were given nine cartridges. We shot. On the second day, each of us threw a grenade. On October 21, we were given everything – bulletproof vests, reefer jackets, weapons, helmets… I did not have prior practice․ I served in the army long ago․․․.

I was by and large inexperienced, but I couldn’t be quiet. We were told to go to Jabrayil (Jrakan). In the end, it turned out we were going to hold the road of Lachin. We were going to the Hell Gorge… We got on the truck. We were like herrings in a tin, with boxes of grenades, someone’s hand, leg, and riffle on our heads… If anything happened, we could never get out of that truck.

There were men of different age groups – 24 to 52-year-olds – from a petrol station worker to an orchestral cellist.

There was a common rule – not to be captured, not to retreat and return alive… We were also praying. They say there are no atheists under deadly mortar fire…

Sadly, we learnt later that there were 7-8 “lion hearts” who deserted. The cellist stayed; tiny “Hobbit” stayed. He works as a waiter now… The aidman stayed who humbly did his job. He is a doctor. While those who were shouting they were going to kill the Turks fled…

Luckily, peasants had dig caves in the places we were located. It was the size of a room, but it accommodated 2 platoons… Thanks to this, during the bombings, we didn’t suffer too many casualties; otherwise it would fall on our heads. Phosphorus was falling on us like a curtain, but it was very beautiful. Though we knew it was dangerous, we would stand and stare at its “beauty”.

We held the area with 47 people; we didn’t retreat, although later we learned that we were surrounded from three sides. We stayed until November 30, then it was decided that the army should withdraw… When we retuned I was surprised for not feeling any emotional stress.

It came when I started to interact with people in the city. There were the happy guys with their large bellies, driving their cars and playing loud music… You think that so many courageous young men sacrificed their lives for these people, so that they can stop their cars in the middle of the street, not give way to people and shout loudly, “I swear, man…I swear…” There are many people who without much effort try to raise to fame. Many consider themselves as heroes. In fact, they have done nothing… Well, they fought for this war, but you saw how they “fought”… One of the deserters, later received a medal. While there are guys who have done everything, but they don’t speak, they don’t demand anything.

…Lots of things disappeared after war – ambitions, aspirations to achieve something is lost.

I am alive, and that is enough…

There are only two pants in the armchair, and that is enough for me, as long as they are worn out…
Artush Mikaelyan, 24 years old, Gyumri
In war: Draftee (ADS troops)
Military action location: Hadrut, Martuni, Askeran, Chartar
Profession: Stage director
For me, war is related to Ruben Hakhverdyan’s song I am waiting for you, dad! This song turned my childhood upside down…

Dark and cold days, my little boy,
will be your gifts this year.
Exploding bombs
will be your toys this year.
War is the game

that adults play.
And at the end of this game I hear your cry –
“I am waiting for you, dad!”…

… One of my father’s friends was a photographer during the First Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) War. I was always watching them work with archive materials out of the corner of my eye, until one day I saw some graphic content… After that, whenever they talked about the freedom fighters of the Artsakh Liberation War, I would recall those images… War was always a current topic of discussion at our place, but when I was younger, I thought it was over and we would always live in peace…

…War broke out on the night of my birthday. We thought it was another alarm, but they launched bombardment in the direction of the adjacent position, about 1-2 kilometers from us. The situation was impossible to understand, and we did not realize what was going on…

We were mandated to protect the command post of the Air Defense System (ADS)… In a few hours, reconnaissance strike UAVs started to carry out observation flights… A bunker that was to accommodate ten people was filled with more than thirty injured soldiers… One had lost his hand, the other his eye… More than forty men were packed in a bunker for ten, squeezed up against the wall and each other, inhaling the heavy smell of blood, the smell of death…

With our fists clenched, we were waiting for a blow, realizing these were the last moments of our lives.

Every day was the last day during war.

We would tell our family members everything was alright; there was nothing to worry about, while everything was destroyed. We were deprived of our main combat power. The three of us, befriended during warfare, were trying to self-organize. We would go closer the frontline on the pretext of taking food… Two of us returned. Aro, who would feel his imminent death and kept on telling about that, was killed in Shushi…

News that it ended came with tears and laughter. We had mixed feelings – loss of the guys, territories, and us being alive… It was insane… It was hard to sleep next to the empty beds of the guys.

After returning home from duty I often experienced vivid war dreams. War cannot be erased… But you start appreciating every second of your life, the moments you spend with your family members… You start realizing that seemingly important things like honor, sanctity and anything else are false categories. You realize that human life is all that matters… While at the same time, you are always on high alert, ready to dispatch when it starts again…

…War is the failure of intelligence. It is the consequence of exaggerating things, being guided by instincts, showing power, ambitions, becoming a captive of one’s religion, culture… We are all victims of outdated ideologies… There is “one” state and it is the planet Earth… I wish there was an everlasting peace on earth.