Anush, 21

Lack of confidence, uncertainty and fear for the future on the one hand, and optimism and determination among my peers on the other hand, encouraged me to begin my own small research.
First, I would talk to my friends, then I met new people. As we talked about the situation becoming more unpredictable, the idea of living in the present moment and appreciating it became ever more important to us. My research turned into a photographic series.
I drew some similarities between expectation, failed shots, incompleteness and imperfection of the working process and the emotional and personal impressions I had got from those often aloof and restrained conversations with my friends.

Analogue photography, despite being arduous, has become an easy and favored way to capture images for me, the reason behind it being until now an unconscious desire to value people and to make memories and feelings tangible and tactile.

Sofie, 20

Up to this point, I was hoping that things would get better for Artsakh. Even if I was thinking of studying abroad, Artsakh was the point of return. If I became an architect, I would do something good for Artsakh.
Whenever I felt drained, I went to Artsakh. Sleeping in my room was simply enough to be filled with energy. There were trees in front of the windows of my room. As I grew up, those trees grew with me. Grandma and I used to say that these were our trees. My grandma would say, “These are your trees…!”

That is your tree, your source of energy. You don’t want to be away from it, as you are constantly filled with energy that way. I don’t want to say my life is over, but I cannot deny that I no longer have my source of energy.

After 2020, when I already knew we had lost Shushi, I was wondering what I should do to feel contented as an architect. It occurred to me that I could rebuild Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in any part of the world. That would be its living symbol. When anyone from Artsakh learns you have rebuilt the cathedral, they will share the same emotions and sentiments.
I don’t necessarily say that it is something worth living for, but that will console me a little bit and make me happy. Regrettably, there are so many lost monuments now that you cannot create a small Artsakh within a city and say you have built everything because it won’t be the same anymore.

We had Stepanakert and the adjacent villages then. At least I had a place I called home and could go there…

I constantly want to escape from this reality. No success makes me happy, only the people who make me who I am. I am walking in the streets, hearing the dialect. I cannot believe my eyes when I encounter certain people. All this hurts me and reminds me of what has happened, which is why this person is here. Still, I don’t understand it, I don’t believe it.
I still believe that my grannie and relatives have come to see us for a few days, and they will be back soon. The pain is indescribable. You’d better live somewhere else, be in a foreign country, than experience the aftermath here.

All my life, I have thought I should live in the moment without thinking about what will happen tomorrow. When in the past ‘today’ mattered, today ‘this moment’ matters, because after all that has happened you don’t even like your present let alone think about the future.

I don’t care much how my life will turn out. If you have lost your roots, then you are lost. You don’t know where to go. If the flower was cut off from its roots, it won’t grow. You should try to plant it somewhere, but if there is nowhere, it will fade. I am going through that phase now. I should either figure out where I shall ‘plant’ myself so that I don’t fade, or I will. I don’t know… I am not afraid of fading.

Aram, 21

I have always loved this occupation for as long as I can remember. I enjoyed hiking from an early age. As time went by, my interest grew. I remember one day I was walking with my mother, and she said, “Perhaps you could become a geologist?”
I was little then, a schoolboy, and didn’t take it seriously. Then I became interested. I started to look for information and realized that this is what I want to be. After graduating from school, I got into Yerevan State University, Faculty of Geology. One year later, I was conscripted into the army.

They say after military service you may lose your interest. You will be back and have no desire to do anything. I had a contrary experience. My interest grew bigger during my service. There I understood and appreciated the importance of my choice and how deep and strong my roots were. I returned from military service and resumed my studies with even greater passion.

I am keen on studying abroad to further apply my knowledge here when I am back. My profession is fundamental for the development of our country. Armenia has advantages in many ways that people don’t appreciate. Of course, there are challenges, but they are everywhere.

Nothing happens all at once. You have to be patient and find ways to solve problems. You have to admit that they won’t be resolved in a year or even in two years. It may take decades.
You have a different feeling especially after the service. So many people were gone, killed and injured. We just can’t leave this country. If everybody leaves, nothing will change.
I genuinely believe our country is very beautiful. We must stay and help it flourish.
You can’t say what will happen tomorrow and what decision you will make.
We cannot just sit and think everything is bad. In fact, it is, but we can make it better.

Ruben, 18

I am studying at Armenian State Pedagogical University, Department of Film Directing. Before this, I was a college student. My goal is to popularize our national songs, dances, games and holidays through theatre for the children to come, see and be captivated with them. I want them to become aware of centuries-long culture and history. Which is why I have chosen this profession.
To tell the truth, I could have chosen a military career to defend our land and to do bigger things, but this is my “comfort zone”, I don’t know.
We live in a state of war today, and the first thing is to volunteer. A guy of my age should at least take arms and defend the country. Whatever my choice, I will leave my current occupation aside and replace it with arms when the time comes. In any case, you cannot evade your duty of serving in the army. It is a duty and should be done.

I think for my age, I do whatever I can. Often there are things I am reluctant to do, but then I understand that I need to talk to people, tell them what I know.
Going through ethnography books is a great source of motivation. In times of crisis, it has never occurred to me to question why I am doing this, because I know precisely that the first thing we should do after the war is to foster culture. If we don’t preserve a manuscript who should do that for us then? We must know our history.

Living in this country is important for me. My plans are related with Armenia. I grew up here and I should stay here. Doing interesting things with my friends and seeing the result brings me joy.

I was volunteering in Goris for three – four days during displacement of Armenians of Artsakh. Then I learnt that our student council members had gone to Vayk. I went with them. I had a feeling that if I didn’t do anything then, I would feel more pain. It was a self-defence. At least I could step back. I would treat a candy to a child, see their smile and feel less pain. And I realized I helped at least one person. Those were hard days. We somehow left them behind and returned to Yerevan. Then we were back to our seemingly normal life.
We are in a loop. It seems that all this constantly repeats itself.

During the 44-Day War, we were collecting relief supplies again, day and night. God forbid, it happens again because we have reached Armenia proper, and we have nowhere to go.

In the meantime, I don’t know if we should think about staying in Armenia or leaving…

I haven’t ever questioned myself about it. I fear more that we will have to leave and take uncertain paths against our will. In that case the relatives’ urge – ‘Come to Armerica, it is great here!’ – becomes a deplorable thing.

Gayane, 20

My father is a journalist. When I was a kid, we would go hiking together and explore various monuments. I didn’t at all like the history class at school. Hiking has taught me a lot. It was more about knowing yourself and your homeland, which is probably why I chose my profession. I don’t know now whether or not I want to make a career in this field.

And it depends on how my profession will contribute to society in the future.

I used to take it easy before. I considered things that mattered to me.

I don’t know, maybe I will choose urban planning or preservation of historical heritage. Sometimes I think about photography or journalism as well.

My father was the editor-in-chief of “Meran” official newspaper of Kashatagh region.

Sometimes, he would make me write an article for the newspaper.

I didn’t like it before. But now that I look back, I know it relates to me. I love it.

In general, I don’t think you can make big changes just by having one profession. It is particularly so for our country, where one should put greater effort than they normally do.

There is much uncertainty. It sounds sad, but I don’t have plans for the next five years.
By saying future, I am now thinking of some geopolitical events that affect us, and how we can survive their impact. It’s true we affect too, but we have little impact. After recent events, I understood that’s life. We must embrace it. You must either live or not. I choose to live, because I can at least be of some use.

I turned eighteen after the war. But during these past two years, everything has changed: the way we would imagine our student years before the war. Sometimes I think I haven’t lived that age, experience the mindset and feelings, but I feel it now. 
It’s been distorted a bit. I often think that maybe our state will cease to exist, but we will remain, won’t we? At least some of us. What will they do? Will they try to create a statehood again? Or they will be finally scattered around the world and that’s it.

Karine, 20

I love this profession. I have no idea what I will build on or take away from it, but I will keep on studying to have my input in the development of society.
My profession – pedagogy in preschool education – is the basis for a strong society.
The more I explored it, the more I learnt that love alone is not enough. You must realize that it is necessary.
There are many gaps in our society, and we must fill them. The generation we raise today will be the society of tomorrow.
My work will not have an immediate impact. Maybe it may bring changes in ten years.
I must bring up a child who is conscious about his/her decisions, who thinks first then acts.

In the future, I want to open my own preschool. I evaluate my professional skills as good. Which is why I know that no matter how disappointed and disheartened I may feel, I must be in a good mood when I enter the classroom to work with children.

This period makes us more thoughtful and watchful. Bearing this in mind, we learn to be more organized at the same time. That said, you change and grow up. But you don’t change at once. You learn from mistakes. In certain circumstances, you must lead, educate yourself to be a willing, responsible and accurate person. In the end, you will change for the better. You will become mature.

I feel the love for motherland, which is perhaps hard to put in words, but which I am sure will be manifested in my work. Despite obstacles, I live in peace in Armenia. I feel good. 
I walk freely in the streets. I feel safe and balanced. As for the questions about the future, I have always been an optimist. I want to believe that everything will be fine in our country.
I don’t necessarily say it will be so tomorrow or soon, but we will eventually be the Armenians who hold their heads high and know precisely their goal. To this end, everybody needs to be in the right place.

Levon, 18

I am in my first year at the Institute of Energetics and Electrical Engineering of National Polytechnic University. I chose Atomic Energy as my area of study, which for the first time this year grants deferral. That said, we are given the opportunity to study for four years and complete military service afterwards.
I believe the future of the country depends not on certain groups, but on individuals. Even one person can change everything.
At the moment I am focused on my studies and probably will be studying for the next ten years. I strive to acquire more knowledge to be useful for my country. Let’s wait and see if I will make it.
The current tense situation affects my mind, my plans and even blocks me for a while. 
Absorbed in thoughts, I have no urge to do anything for days. 
At this age particularly, you realize that you are getting older and have no time. Well, there is time, but you feel you are getting behind, which is why I am trying to achieve a result I may be content with before I am twenty.

I’ve also set goals with the Polytechnic University, because as a technical university, it does amazing work for the youth.

In the future I want to build a time machine, but I don’t know if I can make it.
By studying hypnosis, I realized that sooner or later the impossible becomes possible.
My future is in Armenia. Maybe I will continue my studies abroad, because Armenia does not currently provide a high level of physics or is reluctant to utilize available resources.
If it doesn’t work, or certain circumstances hold me back, I can surely increase my knowledge through self-education.

Boosting physical and mathematical sciences will help develop the army. For me, it’s more important to enhance the army rather than serving in the army. With the advancement of the latest technologies, robots can protect the borders.
For me being a patriot means being well educated and contributing to the wellbeing of your country.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of EU4IM’s beneficiary 4Plus Documentary Photography Center and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.