Five-year-old Alexandra Celebrates New Year's Eve in a Cellar
Great Lady Mamikonyan
I Know That One Day the World Will Condemn the Genocide
I’d Rather Eat Dry Bread with My Children Than Send Them to An Orphanage
The Number of Asylum Seekers Increases Every Day
I Was a Real Man …
|Five-year-old Alexandra Celebrates New Year's Eve in a Cellar|
[January 8, 2007]
For six months now Alexander Shumovich,
his wife, refugee Elvira Martirosyan, and their five-year-old daughter Alexandra
have been living in the basement of the apartment building located at 43
Bagratunyats Street in Yerevan.
Last December, when the winter cold became
unbearable, Elvira Martirosyan turned to the NGO Mission Armenia for help. Now
Elvira takes hot meals home five times a week from one of the soup kitchens the
organization has set up, and social worker Gohar Amyan has visited the family of
three to find out how they ended up in this situation.
I went with Gohar to visit the family—we
had to clear away a number of obstacles to get there. We found ourselves in a
dark area and located a metal door with difficulty. Inside, we found a woman and
an angelic little girl sitting in a candlelit room.
A small gas-stove, a mirror, some other
household goods, and bags of clothes were scattered around or piled along the
walls. Elvira invited us in, warning us not to be frightened of their
‘companions' - the rats.
Elvira Martirosyan was born in 1963 in Baku, Azerbaijan. She attended
the Baku Conservatory, and then left to get married. Some time after her son
Raphael was born she and her husband, who was serving in the Soviet Army in
Armenia, were divorced.
“In 1988 I came to Armenia with my son. At
first we lived at my aunt's apartment but later I enrolled at the Yerevan State
Conservatory to continue my interrupted studies. And we shared a room in the
Zeytun student dormitory with two other girls. We lived under trying conditions
and I regretted breaking off relations with my ex-husband and refusing his
financial support. I called and told him that we were in Armenia. From time to
time my ex-husband would take Raphael to his relatives but he had no contact
with me,” Elvira recalled.
Elvira graduated from the conservatory and
began working at a music school in the village of Arevashat in the Ararat Marz. Her ex-husband was moving to
Moscow at the time. As Elvira was barely
making ends meet he offered to take the boy with him.
“I agreed because I was in extreme
situation, with no apartment of my own, and I didn't want to be a bother to my
aunt. A while later my son Raphael came to Armenia and I realized that he
couldn't stay with me, since he was living in luxury with his father. And
Raphael went back to his father. I haven't seen him since,” Elvira continued.
Elvira looked for a way to deal with her
failures and her own state of mind. She began attending a spiritual center
called Word of Life . Her aunt also went to the center.
“I was just a human being looking for God.
I had questions that needed answers. But I didn't know the way; I didn't know
whether I was on the right track or not. My aunt introduced me to a woman who
promised to find a temporary apartment for me. It was 1999. I gathered up my
belongings and went with the woman to the apartment where I was supposed to
stay. She told me that I would occupy one room in the apartment and that someone
else – a man – was living in the other room. I didn't know who that man was –
perhaps a drug addict or a murderer – and I began praying and God told me to go
there… A middle-aged man opened the door and we met. It was Alexander, my future
husband,” Elvira said.
Her husband's family moved to Armenia from
Ukraine in 1967 and found housing in Yerevan in an apartment at 43 Bagratunyats
Street – the same building in the basement of which Alexander, Elvira, and
Alexandra live today. Alexander Shumovich's family moved to Armenia at the
initiative of his Armenian mother, Roza. She divorced her husband and decided to
move with her two sons to her homeland. When Elvira met Alexander his mother was
already dead and his brother, Yuri had moved to Russia.
In 2001, two years after Alexander and
Elvira were married, their daughter Alexandra was born.
“The woman who brought me to this house
didn't tell me anything about her connection to this family. I found out later
that she was my brother-in-law Yuri's former wife. After their divorce Yuri left
her one-third of the apartment and headed for Russia and the other part was left
to my husband, Alexander. When I was pregnant with my daughter, Yuri's ex-wife
came and told us that she intended to rent out her part of the apartment to
another family. Just imagine, how would two different families live in one
apartment? True, I was not registered in the apartment and had no legal right to
oppose her but I felt that we would not be able to solve the problem without
conflict,” Elvira said.
The apartment became a bone of contention
and the two parties decided to sell the apartment and divide the profit. But
they didn't go to court since the center they attended banned court proceedings.
They decided to solve the issue through their spiritual center.
“How could these people who uttered God's
name be such scoundrels and liars? They cheated us and drove us out our
apartment – giving us pennies. The spiritual trial that took place was a
swindle. Of course, the main wrongdoer was Yuri's ex-wife who wanted to get hold
of the entire apartment. In documents they diminished the area of the apartment
belonging to us (which was the larger part of the apartment) - allegedly by
mistake. We found that out later when Alexander had already signed the papers.
Then we found out that we were supposed to sell only the part of the apartment
that belonged to us. We got an equivalent of $4,000 in Drams which we couldn't
use for anything. When we were out on the street we spent a night here and a
night there – at our friends' homes. But how long could we live like that? This
basement belongs to one of our neighbors; he let us live here. Now I want a
lawful trial that will return to my husband the apartment where he had lived for
almost forty years,” Elvira said.
Elvira Martirosyan is a refugee and is
legally entitled to a dwelling. But she is unable to deal with the necessary
papers. The department on migration of the ministry of territorial
administration is in charge of such issues and the Mission Armenia, NGO has
interceded with the department for Elvira Martirosyan.
[March 5, 2007]
Siranush Margaryan, her five sons,
daughter-in-law and grandson reside in a dilapidated dormitory building located
at 4 Sisakyan Street in the Achapnyak District of Yerevan.
Their apartment is very small, with scant
amenities. The furnishings consist of a few chairs, a small table, four beds
that barely accommodate the family members, and some kitchen utensils.
Forty-eight-year old Siranush works round
the clock –she bakes pastry at home and sells it to stores in an attempt to
scratch out a living. As a needy family, they are entitled to make use of a soup
kitchen operated by Mission Armenia; Siranush brings hot food home five times a
Only two of her sons are adults; the other
three are still in school. The three A-students face the same problem every
morning – what to wear to school. As a rule, the good clothes go to whoever
wakes up first, but there is some room for maneuvering. For example, if one of
the boys has something important to do, he chooses the clothes that fit and the
others make do with whatever is left. “My sons are the meaning of my life,”
Siranush said, and began to talk about them, describing each one's personality,
likes and dislikes.
Siranush worked for 22 years within the
system of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications as a telegrapher.
“In those years, I met my future husband. We got married and in 1984 my first
son, Edgar, was born. Four years later Artur was born, and in 1991, when my
third son, Arman, was born, the Ministry provided us - as an incentive for my
diligent work - with this apartment, which consisted of one room at the time.
And in 1992 my fourth son, Aram, was born,” Siranush recalls.
Hard times came to Armenia and the family
found itself in a very difficult plight. Her husband was working as a bus driver
with a very low salary. As time went by their needs grew and the tensions in the
family worsened. Then in 1994 her husband abandoned the family, heaping the care
of their four sons onto the shoulders of his pregnant wife.
“That was the hardest period of my life. In
the beginning, I subconsciously blamed my unborn child for my misfortune. I
thought that if it weren't for him being born, my husband would not have left
us. But always, at the hardest moments of my life, I met kind people who helped
me to overcome the hardships. When I was giving birth to my son, my doctor was
there, who helped me both materially and morally. To express my gratitude to him
I named my son Karen after him. With my son's birth it seemed that all my
troubles and suffering went away. Now I can't imagine what would have happened
to me if Karen hadn't been born. Of all my sons, I am closest to him. He is like
my friend, my advisor and helper,” Siranush said.
When Karen was born their living situation
became even worse. It was almost unbearable for the family of six to live in the
ten-square-meters room and Siranush as a single mother with many children
appealed to various state agencies asking for an additional room, but in vain.
“One day I decided to send a telegram to
the president of the republic asking for an audience. Frankly speaking, I didn't
have much hope that there would be any reaction, but much to my surprise a few
hours later I got a response. President Levon Ter-Petrossian agreed to receive
me the very next day. I prepared myself, put on my best dress, had my hair done
- my hair was long and beautiful at the time and I looked like a real Armenian
woman – and went to the president's office.
“When I went into his office he immediately
got up from his chair, walked toward me and asked me to take a seat. He asked
what my question was. I described my situation, explained that it was impossible
to live under such conditions with five sons, especially being a single mother,
and asked him to provide me with the room adjacent my room. When he found out
that I worked for the Ministry of Communications he asked if I had appealed to
the Ministry leadership. I said I had, but had been turned down. He immediately
picked up the phone and called somebody. I was waiting, petrified. At first I
couldn't understand who he was talking to, but then I realized that he had
called our minister. He asked why had my request been turned down and listened,
evidently, to some explanations. Suddenly he struck his hand on the table with
force and his pencil holder fell over on the desk, and then he said in a loud
voice: ‘I demand that this woman's problem be solved promptly and the results be
reported to me.' He hung up the phone and said to me in a quiet voice: ‘Madam,
your request will be complied with, don't worry.' In twenty-four hours the room
was at my disposal,” Siranush recounted.
Siranush left her newborn Karen in the care
of her oldest son, who was barely ten years old, and began working. She worked
wherever she could find a job: washed dishes in restaurants, baked pastry, and
even worked at nights at a bakery.
She has not worked at the Ministry of
Communications since 2000, for health reasons.
“My sons are my pride. It seems to me I
have brought them up right, because growing up in need and without a father,
they have never taken the wrong track. I remember that a man came from the
military registration and enlistment office, asked for my oldest son and said:
‘Your son has to go to the Army; why hasn't he reported to our office?' Then he
asked, by the way, if I had another son. I said I had four others. ‘Very good,
so we will have many soldiers from this house,' he said. I got angry and said,
‘If you want to enlist five soldiers from this house so badly, why don't you
ever ask how I am supposed to raise these soldiers to give to you?' I was very
agitated and the man was moved, too. When he was leaving he said, ‘You are the
Great Lady Mamikonyan.' After that, whenever we met he always asked: How are
you, Lady Mamikonyan?'” Siranush said.
Her oldest son, Edgar, has already served
in the Army. In 2006, twenty-two-year-old Edgar brought home a bride. The same
year Siranush's first grandchild was born.
Now Edgar has a job. Though there are other
things he likes more – he writes music and poetry – he realizes that he can't
support his family on them. Edgar learned furniture making at a vocational
school and now works in this field.
The family of eight barely makes both ends
meet but Siranush hopes that when her sons grow up they will be support and
encouragement for her, since they all are talented and intelligent.
|I Know That One Day the World Will Condemn the Genocide|
[April 23, 2007]
Painter Heghine Abrahamyan is a Genocide
survivor. She is 95 years old, born in Kars. Heghine was a witness to the
deportation of Armenians from Ardahan and Kars. In 1921, when Heghine
was eight years old, her family left Kars forever, emigrating to Gyumri, and
then to Yerevan.
“I was three years old when my family was
deported for the first time. At the time we were living in Ardahan. My father
worked in the military. He was assigned to work as military supplier in Yerevan.
My father took us with him to Yerevan. We rented a house in the area of the
current Opera House. Back then, it was an empty place with few houses and
gardens. I remember once the neighbor's daughter and I were eating apricots in
one of those gardens. My hands got dirty. I wanted to kneel down and wash them
in the river, but fell into the river instead. The river took me. I was saved by
our landlord's son. In 1918 my mother died and our aunts took me and my brother
to Kars,” Heghine recounted.
Heghine enrolled in the girls' school in
Kars. But in November 1920, Kars was again attacked by the Turks. “The Turks did
not allow Armenians to leave the city. But, my father, as a serviceman in the
Russian Army, was given a van so that we could take our belongings and leave. My
aunt went to the train station to pack our things. All of a sudden she came back
and told us that the Turks had taken the station, and that the train had
departed with our things in it. It was the second time since Ardahan that we
lost our belongings.”
“At the time my father wasn't with us;
maybe he was at the military base. We got into a car and hurried to the canyon
road, so we could escape. The canyon was full of frightened people. Everyone was
fleeing—some on foot, others with horses, carts, whichever way. After a while,
the road was so full of people that it was impossible to move forward. Our car
stopped. At that time, the Turks noticed that it was a good excuse to slaughter
people; they took positions on either side of the canyon and started shooting
people. When I saw the first dead, the scene was unbearable, and I probably lost
consciousness. When I woke up, our van was empty, and my relatives had left,
leaving me alone. Under the van a Kurdish woman was hiding with a child in her
arms. Next to me was lying my uncle's four-year-old daughter, with her hips and
pelvis broken. She bled to death before my eyes. The Kurdish woman took me and
we walked on together, hoping to find my relatives.
“There was a bridge over the canyon. The locals called it the Hair Bridge, because it was
narrow and not many people could use it at the same time. People had to cross
this shaky bridge. The Turks were shooting from the other side, and it was
impossible to cross back because of the crowd behind. People were falling into
the river; the river was red with blood. In front of me was a man with a big bag
on his back. All of a sudden he collapsed from exhaustion. I don't know how I
passed him—maybe I walked over him—but I found myself on the other side. I was
looking for someone I knew when suddenly the earth underneath me exploded. The
Turks were shooting. A man came up to me and hid me in his uniform and started
to run. I was hitting him and kicking him, trying to escape. I didn't realize he
was my savior. Then he reached a half-ruined building and threw me inside
through a broken window.
“In the rooms inside there were groups of
people, wounded, with torn clothing. I found my family among them. After some
time the gunfire stopped and we found that the Kars road was open. We returned
to the town, leaving in that cursed canyon the bodies of my grandmother and my
In the spring of 1921, the children living
in the orphanage were transported by railroad to Leninakan. Heghine and her
brother were among them. “The Kars-Leninakan road is not long, but I had the
feeling that we were going and going but not getting anywhere. We were loaded
like cattle into train compartments, which were locked from outside. There was
an epidemic inside. I don't remember, but my aunt told me later that the bodies
of dead children had been thrown from the windows so the epidemic wouldn't
spread,” Heghine said.
After living in Gyumri for some time, they
moved to Yerevan. Heghine went to school and discovered a lifelong interest in
painting. She went to a local art school, and then to Leningrad to continue her
studies at the Leningrad's Academy of Arts.
When she returned to Yerevan, Heghine
Abrahamyan went to work at the Phanos Terlemezyan School, where
she taught art for thirty years, passing her knowledge and experience on to her
students, among whom were the painters Grigor Khanjyan, Onik Minasyan, Levon
Kojoyan, Rafayel Atoyan, and others.
Even today at almost 100-year-old Heghine
continues to paint. She has many unfinished pieces, which she has to complete.
There is one pain that lingers on– her longing for her lost homeland.
“I know that one day the world will condemn
the Genocide, ” Heghine Abrahamyan said. “Europe must know the Turks and their devious politics, because if Turks enter
European Union with the weight of the Armenian Genocide weight on their
shoulders, they will soon destroy Europe, too. “
|I’d Rather Eat Dry Bread with My Children Than Send Them to An
[June 4, 2007]
Twenty-nine-year-old Zhenya is the mother
of six young children. Three of them—Arayik , Arman and Armine—are in school;
the others—Mariam, Edgar and Erik—are still too young. Zhenya's husband, Samvel
Ordubekyan, is in prison for a crime she says he did not commit. Zhenya lives
with her children in a rented apartment on 8th Street in Nor Halberd. She does
not have a job, and pays the rent out of her children's government allowances.
“We always had a problem with housing; when
we married we were living in a rented apartment. My husband worked as a guard at
his friend's café, and I sometimes cleaned rich people's houses, so we survived
living from paycheck to paycheck. My husband's brother lived with his family in
their father's home. They had financial problems and were forced to sell the
apartment. We got two thousand dollars from the sale. We had debts and we paid
them, and with the money that was left over we left for Russia. This was in
2002. We worked there. In 2003, Edgar, my fifth child, was born. In 2004 we
decided to come back to Armenia, to see our relatives. We came but couldn't go
back since we had spent all of our money. At that time, we moved into the summer
house of a friend of ours who was in Russia. In 2006 my sixth child, Erik, was
On May 31 of that year a boyhood friend of
Samvel's visited them with some other men. They ate and talked, but after
several hours the conversation turned into a fistfight. Samvel and his friend
were beaten up. The friend was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
“During this fight, my husband's was
injured, and my husband was injured, too. The other people involved in the fight
went to the hospital and somehow managed to persuade my husband's friend to give
false testimony against my husband, saying that my husband had beaten him up,
and not they. The friend, who had known my husband for 35 years, agreed. My
husband was arrested for something he didn't do, and imprisoned for three years
and four months.”
Zhenya and her six children stayed on in
the summer house, but a little while later the owner of the house returned from
Russia and when he found out that her husband was in prison he asked her to
leave the house.
“ I didn't want to bother my relatives, so
I decided to find housing myself. I couldn't find an affordable place to rent;
because of the six children no one agreed to rent their house. I had an
acquaintance in Nor Kharberd, and I asked him to let me live in his summer
house. He provided us with a shed next to his house. The shed had a dirt floor.
In the winter, the water would trickle from the roof and we would get wet, and
the children would shiver from the cold. There were no proper accommodations; we
would lie down to sleep on the dirt floor, and we didn't even have electricity.
At that time I was advised to send some of the kids to an orphanage, but I would
reply that I'd rather eat dry bread with my children than send them to an
orphanage. We lived for a year in those appalling conditions. One month ago the
landlord came and asked us to leave that place. Fortunately, I was able to find
this apartment, whose owner agreed to rent it to me. I have to pay 25,000 out
our 45,000 dram allowance.”
For several months now the family has been
receiving aid from the NGO Mission Armenia. According to Anna Martirosyan, who
works for Mission Armenia, Zhenya learned about
the organization and came to them for help.
“Three times a week Zhenya receives dry
food from our soup kitchen in Erebuni. They have been recently included on the
organization's list and still have many unsolved problems, but their biggest
problem is housing and we have already sent a letter on their behalf to the
president of the Diakonika Charity Fund, to provide them with an apartment from
the fund's apartment procurer, “Anna Markosyan said.
“We need that apartment like air and water,
because I cannot pay the rent and the children are hungry. If there was a
caretaker for them, I could work. Every month I visit my husband, and that's an
expense, too. Also, his condition is not good; last year he swallowed a spoon to
prove his innocence. There was even a small article about that in the newspaper
Aravot on November 17, 2006. His lawyer wrote a letter to the director of the
prison, asking for his client to be moved to the Central
Hospital, but he received a reply stating that that during an examination no
spoon was found in his stomach. I'm sure the spoon is still in his stomach,
because my husband has convulsions on a daily basis and his condition is quickly
deteriorating. I have to demand that he be examined again, and if the spoon is
still in his stomach I will sue those responsible.”
|The Number of Asylum Seekers Increases Every Day|
[July 9, 2007]
The Mesropyan family immigrated to Armenia
from Basra, Iraq on August 14, 2006.
They live in a rented apartment on Kuznetsov Street in Yerevan. Artsrun and his
wife Zebyur and their children Shahen, Salbi and Nora are all unemployed.
Artsrun is a highly qualified accountant who worked for years at an insurance
firm in Basra. Shahen, 32, is an electrician. He had a job with a British
company. Because of this, local extremists threatened and even tried to kill
him. Salbi, 29, has a degree in management, and Nora, the younger daughter, is a
programmer. None of them has found work in Armenia; their applications, which
indicate that they do not know Russian, are invariable turned down.
“Our ancestors immigrated to Iraq from
Western Armenia in 1924 and
established the Havrez community. My family lived in that community, but in 1956
I moved to Basra, got my education, and started a family. There were about 250
Armenian families in Basra, and now there are about twenty or twenty-five
families left. We adhered strictly to our traditions, had a flourishing Armenian
church and an Armenian club, but they are closed now. Throughout all those
years, there wasn't a single case of an Armenian girl or boy marrying a
foreigner, despite the fact that we were living on their land. We meticulously
stuck to our religion, language, and church.
The Mesropyan family brought nothing with
them from Basra; they weren't even allowed to sell their house and car. They
only managed to bring some money, which they now spend on rent and food. “We had
a very nice apartment, a nice car. Our situation there was good. Most
importantly, we were important there, our family was very respected. But the
extremist Shiites in Basra didn't care about
that. The last two years they were threatening all Armenians, forcing them to
leave. Our daughters were afraid to go outside alone. In the end, the situation
got so bad that we left our house, our property and came to Armenia. Of course,
we are happy that we are in our homeland, that there is nothing to threaten us
here, but we can't survive here for long without jobs or a housing. Our
situation has to improve somehow, “ Artsrun said.
Things are similar for Sedrak Simonyan and
his family. They immigrated to Armenia in 2005. In Iraq, they lived in Baghdad,
where Sedrak owned a brick factory. They, too, came to Armenia nearly
empty-handed and are now living on their savings. Sedrak, his wife Mariam, and
their two young daughters rent housing in the Arabkir district of Yerevan. “We
had very serious problems related to our daughter's health, but we didn't know
the laws and didn't know who to ask for help. Fortunately, Mission Armenia
started working on our problems, and their social worker helped us overcome this
Sedrak's older daughter has suffered from
epilepsy from early childhood and was under constant medical supervision in
“Sedrak and I started collecting the
necessary documents and visiting the respective organizations, “ said Arusik
Sargsyan, a social worker and psychologist. “ Sometimes there were problems and
even hostility, because many government structures weren't aware of the rights
of asylum seekers, but we would inform them about judicial acts and decisions,
and that would somehow solve the problem.” Silva was granted the status
“disabled from birth” and she is on the list at a relevant medical facility and
receives free medication. However, serious hurdles exist for Silva to receive a
disability pension, which according to the law, asylum seekers are not eligible
for in Armenia.
In addition to unemployment, difficult
living conditions, unfamiliarity with the laws, the language barrier and other
challenges, Iraqi Armenian refugees face another extremely urgent problem. Their
passports will expire soon, and there have been recent changes to Iraqi
passports. The Iraqi Armenians have to obtain new passports, but they cannot go
to Iraq, for financial reasons, and because they don't want to risk their lives.
There is no embassy of Iraq in Armenia to help them. “With our assistance, the
temporary council of the Iraqi Armenian refugees in Armenia has sent a letter to
the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow, asking to take care of this problem. The embassy
gave a positive answer, noting that the passports can be sent and extended or
renewed without the presence of the owner. We also asked the Armenian Foreign
Ministry, so that it could implement this process via the Armenian Embassy in
Moscow, hoping that this approach would provide a long term solution to the
issue,” said Tanya Dashyan, head of the social and healthcare department of
There are currently over 300 Iraqi Armenian
asylum seekers in Armenia, who have immigrated because of the unstable political
situation in Iraq. But their situation is little better in Armenia, because
there is no clearly defined legislation in Armenia addressing the problems that
asylum seekers face here. There are several NGOs working on this issue, although
they cannot be responsible for dealing with it alone.
From June 1, 2006 to June 1 of this year
with the help of the Danish Refugee Council, a program was implemented to help
deal with eh main problems the asylum seekers face. The program was implemented
by three NGOs – the Armenian Red Cross, Mission Armenia, and the Armenian
Sociology Association. The goal of the project was to alleviate residency and
other problems, and to raise awareness of the issue of asylum seekers. The
project has been completed, but Mission Armenia continues to provide social
services to over 300 Iraqi Armenians – psychological counseling, information
about their rights and Armenian laws, consultation on making use of the social
security system, coordination with state and non-governmental organizations, as
well as cultural and other tours.
“The work being done now and in the future
by NGOs will obviously help alleviate the needs of temporary asylum seekers and
solve of some of their problems,” Tanya Dashyan said. “But solving their main
problems, such as unemployment, ignorance of Armenian laws and human rights,
language barriers and the necessity to adapt to different socio-economic
conditions, requires assistance from the government and a clear legal framework,
especially now, when the number of immigrants to Armenia is increasing,”
[December 4, 2006]
Asya Agajanova's son Grisha Agajanyan and
her daughter-in-law Marine were doctors in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. They
were both killed by Azerbaijanis in 1988. Asya Agajanova doesn't talk about it.
The 82-year-old former employee of the Azerbaijan National Security Office was
forced to leave Baku with her husband in 1990. She now lives alone in Vanadzor.
Asya Agajanova was born in the Azerbaijani
town of Shamahi. My father was a son of an abbot and my mother the daughter of a
clergyman. “Faith occupied a great place in our family. Once I saw my father get
down by the bed and do some strange things. I asked my mother but she said,
‘It's none of your business, you won't understand it.' Then I noticed that my
father did the same thing all the time, so I couldn't keep quiet and I asked my
mother to explain. My mother whispered in my ear that he was praying,” Asya
Asya graduated from high school with honors
and enrolled at the Medical Institute of Baku. She was a third-year student when
World War II began. She was sent to the battlefront, and spent five years at the
scenes of the fiercest battles for five years; she was wounded and received
different commendations. She went back home after the war only to find her home
occupied by strangers. Her father and brother had died during the war and mother
had died of heart infarction when she had learned that her daughter was being
taken for military service. Her two younger were sent to an orphanage.
“I applied to the court and got my home
back,” Asya said, then took a deep breath and continued: “Afterwards it was
discovered that I had been sent to the battle front in someone else's place. I
went to the institute, tore my documents into pieces, threw them in the dean's
face and walked out. I told them I didn't need them or their medical education.”
Asya ended her medical career and decided to study law instead. She enrolled in
the faculty of law at Baku University. When she graduated from law school she went to work for the Baku KGB
(State Security Committee). Her long professional career began in this
organization first as ordinary employee and then as department manager. She
didn't talk about her work much. She just said that she dealt with government
agencies, had good relations with all her Azerbaijani colleges, and what's more
important, they were exceptionally respectful and trusting toward her.
“I was a real man. No one dared to approach
me disrespectfully. My deputy was a young Turk. It is hard to imagine how
respectful he was to me and how he appreciated me. I was in Baku until 1990. I
was taken to and from the office in secret. The driver came early in the
morning, picked me up to the office, and brought me back in the evening. However
one day I was told that I could not stay anymore, as they couldn't keep me safe,
so it would be better for me to leave as soon as possible. My husband and I
packed our things for the journey. We were sitting on our luggage and waiting
when my deputy called me up and told not to leave with luggage under any
circumstances. He told us that the suitcases of Armenians were emptied and
filled with stones and that's how Armenians were sent away. That deputy was a
very good man. He told me that he would send our luggage to Georgia and from
there it would reach us safely. And that's exactly what he did, “ said Asya
“I came to Armenia with my husband. We
arrived at the station. There was noise, chaos everywhere. We were in confusion
and didn't know what to do or where to go. Suddenly a man approached me. He
looked at me astonished and asked if I recognized him. I looked at him carefully
for a long but I didn't recognize him. Eventually he realized that I didn't know
who he was and said, “I am Karen Demirchyan's driver.” I didn't remember him,
but he remembered me well. I had attended Karen Demirchyan's meetings during his
visits to Baku. The driver remembered me from those meetings. He told me that
Karen Demirchyan was at the station and took us to him. Karen Demirchyan was
very happy to see me- how he hugged and kissed me! He gave me a firm promised
that he would solve my housing problem very soon, and that man did indeed keep
his promise. We got an apartment in Kirovakan several days later. I still live
in that apartment today.”
Asya Agajanova spends most of her time in
the Vanadzor branch of the NGO Mission Armenia. She has meals here, attends
meetings, and speaks with other lonely elderly people. Grandmother Asya lost her
husband in 1994. Her brothers took her grandchildren to Russia after the Sumgait
events because of the difficult situation and harsh living conditions in
Armenia. Occasional telephone calls from her grandchildren and news about them
are Asya's only source of consolation. Her daughter was engaged to an
Azerbaijani boy in Baku and fled to Russia after those events. She called her
mother several years later, but didn't say where she was, and Asya has not heard
from her since.
“It was in 1998. I had problems with my
pension. I needed some documents from the place I used to work. “What shall I
do?” I asked myself, and ultimately decided to call my former office. I thought
that some of the old employees would still be there and I could ask for help. So
I called up and found out that my old job was occupied by my deputy. I asked
them to call him to the telephone. ‘Do you know who this is?' I asked him. He
didn't at first. Then I said that I was his mother – and I had been like a
mother to him when we worked together, and he recognized my voice. You can't
imagine how emotional he was and how he cried. I told him why I was calling. He
asked me to come in and not to worry at all. He would arrange everything and
make sure I could come back safely; all I had to do was get there. We agreed to
meet at the border between Bagratashen and Sadakhlo. We met and I was taken to
Baku in secret in a closed car. I stayed in Baku for seven days and took care of
all my business. When it was time for me to go home, they held a dinner in my
honor at a restaurant on the sea. It was like paradise. There isn't any place
like it in Armenia. We ate, drank, and danced and in the end my former deputy
drank to my health and said, ‘Long live Stalin! Long live Stalin!' I looked at
him with surprise and couldn't understand why Stalin. ‘You are Stalin. Only you
could do such a brave thing. You are a real man,' he said.
When I got back people from the KGB kept
coming and asking me why I had gone and who I had seen in Baku. But I put all of
them in their place and threw them out of my house, and so they forgot where I