ԴԱՇՏԻՑ ԴՈՒՐՍ / OFFSTAGE

PRIVATE PREVIEW

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ԶՐՈՒՅՑ ԱՌԱՋԻՆ / FIRST ENCOUNTER

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Հայերեն սղագրությունը շուտով հասանելի կլինի։

Recorded in August, 2021

The majority of our society has been deeply affected by the war, as far as I know. As for me and my son... At that time my son had already been in military service for a year and three months, he was 19 years old. In the last months, especially in the last year, he was already an accomplished soldier, a position lead. He died on September 30.

He was happy. In his own way, he felt accomplished. A person very kind and willing, sincere, somewhat strict... People listened to him, even soldiers older than him took his opinion into account. Knowing his character, I knew that it would be like that. They [the boys he was serving with] come and tell me how successful he was. He was awarded with a gift from the ministry, a watch... When he died... I don't know why I felt that this watch still exists somewhere. The watch was in the investigation department of Goris [a town in Syunik, Armenia]. When the body was brought in, the employees took everything off at that time. In short, that watch was one of the few things from him we were left with. Also, the small phone, which he left with the boys, the winter coat, which was also left with the boys... Relics, mementos from the army.

We were searching for him for 25 long days... He was lost, lost because his name and surname were not recorded. When he died, the boys took his body to Jabrayil hospital, where for some reason, probably because of chaotic times, the doctors did not record his name. To this day there are many such children [young boys] in morgues, and their parents are still searching... That's how we lost Vahe.

After a while, the authorities started taking records. The recognizable corpses were numbered, and photographed, the files compiled and placed in filing systems of morgues... One day my husband's brother saw a photograph and assumed it might be Vahe. Finally was him, but there was no name or a surname, nothing... the morgue employees called him "the boy with the cross", because the wooden pendant cross that the soldiers usually wear remained on him until the last second, and the employees did not remove it either. The photo had been numbered, matching with corpse number XX... Good luck searching for another five months, if you don't recognize your son... Me and my husband were able to recognize him, thank God we went too because my husband's brother was in such as shock that he was unable to identify him from the photo. The eye color of a corpse fades, changes, and becomes bluish-gray, so my husband's brother said that our boy doesn't have blue eyes. His features were recognizable, but the face was wounded, covered in dirt, and blood, so he didn't realize that it was Vahe, because his eyes had already faded at the time the photo had been taken. His picture was taken about two weeks after his death, and recorded in the filing system under a number. There were so many parents who weren't mentally ready to go look at the photographs of all the corpses one by one. You simply have no idea how it feels. I was feeling like a zombie, but even then I couldn't sit in front of that screen for more than five minutes. Half-destroyed heads, faces covered in blood, one leg and one arm... Seeing those pictures and going through them... you know, it's terrible... I don't know, I have no words. It's a road that hasn't even ended yet…

When I found him after his death... it was a very difficult period. I'm better now, sometimes I feel, not think, just feel, that Vahik is there, somewhere far from me, but he exists... the mother's bond with the boy is a little too strong, and that sense still works. I don't know how long it will work.

After finding Vahik, I was saying I died too... But when I found him, I felt as if there was such a wave of energy... a ball… The coffin was closed. Well after 25 days, my poor kid... it was no longer Vahe. But that "ball of energy", entered into me. After that, even during the funeral, I forbade everyone to cry. I was saying, smile, Vahe is back. He was a cheerful person. He had a very sensitive heart. We finally found Vahe, Vahe is back. Many people told me afterwards they had never seen such a peaceful funeral... because there were many difficult situations at that time... To help you understand: there was a queue for picking up corpses from the morgue on that day, a queue!

Then, months later, people told me they were amazed with my reaction, how calm I was that day. That's because I finally found him. Until then I was crazy, a walking corpse, a schizophrenic crazy. On the day of the DNA test, they could hardly squeeze four drops of blood from my finger. The doctor was stunned. All these feelings... I wouldn't wish it on anyone to go through this.

The whole city [Yerevan] resembled a scene from a horror movie, like the ones where everyone is infected with a virus... The whole city was in that state, all of Armenia was in that state! While searching for Vahe, we have reached Ghapan, Sisyan, Goris, all in vain. Long lists of wounded…

One day, I received a call saying that Vahik was being brought to Erebuni by helicopter. Oh, how we ran... We waited for an hour, two hours, they finally brought three people, but Vahik was not among them... Every God's Day, we entered the resuscitative care units in the morning, and we checked each person one by one to see if it was Vahe. Many were completely wounded and could not speak.

***

I had a feeling for a long time that Vahe is gone. I had a vision of Vahik's closed casket, the memorial service, and me sitting next to it. I had a vision the day before he died. I continued searching for him because if I hadn't found Vahe by now, I would probably have committed suicide. It is unbearable. Somehow one can feel a false hope that he is still alive, but since I knew for sure that he is gone... You know how many people have caught me saying clearly, "Vahe is gone, understand that! If Vahik were still alive, he would have communicated with us where he was a long time ago. Don't you understand?" Vahe is not that boy, Vahe is not a runaway... On that day he was wounded once, went down to the medical point, got bandaged, and got back up to his unit's position. He didn't leave his soldiers, didn't betray them. He was shot within an hour and a half after that... The commander later told me: "Oh, so actually he did not run away" I said, "Yeah, actually he didn't."

***

Giving ourselves a foolish hope that they are in a good place, we somehow continue "walking" towards them. Hoping that one day we will meet. I believe in one thing, my feelings, my universe, my connection with him. Thanks to this I created "Haverj" a non-governmental organization, which is helping mothers. Actually, this was his doing too… so that I wouldn't go mad. I asked him for that.

***

Now I communicate with probably about 160 mothers. And what makes me happy in all this... First, that it is the continuation of Vahe, the continuation of Vahik's work. Whenever the boys serving with Vahe were telling me about him, they all said that he had saved a lot of people during that time, during three days... Just three days. So I promised myself that I would save other mothers. Because not everyone is able to quickly get out of this nightmare, they need help. That's why, little by little, with the help of my relatives, friends, colleagues - people I have met in my changed life, who want to do something good, to help others... we are now doing a psychological support program. We are teaching a group of mothers the skills of a psychologist-consultant, and they will go to administrative regions as psychologist-consultants. We are being trained, there are 10-12 of us. Together with social workers, and professional psychologists, who are currently working on a program in different administrative districts of the city, we will accompany them to meetings with mothers. Unfortunately, our society has a very hard time communicating with mothers like us. And it was very surprising for people that I could speak to them, and even suggest to them how they should communicate with me and behave around me. To this day, some people feel uneasy when meeting me. And I understand, it's hard... finding words is very hard... Even psychologists have a hard time, and they are surprised that there was a group of mothers, ready to help them. Since I already had a personal experience, I was able to establish contact with mothers, wives of the victims, and sisters... In the group, there are officers' wives who became young widows, left to raise their children alone...

***

This is how we live now... What can I say, there are different stories, all of them very sad, and very cruel. Honestly, if I compare myself to others... I am also the mother of the soldier but thank God at least I have my own job, I found my own way. I am doing something that gave me some power to live... create... do something... Even if it's useless. Honestly, I don't know. I try to rationalize it with something that I built, that is connected to my son's path that I continue. That's it...