THE SPARTANS OF ARTSAKH
January 15, 2015
By Nora Markarian Yacoubian
On my recent trip to Yerevan, a friend of mine whose name I will not
disclose at this time, organized a three day trip to Artsakh for us.
Suffering from lack of sleep, and exhaustion, I tetxed him in the
middle of the night that I must cancel.
He called me early next morning to check on my condition and bid
There are moments in your life where you sense that there was a missed
opportunity, that you should have made the extra effort and "been
there". You would never be able to recreate the experience ever again.
It's as if the Gods planned it, the power and the beauty of the
forests unfolding its splendor and the wilderness dictating the law
of the land...where in a moment of fierce battle and sniper shots you
are moved with the tenderness by nothing more than animals crossing
I worried for his safety and emailed him to ask how he was. I got an
excited response saying he had so much to tell.
I waited until he returned. We met at 10:00 AM at Cafe Louis Chadren
on Amiryan street. I could tell that it was no ordinary adventure
that he had experienced. After our lattes and croissants arrived,
he leaned over and in a soft voice began his story...
It started with his driver Samvel who had picked up a female passenger
to accompany my friend to Artsakh. They introduced themselves and it
turned out that she was an Officer serving in the Artsakh army. He
would never have guessed. She looked like any other ordinary women
scurrying the streets of Yerevan. She shared her story of bravery
and honor. She had lost her husband when her sons were 3 and 1.
She spoke at length about love of land and country and their duty to
protect it at any cost. Not only was she still an active Officer, but
her son, now over 21 and 23 had served as well. He listened carefully,
absorbing every detail on his long journey.
Once they arrived to Stepanakert, they were welcomed by her two
handsome boys. As is the hospitable and generous custom of the people
of Artsakh, they insisted that my friend break bread with them and
eat khorovats. The boys had even attempted to make dolma to impress
their mother after her long absence.
At the the same time, their brother, their father, their army
commander... clearly a woman that wore many hats. For an instant, he
was taken back to the brave women of 1915 who readily bore arms and
were willing to die for country and freedom. Had 100 years passed so
quickly? Before him stood small framed Gayane. Yet, one sensed the
power and strength of this woman and the determination in her eyes.
She looked so much older than 45. He caught a glimpse of an and old
picture on a corner table covered with hand woven embroidery in her
tiny living room. A handsome man, sporting a large mustache. Her son
Hayk looked exactly like the gentleman in the photo. He assumed that
this was her late husband. Her guardian angel.
My friend and the two boys went for a long walk. He wondered how these
two boys could be so good natured, so positive, with such incredible
wit and humor. Young men back home complained profusely if their cell
phone batteries died or their Internet was temporarily disabled. He
knew too well that many here, from this generation, grew up with no
fathers or few male figures. Their heroes lay in make shift graveyards
with simple crosses or modest tombstones.
They exchanged coordinates and he promised he would soon return.
He was excited that he was finally at the frontline. Aghdam was
completely flattened and barren as if no one had ever lived there
before. He was given a bullet proof vest and told to be very cautious
since enemy lines were only a few hundred meters away. He assured the
commanding Officer that the sound of sniper bullets were familiar to
him from his days during the civil war in Lebanon.
He flinched as he felt the heat of the bullets torpedo above him. He
held his camera high with both hands in the air, lowered his head for
cover and tried to take photos of the enemy. His heart raced quickly.
His mind was flooded with whispers and voices. "We fight for love of
country. The land is our soul..."
It was at that moment of living life on the edge that time momentarily
stopped. He watched as a female dog lazily crossed the dusty road.
Dogs were used to alert our soldiers whether or not Azeris were
closing in. He noticed that she was a female, her breasts filled
with milk. Moments later, he saw a tiny kitten approach the mother
dog and help herself to her milk.
He was stunned. He gave the General in charge a perplexed look. He
was told that the mother cat had died and the dog adopted this little
kitten. He watched in disbelief. Were they not enemies? Yet they
clung to one another for dear life. Another one of God's miracles.
Moments later, a soldier tapped on my friend's shoulder and asked
him to look up at the sky. A majestic eagle soared, with an object
dangling from its beak. As he looked through his binoculars, he saw
that a snake was being carried off to be devoured. Was this another
sign? Would we crush the enemy soon?
Our borders were armed with impressive artillery. Enlisted soldiers
in army fatigues, white crosses painted on their uniforms, waited
patiently to strike...men and women from every part of Armenia,
alongside their brothers and sisters from Artsakh.
He remembered his favorite quote of Spartan women who bid farewell
to their husbands and sons before they left for battle. "Either come
back with your shield or on it". He had no doubt that the people of
Artsakh lived by the same code of honor.
He studied our soldiers carefully, remembering the headlines only a
few weeks back, "Another Armenian killed by Azeri fire."
"How sad", he had thought. We throw the newspapers aside, switch the
television off, or press "delete" after reading an article regarding
the constant struggle at our borders. The names now had faces.
The men and women wanted nothing more except to reclaim what is
rightfully ours. He now found himself in the trenches, with fearless
Each one had left an entire family behind, not knowing if they would
ever return. Young and old, side by side... willing to die for love
of country. They were focused, determined, covered with dust and
remnants of gun powder. And they were ready to pay with their lives...
husbands, fathers, son, mothers, sisters, daughters, serving on our
It angered him how some sit in their comfortable surroundings,
judge and criticize from a far, convincing themselves that they
have participated and somehow fulfilled their political duty. How
insignificant his life in Montreal suddenly seemed amongst these men
that fought like lions!
He remembered going to a cemetery in Artsakh the year before with
Tamar. He found her weeping and walked to see what had moved her so
much. Three tombstones, side by side, of three brothers who had been
killed during the same battle on the same day.
He was quiet the entire way to Yerevan. He knew he had to tell their
story. He owed it to the families of the Spartans of Artsakh.
THE SPARTANS OF ARTSAKH
Posted 16 January 2015 - 12:08 PM
THE SPARTANS OF ARTSAKH
- onjig likes this
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users