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Route of Refuge, Route of Life

…It was an ordinary apartment shared by an old couple for almost 26 years.

We visited them on a random winter day. The fields in Amasia were all under white cover and everything was so pure and so clear there. The sky also has changed to white or perhaps it was the whiteness of earth that made it so. The air in the village was so light and there was a surprising peace in that still and icy-fresh air.

Grandfather Arest and his old slim wife were waiting for us and as soon as we got in they greeted us as they would greet their lost relatives. I noticed a kind of sincere expression in their eyes that I couldn’t make sure if it was addressed to me since I met them for the first time.

Grandfather Arest was born in 1933 in Karachinar village. It is one of 27 villages of Shahumyan Region situated in North-Western part of Artsakh. He spent his childhood and juvenility in his home village. He made his career as a builder and devoted a whole life to his favorite work.

Later he moved to work in the “City of lights”, the fourth largest city of Azerbaijan called Mingachevir and now proudly says that no one had troubled him there and the Azeris even liked him.

Then he met his wife named Nora. She was also from Shahumyan. So they lived many years with peace and solidarity but they had never had children.

  • My wife keeps on complaining, - he says.
  • She has never worked and doesn’t know what working means. I have never bought anything in 1 kg, I would buy a kilograms of food and everything she needed but now I have no job. Any woman would complain…

Grandfather Arest tells that their difficulties and challenges of life started from war of Baku (Azerbaijan), exile and loot of native inhabitants. A wave of anti-Armenian hysteria had been raised still by the end of December, 1988 and beginning of January, 1989. The history witnesses that the mad crowd invaded to the Armenian’s houses and beat, killed, raped the young women and burnt the people alive.

That time they managed to escape. So he with his wife came to Amasia, a village in Shirak Region while his relatives made their ways to Russia.

  • I have no any relative. My brothers, sisters and their children, my 2 uncles died. As soon as we parted I never met them.

When they came to live in this apartment it used to be like a small and miserable hut. Grandfather Arest started to rebuild it and make a kind of shelter-like apartment.

The grief and tears were suffocating his throat while remembering his happy past and speaking about the tragic present. On one side the illness, on the other side his old age and also the need of a child to whom he would rely on.

The difficult social conditions and the lack of relatives close to him are troubling grandfather Arest but at the same time he feels a huge gratitude towards Armenian Caritas and greatly assesses the Austrian benefactor who gives him a helping hand in his old age. And he went on thinking out loud:

  • Who am I to them? Nobody. But those people have got big hearts. They have been assisting me since 2007 and also I used to get assistance before when they would distribute food in our community. They are in charge of me and my old wife and I am beholden to them more than my own parents.

The last words of Grandfather Arest were expressing gratitude and blessing that came from the bottom of his heart. And now I am not wondering why he was saying that everyone is kind and careful to him. I know the answer - a person having kindness and ability to appreciate will always get that kindness and devotion back.

So it’s hard to say why there appeared teardrops on their wrinkled cheeks while seeing us off but it’s an undeniable truth that we will always be expected by those wonderful people.

Prepared by: Anna Hakobyan

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