Wednesday, January 20, 2021

My YMCA friends share the horrors of war.


The Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) war that started in September 2020 and lasted for weeks turned out to be a vivid failure of international law, order, and ideals. Unfortunately, the conflict which claimed thousands of lives and displaced much more remained largely overlooked by international media and community alike.  The young people of YMCA Artsakh, regardless oftheir will, became a direct part of the war.

Tamar Sargsyan is one of those young people of the YMCA-Artsakh that carry very important values, such as kindness, devotion and care.

From the Facebook page of Tamar

After studying in the History Faculty, she chose the direction of art in history and became an Armenian national dance teacher. This is what she was doing also during YMCA-Artsakh’s Camp for Peace. Gathering everyone and showing simple dance steps and movements. 

Everybody loved that, because even people who always thought they could not dance were able to repeat her moves and get motivated. These dances next to the fire on cosy evenings are much more than just activities. They are ice breakers, connectors which bring people together. So, her art therapy was so loved by the participants, that they were asking to do it every evening. 

Tamar Sargsyan in the YMCA-Artsakh’s Camp for peace (the first from the left side)

This is who Tamar is – a connector. She was always saying that children in the regions of Artsakh don’t have to be discriminated against as they didn’t have a dance teacher. They also have a right to learn dancing. Then Tamar decided to go to regions herself and teach these children what is culture and art. 

From the Facebook page of Tamar

When the Artsakh war started in September 2020, she could not just sit idly by. Public activities could not be organized; Many women soon moved from Stepanakert because the city was constantly bombed and was not safe. 

As a result, there was a shortage of women in the city, including the bread bakers. Tamar did not leave Stepanakert, volunteering in different places and eventually started working in a bakery. She toiled for many days to provide the simple civilians with bread. 

“We were doing what was up to us, at that moment we needed it, together with my friends, I thought we should do whatever was required of us in order to support civilians in the bunkers.” 

With those thoughts, Tamar woke up at 6 in the morning, went to the bakery, and came home at one o’clock in the morning. The word fatigue did not exist for her.

One fateful day, Stepanakert was bombed with cluster bombs, and it happened right before her. She was going home with two friends after a long and hard-working day. Tamar is originally from the village of Hovtashen and she lived in a rented flat in Stepanakert – right next to the electricity station that was a constant target for missile attacks. As a result, multiple houses were destroyed from the face of the earth. 

One of those explosions took place right in front of them․․․ That was an awful feeling – fear… When you think that these moments are last in your life… But who wants to die? All of us have so many plans, dreams, we want to live and make them true, and not to die in a war, coming back from work… They couldn’t stay in Stepanakert anymore, her apartment was also damaged, so she found a shelter in Armenia…

Fishing in her village, photo by Lika Zakaryan

The village in which Tamar lived, Hovtashen was handed over to Azerbaijan in November. That means, she is now homeless. Her family started a new life after the first war, built their house, finally improved it during all these years, worked hard to have a normal life, and they succeeded. But now they are obliged to leave․․․ When you grow up in a house, where all your childhood, memories, photo albums are… The place where you started walking, got your first scar, learned to love… All these are taken from you, and that can break people down…

A view from Tamar’s window, Hovtashen. Photo by Lika Zakaryan

This is how war changes lives. From a positive girl, sharing art and love, she became a displaced person without a home… 

But let me finish this story with Tamar’s own words: 

“I am displaced, but not destroyed!”