The Karabakh War Through the Eyes of Lusine

02/26/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)The yard of Ellada Balayan’s (age 59) house still looks like a battlefield after the end of the war last year. Azerbaijani drone strikes damaged her home, chicken coop, the house fence, and other parts of her yard. However, as Ellada’s daughter, Lusine Harutyunyan, says, “All that can be eventually fixed, but nothing will bring my mother back to life.”

Ellada was the first woman who died of severe head and heart injuries in the town of Martuni, located in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh). She was killed on September 27, 2020, the first day of the war. The same day, Lusine’s niece Victoria was also killed by the drone’s attack. People in Martuni who were eyewitnesses of this terrible incident remember it with excruciating pain, sorrow, and horror.

Lusine lived with her husband and four minor children in Jabrayil (Armenian: Jrakan or Mekhakavan) city for 15 years. This location is on the very edge of the border between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, which considers this region one of those “occupied” by Armenian forces since August 1993.

When Azerbaijan (supported by Turkey) initiated the latest war, Lusine and her family rushed to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, leaving behind their property and belongings.

Lusine’s husband serves in the military. He was one of those defending his homeland from the aggressors until the last minute. “We literally were among the last few families who left the city before the enemy took over the place. The Azerbaijani strikes were intensive and so strong that we did not even manage to take the children’s clothes or any other useful goods with us; we hardly saved ourselves. Azerbaijani military forces entered Jabrayil. Half an hour later, we escaped by car. They even shot our vehicle from behind very badly. Now when I remember that horrific day, I think we survived by a miracle,” says Lusine.

Lusine’s sister was also seriously injured during the war. Currently, she is recovering in the hospital. Still, she is so traumatized that she doesn’t even want to hear about returning to Artsakh, especially since their mother has passed away. Lusine cares not only for her own children but her sister’s as well.

“I didn’t know where to go and what to do with five children in the streets of Yerevan when we arrived. Thank God the Armenian government helped us (by) putting my family temporarily in a nice hotel. People were helping. After we resided, my husband returned to Artsakh to continue his service. Then I found out that my mother was dead, my sister-in-law was injured, and her baby was killed, in addition to my sister’s wound. I was getting mentally sick. I don’t know how I kept up with so much pain. I think I must be very strong to survive all that,” Lusine says.

Lusine and her children plan to be reunited and live with her father in Martuni. According to Lusine, the place is empty without her mother. “One of these days, our family is supposed to celebrate my mom’s 60th anniversary, but she has been in heaven for the past few months,” says Lusine.

For the past 4-5 days we are back in Artsakh… I hope to manage our own house problem and stay here. Our governmental officials promised to help. We’ll see…. Unfortunately, we have to start our lives from scratch again. Also, my dad is by himself in this ruined house after my mom got killed. I can’t leave him alone during these difficult days.”

Lusine’s husband currently serves at the Armenian military base of Artsakh’s capital Stepanakert. She is taking care of her father and children at home.

A video of Lusine’s interview can be found here, and the Armenian text can be found here

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