In autumn 1991 large-scale artillery shelling and aerial bombardment of Stepanakert were launched. The life of the city moved to basements. The evacuation was almost impossible. I heard a lot of stories about that period of time, about life in basements. I heard stories about the children who managed to get out of basements in order to play football knowing exactly how much time the rival needs to recharge his firearms and launch a new shell. During one of such breaks, women were running to a deserted market in the hope of buying some vegetables and fruits. Once there were apples, just a bag of apples, and women lined up for it immediately. And at that very moment shelling was resumed. Everyone ran away, and one of the women, who had already bought apples, also ran but suddenly fell down, and either did her bag. And the apples scattered on the ground. Shells were bursting round about her, there were cries, panic, and, crawling on the ground, she collected the apples off the ground.

But there is a story that impressed me more than others.

She was a doctor, a mother of three girls. The elder was 11, and the rest two were still babies. She was not able to leave: back then doctors were meat and drink, but it was also impossible to leave her children for a couple of days in a basement under the neighbors’ care. Luckily, she managed to send the children by a helicopter, moreover, the people who were to look after the girls were going to leave for Moscow. Some money was raked up so that the people would take the girls with them to Moscow, where the cousin of their father\mother lived, and she would take care of them.

They were reaching the destination for a very long time. At first, they got stuck in Yerevan, passed the night at strangers’ home, who offered them a place to sleep, then they were waiting for their flight at the airport, and the flight was delayed and delayed for several times. The 11-year-old girl did not keep track of the days, she just tried to realize that she grew up suddenly and was responsible for her two little sisters. She was afraid, she did not understand why her mother sent them: did not other children stay in Stepanakert? And they with sisters also could live longer in a basement, which they already used to.

Finally, they arrived in Moscow. Their aunt met them, she was worried but kind. She took the children to her house, where there was light, water, it was warm, clean and comfortable. The aunt immediately sent the junior sisters to аbathroom, and the elder was sitting at the corner of a sofa and thinking only about how to go back to mother as soon as possible. Suddenly the aunt ran out of the bathroom crying: “Shame on you, look at the girls’ pants?!!”She was waving the pants and putting the girl to shame… The elderly sister did not know completely what to answer to the aunt, she simply did not have any response, but she, who had not shed a single tear till now, suddenly burst out crying very, very loudly.

Author – Zhanna Krikorova, Head of “Brodyachaya sobaka” Theatrical  Group

The post is part of a project on Engaging society and decision-makers in dialogue for peace over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict implemented by the Caucasus Institute and funded by the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund. The opinions and statements that are made in the publication may not coincide with the official position of the UK Government.

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