By Gayane Muradyan
YEREVAN — Aid from the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the US and Canada (TCA) continues to be distributed to the families of soldiers who lost their lives heroically in the four-day April war earlier this year. Accompanied by Karen Kakoyan, vice chairman of the Democratic Liberal Party of Armenia, and Sako Arian, editor of the website Arevelk, on December 3, I, as the official representative of TCA in Armenia, visited the family of Azat Simonyan, a serviceman born in 1996, in the village of Kamaris in Kotayk Province of the Republic of Armenia Azat lived together with his father Kajik, mother Vehanush, and sister Hripsime. Until he was conscripted into the army, Azat studied at a culinary college in order to become a chef. His mother related that Azat was happy to go into the army. He had certain health issues but did not wish to let them prevent his service. He rushed to depart for the army, and after returning began working in the field of food service.
Azat servied in Jabrahil (Jabrayil) in the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh. On the morning of April 1, he telephoned his parents, and even telephoned his uncle in Moscow, saying that he was well and that they should not worry about him. Azat was serving on guard duty at the front lines when the enemy suddenly opened fire and attacked. He and his fellow soldiers did not hesitate, and held their positions until the end. They succeeded in repulsing the enemy but Azat Simonyan died the death of a brave fighter. He was awarded the medals of Great Courage posthumously by both the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh.
The next family we visited in the province of Kotayk lived in a subdistrict of the city of Hrazdan. It was the family of serviceman Vahe Zakaryan, who was born in 1995. He lived with his father Samvel, his mother Anzhela, and two sisters, Yeranuhi and Anahit. The family lived in the Russian Federation, and had a small business.
Vahe studied at the Institute of Physical Culture, focusing on Oriental martial arts. His mother proudly showed us her son’s black and red belts, which she had fastidiously placed on display in a corner devoted to her son’s memory. Vahe while in Moscow had a children’s martial arts group to which he was very devoted.
Vahe returned to Yerevan and was conscripted into the Armenian army. His father related that on April 1, the day prior to Vahe’s death, he spoke with his tank driver son via Skype. Vahe reassured his father in a calm and confident tone that there was some light shooting at his position. On April 2, the tank crew had maneuvered several times around the natural line of fire of the battalion and pierced through the attacking enemy. Vahe died during the efforts at piercing through the enemy lines. Posthumously he was given the medals of Great Courage of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh.
We then visited the family of serviceman Sargis Sahakyan, born in 1995, again in a subdistrict of Hrazdan. The Sahakyan family, including Vahe, his younger sister Ruzanna and their parents, lived in a rented apartment under difficult economic conditions.
We encountered them near the front entrance of their home as they were preparing to visit Sargis’ grave. The mother, Tamara, was in very poor health. She showed us in a poorly lit part of their residence the corner dedicated to their son. In a weak and mournful voice she cried and said, “I heard my son’s voice for the last time on April 2. He said that it was a confused situation in the positions, and not anything more.” In order to spare his mother, he did not give any more information.
During the attempt to recapture the military position taken by the enemy, Sargis showed great dedication and courage. Paying no attention to the intensive artillery fire, he threw himself into battle, and by means of several salvos, halted several assaults and prevented the enemy from fortifying themselves in military positions. He died in an explosion from a mortar shell fired by the enemy, and was posthumously awarded the medals of Great Courage of the Republics of Armenia and Mountainous Karabakh.
Artur Gevorgyan’s family lives in the city of Abovyan in Kotayk Province in an apartment undergoing renovation at present. Artur was born in 1996. According to his mother Greta, the family lived in Russia with their children, including Artur’s sister Alvard. Artur returned in order to serve in the army of the Republic of Armenia, she said, but the remaining family members continued to live in Russia because of their business. She said that after the death of her son, they returned to Abovyan permanently since Artur’s grave was there.
They had spoken with Artur via Skype on April 1, and on television they learned about the recommencement of fierce battles. After returning home quickly, they learned of Artur’s death.
As a result of the enemy’s sudden nighttime attack, the Armenians first retreated, but then counterattacked, using all possible means for defense, and then attempted to repulse the enemy. Artur Gevorgyan posthumously was awarded the medals of Courage of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh.
Karen Nersisyan’s family lived in Bjni village of Kotayk Province. Karen, a sergeant, was born in 1997 and lived with his father Artak, mother Gayane, and younger brother Arman. Artak said, “My son went to the army fearless and enthusiastic. He wanted to enter military service. He was very athletic and tough. It was only the ninth month of his service, but he already had attained the grade of sergeant. He spoke on April 1 and said that the scum had become aggressive, but that we are going to give them a lesson and push them back.”
Artak was particularly restrained when he spoke about his son. During a sudden enemy attack by the enemy on the Lalatap position, 17 heroic Armenian soldiers were not afraid and did not retreat even a single step. During the fierce and unequal battles, the soldiers at this position fought till the last cartridge and died a heroic death. Karen Nersisyan received the medals of Courage from the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh posthumously.
The next family we visited lived in Artashavan village of Aragatsodn Province. Kyaram Sloyan, born in 1996, lived with his father Kalash, mother Nvard, brothers Hrach, Hamik Nver, and sister Sofi. Nvard said that Kyaram from a young age wanted to enter the army with his friends. Though she said that fighting was not a game and that they shoot with real guns, Kyaram did not get afraid. Nvard added that Kyaram was not afraid of army discipline. Though he lived on the slope of the last hill of the village, he would walk about in only a shirt during the cold winter.
He was taciturn and reserved. When we would ask him something about his service he would reply, “I am in Martakert, until the end of military service.” He did not like it if we would call him often. On April 1, Kyaram himself called and said he was fine. Only later did his family learn about his tragic death.
He fought together bravely with the rest of the soldiers holding their position against enemy forces several times more numerous, and evinced unusual courage and dedication. Serviceman Sloyan did not lose heart over the unprecedented shelling and bombardment of his position. He fought until the last cartridge, and knocked down great masses of the attacking enemy with machinegun volleys.
Paying no attention to the exhortation of his wounded company commander to leave the position, he did not leave him alone. They supported each other and fought side by side until the end, dying the death of heroes from the explosion of a shell from a tank.
When the Azerbaijanis found Sloyan’s body, they searched his shirt pocket and found his documents. They consequently understood that he was Yezidi, and became enraged. They brutally cut his head off, and passed his head from one person to another in order to take photographs. They displayed these photographs on television, taking pride in the degree of barbarity they demonstrated. The International Red Cross, and a defender of human rights, sent material on this and similar incidents to the European Court. The investigation has not yet been concluded. Kyaram Sloyan was granted the M+1 Order of the Republic of Armenia and the Medal of Great Courage of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh.
The soldiers of the homeland are the soldiers of each and every Armenian, and the sorrow of the Armenian mothers who have lost their sons is the sorrow of all Armenians.
Reports will continue to be published in the Mirror on the progress of Tekeyan’s aid distribution. Those who wish to contribute to this aid campaign may make their donations out to the Tekeyan Cultural Association, Inc. (Memo: Artsakh Fund), and send them to 755 Mount Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02472. For more information, contact 617 924-4455 or email [email protected]
(Translated and edited from the Armenian)