Since I came to Armenia, I went to a lot of wonderful excursions, but the Artsakh excursion was by far the most moving, revealing, and the most impressive excursion of all.
In this trip, I’ve noticed how much the inhabitants of Artsakh were welcoming, good-willing, and warmhearted. When we got to Shushi, they sent 3 to 4 persons in host families for our stay. My host family had the mother, her two daughters and a son. She welcomed us with open arms, never letting us feel hanger. The first night, we took our time and got to have dinner with our host mum and one of her daughters who, by the way, spoke with a perfect British English accent. The anecdotes they told us about Shushi, their lives, let us get an overview of their daily life. However, I was quite disturbed by the fact that the mother never talked about her husband through the entire conversation. I assumed that she was living and raising her children alone for a long time. Something I admire, and I truly think it’s inspiring and brave because if life in Armenia is really difficult, I can’t start to think about how tough it is in Artsakh, particularly when you have to raise more than three kids.
The second day, we had the chance to visit the military bases near the border and eat with those young soldiers doing their military service, all between 18 to 22 years old. We asked them a lot of questions; some of them came all the way from Russia, others were almost finished with their service, and they were pretty happy about that. Seeing those young soldiers doing their military service when they should be somewhere else, dedicating this valuable time to other things than learning how to fight, in this terrible condition, made me sad. But it’s a sad reality in Armenia because it’s still at war and needs to be defended.
Then, we went to Gandzasar, a 778 years old Armenian church located in the mountains. Between the walls of this church, sitting with the other volunteers on the carpet, with the music “Der Voghormia” resonating all over the room, I felt a feeling I can’t explain with words. I was kind of filled with peacefulness. When I talk to a friend after that, I realized I wasn’t the only one who was moved by this moment. It truly was the mood within the church which moved us. Before going back to Shushi, Sevan gathered us in the same place and talked to us about our future, Armenia, but also ourselves. I don’t know if the place had its influence over his speech, but it made it more moving. I think that one of the most memorable things he said was the following sentence: “You are not tourists in Armenia, and all of this also belongs to you.” For some, this sentence might not mean anything, but for me who has never really felt as a part of the Armenian community, it let me feel more Armenian than ever.
The next day, we had a tour of Shushi, and I realized at that time how much projects you can do to develop the city’s economy. Then, we ate lunch at Aro’s place, and after eating all those delicious dishes, we went to the winery... with a truck! A wonderful experience, with the best view possible!
At the end of the day, the bus stopped somewhere in Stepanakert, and our dear Hayk gave us a mission. We had to take a bottle of wine, go to a random building, knock at a door, and invite the house owners to drink wine with us. I was so anxious, but at the same time really excited to go in a random house with strangers, drink wine and talk about everything!! So, we were four volunteers, all from different countries, but all Armenians at the end. The family who hosted us was really nice, despite the fact we disturbed the grandfather who was watching a football match on the TV. Within one hour, we had the time to talk about Artsakh and Armenia’s situation, the corruption, Artsakh’s government, but also about their thoughts about the “Velvet Revolution”. I also noticed how many efforts they put in not to speak their dialects, besides the grandparents. One of the volunteers played chess with, while I and my other friend played a card game named “Durak” (crazy, in Russian). Which I obviously lost.
Then, we went to Saro’s house. Little did we know how much of an emotional night we would get.
After a marvelous khorovats (Armenian barbecue) and wine, Sevan and Hayk ordered everyone to do a Genadz, those toasts you do for the people you love, to your convictions, to this world. So, we listened to everyone’s genadz, each one more moving than the last one. And for most of us, it was a first. It was also my first. I was wondering what I would say for this genadz… I didn’t really know what I wanted to say, so I thought for some time. And the only thing coming up to my mind was the gratitude I feel for my parents. So, this genadz was really special, because it came from my heart. Most of us did the same thing. The entire room was filled with emotion, moved by what the others were saying, and a lot of us were crying. I think this moment was one of the most impressive and beautiful moments of this trip.
So, to sum up, this trip helped me reconnect with my roots, to understand the opportunities I have in my hands, and most of all, it helped me realize how much I was proud to be part of the Armenian community, a humble and warmhearted civilization.