oDR: Opinion

Happy birthday to my country, Armenia. I hope one day our trauma is over

OPINION: I’ve witnessed war, earthquakes, unrest, revolution and a pandemic. Now I’m packing my emergency bag again

Tatev Hovhannisyan
21 September 2022, 4.06pm

‘Living in Armenia is like walking on eggshells’


Tim Pile / Alamy Stock Photo

Today is my country’s birthday. Independent Armenia is 31 years old, younger than me. As an ‘older sister’, I feel I’ve failed to protect him.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of the first Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s, I spent my childhood in the dark and cold. I slept in my bed with stone bricks heated on wood stoves to keep warm. My food was heated up on an oil lamp.

Since then, I’ve witnessed a few wars, big and small earthquakes, unrest, revolution, and a pandemic – the list is not complete.

Today as a 35-year-old woman, I’ve been collecting my documents, packing my emergency bag, and taking down some food to a possible shelter. This is how close and inevitable a new war feels.

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There is no breaking out of this vicious cycle of endless trauma: last week, I woke up to Azerbaijan invading the sovereign territory of Armenia, killing more than 200 Armenians in two days. Two years ago I woke up to a brutal war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and stayed awake to that reality for 44 days. It took the lives of 4,000 of my brothers and sisters.

Today we have a fragile ceasefire. It’s hard to guess how many more hours or days it will last. The air is full of panic, uncertainty, and stress.

I’m living in a nightmare. I want to wake up from it, but I can’t. I can’t stop thinking about Azerbaijani soldiers mutilating and dismembering an Armenian woman soldier’s corpse – I haven’t even watched the video that’s been circulating around social media and the image still plays on a loop in my mind.

Everyone and everything I love and live for is under real attack. I’m scared. I’m hopeless

It’s hard to realise that people with sick minds are still killing innocent people just to prove their point. It seems the world is full of bloodthirsty people – and not only in my region.

Even as I write this text, I feel guilty. I should not complain as my people in bordering areas are in a worse situation (I’m a two-hour drive away). Then, I realise – it’s a tiny country and the existential threat to it as a whole is more than real.

Everyone and everything I love and live for is under real attack. I’m scared. I’m emotionally exhausted. As a journalist, I’ve been constantly advocating for Armenia but still, I feel I’m not doing enough. I’m hopeless.

Living in Armenia is like walking on eggshells. And this time, I’m not even angry at the world’s selective care – I’m quite immune to that. I know both Armenia and I should rely on ourselves.

Too much to ask?

Trauma is in my genetic code – from the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the “dark” 1990s right up to the present day. Sometimes it’s just dormant and I may think it’s gone, but then it’s back in a blink of an eye.

I should learn to live with the war, stress, and uncertainty that my region and country are bringing with them. I should embrace this bitter reality. But it’s unbelievably hard.

I want to dream and live my life in peace. I want to sleep tight. I want to be wholeheartedly happy when I’m reaching new milestones in my career. Is it too much to ask for?

Both Armenia and I are deeply wounded and our wounds are bleeding. But we’ve got each other’s backs. This, too, shall pass, my little brother.

It’s time to blow out the candles on his birthday cake. I know we are both making exactly the same wish. Amen.

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