Yerevan, Armenia. Today, November 8, 2020, the day rises on a country at war, like for over a month now. As I open the window, I see the misty and snowy Mount Ararat. It is a summary of the tragedy being played here: high place of Armenian identity, it was annexed a century ago by the Turks, and since then it dominates the plain of Yerevan and rules in master... across the border.
Today is the start of a new day for the volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. We will try to help, at our level, and thanks to the donations of our French friends, the Armenians of Artsakh who took refuge throughout Armenia, fleeing the war that deprives them of their homes. Days start early because needs are plentiful. With my team, we go out in the streets and we take the road to a village in northern Yerevan: we will assess the situation of three families whose special distress has been reported.
On the road, I can't help but think about what's been happening in the past few weeks.
After violent fighting to free Artsakh and protect Armenian people from the massacre, Armenia had been in relative peace for 30 years. But on September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan entered the buffer zones held by the Armed Forces of Artsakh, and kept cutting the Lachin corridor to isolate the Artsakh plateau.
In the face of this massive attack, the soldiers of Artsakh, supported by the Armenian army, fights one against ten, in a difficult mountain relief. Their merits are all the greater because the technological imbalance is overwhelming: facing them, thousands of drones, sometimes suicide bombers, modern tanks, sophisticated missiles, numerous bombing planes.
I got to see during one of my visit in the hospital how rough the fighting was: soldiers harassed, bruised in their flesh holding a bag of bloody clothes and leaving their sores on their chest or back to the open air, waiting to be treated.
This vision moved me; especially since I measure the love and attachment they have for the land inherited from their ancestors: monasteries and cemeteries are many times age-old, and their fathers defended them not to be destroyed, hammered, crushed.
As I write these lines, the outcome of the fight is uncertain, I don't know who will win. But what I'm sure is the courage of this Armenian people, constantly harassed but still standing to defend the homeland.
Snatching me away from my thoughts, the cries of the children resonate in the alley we stopped. In this first family, we meet the grandfather, who fought in 94, but couldn't enlisted this year. His three sons and a grandson went to the front; only their wives and 13 children remain, who fled Martouni, a town of Artsakh, beaten by the enemy gun fire. Woken in the middle of the night, they only had time to pack a suitcase quickly with the bare necessities, and squeeze in a neighbor's Lada to flee in the hinterland.
Their situation is tragic: they were welcomed by a family that didn't even know them, and were already too poor to provide for themselves. So they crowd together at 17 in 2 bedrooms and a living room. One of the family moms explains to us that this dignified grandpa has actually not been able to change for several weeks because he took clothers for his children and not for him; he tries to do his laundry as he can borrowing clothes from his providential host.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of the French people, we will be able to help them pay the bills for water, electricity, and we will return in a week to bring them the food and especially the clothes they need.
The morning continues at the same frenzy pace, although the coffees we are offering allow us to chat a bit with these generous locals who have nothing but give everything. On my way home, I think we're small in the face of this whole task, but I'm happy with the work done, nonetheless.
Tomorrow we will be going to Goris, Southern Armenia. There, many families find a temporary shelter, waiting to go inland. We will be going to the surrounding farms to bring to the locals, who can’t move, some comfort, the joy of our youth and the food packs that will help them hold while waiting for peace. Gayané, a Franco-Armenian volunteer who joined us, expresses their thanks, that we guessed in their eyes bright.
In view of the needs, the on-site team plans to quickly implement beautiful projects: teaching French to young people, helping farmers in their business, rebuilding the bruised cities of Artsakh, possibly even financing Mobile dispensaries to go around mountain hamlets... The future will tell us what the needs are, and we will try to meet them with our ever growing means.
With € 20 you allow a family of 6 people to feed for a week. With 35 euros, you offer a family the essential products: hygiene products and warm clothes to fight the cold biting Armenian.
A force has risen and stands beside the inhabitants of Artsakh, to help them stand, noble and proud, the volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient work for their Armenian brothers, and they will not abandon them. From the top of my 22 years old, I'm proud to be a part of their team.
Corentin, head of mission in Armenia.