A friend from Tsaghkavan village in Shamshadin arrived at our home with a big smile and a large sack of kanach lopi (string beans), the long, thick variety grown specifically in the area. “I also have a bottle of honi oghi (vodka made from a variety of sour cherries), made in our village,” he said. “It’s been a while.”
As we talked, and as Hasmik prepared the kanach lopi, another friend arrived, this one from Echmiadzin. I was saddened to hear about the death, from cancer, of a farmer friend from Echmiadzin, one who had fought in Karabagh and battled all his life for justice in the country. Once, he had said, “We live in a bad country, with leaders who don’t care about the people. But they’ll come and go, and we’ll stay. We have to keep up the struggle...”
Hearing about the death of a freedom fighter, the Shamshadintsi (Shamshadin is a region in the northeast of Tavoush, bordering Azerbaijan) started telling about the war: “One day, when standing in the central square in our village, the Azeris shot a grad missile into the village. I think it came from the mountains near Paravakar, or maybe from near Aygebar. Two or three men who were standing and talking were blown to bits. I saw this with my own eyes. And they tell us to trust the Turks?
“Shamshadin is a paradise, forests and farmland, a mild climate, everything you want. Of course, that mild climate might change if our greedy government gives the go-ahead and they start cutting our forests, like they’re doing in Lori.
“Shamshadin is in the ‘Turki beran,’ (Turks’ mouth), and if a war starts in Karabagh, the first place they’ll try and enter is Shamshadin. We don’t have a buffer zone like Karabagh or Zangezur do. I’m a little worried, as during the first war, our village men defended the border, and they did it well. Now, half or more of the men have gone to Russia to work. This, I blame on our government, as they could have done more to improve the situation here, opened factories, something.
“Before coming here today, I was downtown, a place I don’t like to go, as it’s all cement now. Close to the Justice Ministry and Prosecutor General’s office, a group of 30-40 had gathered, and were shouting ‘Azat, ankakh Hayastan’ (Free, independent Armenia) and ‘Paykar, paykar, minchev verj’ (Struggle, struggle, till the end). I’m not even sure what they were protesting, probably about the political prisoners, but it doesn’t matter, they were protesting, so I joined them. Today, 30-40, tomorrow, 10,000...we can’t give up...”
Luckily, our friend was speaking in basic Eastern Armenian, as the dialect of Shamshadin, something like Karabagh’s and Zangezur’s, isn’t the easiest to understand.
Later, having dinner, he raised a glass of honi oghi and said, “To our freedom...and I mean real freedom, not what we have today. And our safety and security. I have a friend who wants to get married, and have the wedding at Khoranashat Monastery, right on the border of Azerbaijan, near Chinari village. It’s a famous monastery, and Mkhitar Gosh spent time there. But it’s not safe, as going there without soldiers could be your last trip anywhere. So I wish for peace, prosperity, and security for Armenians, wherever they are, Shamshadin, Karabagh, Yerevan, and unity...why not, we’ve never had true unity, as a nation, but with our backs to the wall, like during the war, we were unified. This is our last stand, this Armenia, but if unified, we can make it...”