Hasmik told about one of her trips to Karabagh during the war: “Several members of the Akunk Ensemble decided to go to Karabagh during the thick of the war, and give concerts, anything that might help morale, show unity. Interestingly, one of the male members didn’t plan on going but said that he saw Maryam Astvatsatsin, in the broad daylight, who urged him to go to Karabagh, and that his going would keep the rest of us safe.
“We were lucky to get through the Lachin Corridor, which was being bombed constantly. We traveled by night, and without lights.
“In Stepanakert, we saw everything. Once, in a bombed-out hotel, we all huddled with Karabaghtsis who had barely escaped with their lives from an Azeri attack somewhere near Shushi. Grads started falling. When they stopped, we went outside, but only with lanterns, so as not to be seen by Azeris.
“I remember seeing a group of young volunteers from Yerevan. They were only 18 or so. As we sang folk songs and patriotic songs, their eyes got moist. They were all going to the front line, and knew they probably wouldn’t come back.”
A participant in the liberation of Shushi continued: “First of all, we took Shushi on May 8, not May 9. That may not be important, but that’s the right day.
“Monte gets a lot of credit for what he did in Karabagh. And he deserves all the praise he gets. But Jirair, from Lebanon, did more than he’s given credit for. A true patriot.
“One night, our group of 50 was following Jirair’s, at a fair distance. A group of Karabaghtsis told us to follow them. We said that we were going to follow Jirair, but the Karabaghtsis continued to insist. We ignored them, and followed Jirair. It turned out the Karabaghtsis were trying to lead us into a trap, that if we had listened to them, we would have been surrounded and killed by Azeris.
“This happened more than once during the war. Many Hayastantsis lost their lives after listening to Karabaghtsis, figuring they were local and understood the terrain. Why the Karabaghtsis did this, I don’t know. Believe me, I was fighting for the Armenian homeland, not for Karabaghtsis…
“Another thing about Jirair. He, Monte, and the others who came from overseas to fight…there weren’t many, true, but they were brave, unique men. Remember what Monte said when someone asked why he had come all the way from the US to fight in Karabagh? He said it was the natural thing to do, that they should be asking Diaspora Armenians why they don’t come…
“The other day I saw a show on television where several Diaspora Armenians, who were living in Armenia, were talking about their patriotism and how they love living in Armenia. But I know that several of them came here only to avoid military service in their home countries, basically in the Middle East. One is a singer, who has the nerve to sing patriotic songs. Let him and the others serve in their home countries, then move to Armenia. We don’t need cowards like them here, especially with their hypocrisy.”