Today we went to check an apartment for friends who will be arriving in Yerevan next month. Entering the fifth-story flat, we were invited into the kitchen, where a man from the Talin region was talking with the owner of the flat, a woman in her sixties.
“Today is Army Day,” the man said. “We should all be thankful for this, that we have an army that rates with the best in the region.”
While he talked, the woman sat silently.
“When I went to Karabagh, in 1990, I went as a volunteer. It was like we had hundreds of small armies, but not an actual, organized army. But I have to say, we fought hard. We always had a smile on our face. This is because we never doubted our future victory, even in the darkest days, in the early ’90s, when everything was going against us.”
The Sassountsi’s mood changed.
“I could say that I feel left behind, forgotten,” he said. “I don’t expect handouts. But I don’t own a house...I pay rent. And there are those who are invalids, and widows, whose husbands died in the war, and they have nothing, far less than me. So, when I hear that the president or an oligarch buys a house for this or that pop star, I wonder about our values...
“Another thing. I was at a wedding two weeks ago, and when the bride and groom started their special dance, and the musicians started playing and singing, ‘San, san, san, balam,’ I got up and left. This is strictly Turkish, what they play on Baku radio. And it was Karabaghtsis who were dancing to this. Weren’t we fighting to get rid of this sort of thing? Where is our pride? Armenians have always had this problem, liking foreign things and people more than their own. But this is going too far, singing Turkish songs at Armenian weddings...as if we don’t have good, happy wedding songs.”
At this point, I understood the woman’s silence. She pointed to a picture of her son, a serious, black-and-white picture, an obvious funeral picture.
“He died in the meat-grinder,” she said. “He was drafted into the army, and sent to Karabagh. They put him in the front lines, where there is almost no hope of returning, coming home alive. He and hundreds of others died like this. Eighteen years old. And I’m supposed to be happy that it’s Army Day?”