On our latest visit to Kashatagh region, Artsakh, we were honoured to have Dr. Onnik Avakian as our special guest. He represented ACC-UK Aid Kashatagh Committee and took a long trip to participate in the handing over of house keys to a newly resettled Syrian Armenian family. Below are his notes where he shares his feelings of the trip.
By Onnik Avakian
I received an unexpected e-mail from Viken Haladjian (forwarded by Haig Vartanian) on 4 August requesting that I travel to Artsakh – at short notice, to represent London community organisations in aid of Kashatagh Committee. It was a very short notice indeed but the occasion was important for us as our community members and organisations had contributed around £100,000 since 2008 to the Tufenkian Foundation project to help repopulate the Kashatagh region of Artsakh (formerly Lachin).
Our contribution had helped to renovate 19 houses and provided irrigation and drinking water as well the rebuilding of the school in Getup village along the Hakari River (which flows into Arax at Iran/Armenia border). The latest project that had been funded entirely by our contributions was a family house at Ishkhanadzor village (further south from Getup) along the same river. The keys to this house were to be presented to the Syrian Armenian family on the same day when the president of Artsakh Bako Sahakyan would be presenting the keys to 12 houses to azatamartiks’ families at that village. It was a momentous occasion.
In front of Artin Adjemian’s house
From left to right Raffi Doudakian, Onnik Avakian, Artin Adjemian, Edik Grigoryan
Ishkhanadzor is situated some 50 km south from Berdzor (Lachin) on a winding and rough road and is about 25 km from the Arax river (further south). A four wheel vehicle with an experienced driver can cover the distance from Berdzor in about one-and-half hour of very bumpy drive! The main compensation of course was the unique occasion and our nerves were soothed along the way by the magnificent scenery of high mountains and the road that wound endlessly along deep ravines, covered by trees and occasionally spread of flat ground that extended to a village. Awe inspiring specially as the driver never slowed down!
I was scheduled to meet Raffi Doudaklian, the new Executive Director of Tufenkian Foundation, on Saturday 6 August at 14.00 hrs at Berdzor in front of the Artsakh Development Bank premises, on the main road through the town. My taxi arrived at 06.30 AM to collect me from our house in Yerevan and we were out of the capital in 20 minutes heading towards Goris, then along the tarmacked highway – Goris to Stepanakert that had been funded by All Armenia Fund a few years earlier.
The official ceremony of house key presenting to resettelers in Ishkhanadzor village
After a couple of stops for coffee and water we arrived at Goris and started on the ever winding route to Berdzor section of the road that had very recently seen very heavy use and was in need of urgent repairs. We arrived at Berdzor well ahead of schedule at 11.45 AM. Nearer the time of my meeting a convoy of official cars carrying officials and guests arrived for a well-earned rest. A few minutes past the appointed time Raffi arrived accompanied by the manager of the Artsakh projects. And we headed towards Ishkhanadzor.
In good company the ride was almost a pleasure and as we passed a number of villages my companions informed me about the projects in hand and completed at each location. I felt privileged to have been in their company and was elated and humbled by their sheer enthusiasm for the works in hand and details of their plans for the future. We arrived at Ishkhanadzor shortly before 04.00 PM and the ceremony was scheduled for 05.00 PM. A good number of people had gathered and were waiting for the President who was at a meeting with the village heads.
At the appointed hour and in the presence of honoured guests and inhabitants from Ishkhanadzor and adjacent villages, the official ceremony began with the playing of the Artsakh national anthem. Following speeches from officials, the blessing was delivered by a priest traveling with the official convoy. The president was invited to the podium by the master of the ceremony and we heard his heart-warming message which was immediately followed by the handing over of the house keys and ownership certificates. The ceremony was surprisingly simple but all the more effective for that.
Dr. Onnik Avakian while opening Artin’s house door
Afterwards we accompanied Artin Adjemian, our Syrian beneficiary to his new house and inspected the building with him. He was very satisfied and grateful for the gift. The house (about 100 sq. m2) is in the centre of the property some 1000 sq. m2 with the added bonus of having its own drinking and irrigation water from a well that had been installed with pumping facility. Artin is married with one child and had settled in Artsakh for about a year.
To our pleasant surprise it had been announced during the ceremony that two of recipient azatamartiks had married that same afternoon and we were invited to their wedding receptions. This was really a splendid conclusion for this beautiful day; moving, meaningful and full of symbolism with good auguries. We toasted the brides and the grooms with the customary local brew and congratulated Artin and his family as well as his future plans many times over.
I returned to Stepanakert that evening with Raffi and headed back to Yerevan next morning.