The Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) war that started in September 2020 and lasted for weeks turned out to be a vivid failure of international law, order, and ideals.
Unfortunately, the conflict which claimed thousands of lives and displaced much more remained largely overlooked by international media and community alike. The young people of YMCA Artsakh, regardless of their will, became a direct part of the war.
Arsen and Maria are siblings who participated in the YMCA Artsakh 2018 camp. Generally, camp participants are selected in two stages․
First, they fill out an application form, and then they are invited for an interview. Since Arsen and Maria lived in Kovsakan, which is about 3 hours away from Stepanakert, they could not come to the capital for the interview. However, taking into account their remoteness, the organizers of YMCA-Artsakh decided to include them as an exception.
In fact, there are very few youth entertainment programs implemented in the regions of Artsakh, and YMCA Artsakh wanted to attract young people from far-flung villages who really need communication and good entertainment opportunities.
In the 21st century, it seems that it is a bit difficult to surprise young people. They adapt to even the best conditions, entertainment programs or food very quickly. But the case of Arsen and Maria was different.
For Arsen it was the first camp of his life, everything was new. He was so impressed that he inspired everyone around him.
They got the most out of that camp. They enjoyed educational, leisure, sports and guitar evenings to the fullest. During such kind of moments, the organizers see that their event and all their work wasn’t in vain and they are on the right track.
The war that started on September 27 in Artsakh did not bypass their family. On October 18, they lost a close relative and their parents had gone to Armenia to attend a funeral. Arsen was at home in Kovsakan, and Maria in Stepanakert.
The mayor of Kovsakan said that everyone would be evacuated from the city soon, but there was no need to take anything special – they would leave for a few days and when the danger subsided, they would return to their homes.
For the last 20 years, they and their family have been renovating the house, building it, setting up a cosy corner cut off from the world and having a charming garden. As Arsen’s father says, they did not have time to enjoy what they have created for so many years ․․․
Everyone was evacuated. The city was soon occupied and Arsen and Maria became homeless. Now they do not know where to start or where to continue.
Maria was getting ready to start a family and got engaged in August. The wedding was planned for October, but the war started and the marriage could not take place. There is such a tradition in Armenia – the girl prepares a dowry that she takes along to her new home after marriage. Maria’s entire dowry was chosen by her and her mother, and it was to be the basis of her new family, but all of it remained in their home.
Arsen has health problems, so he was not called up to the army and did not did not take the gun. He is a cook by profession and loves his work. Despite all the vast challenges in life, Arsen is looking forward to our next camp, where he can work cook for his YMCA friends.
“The camp went so well that I could not even imagine. It was one of the best times of my life. At first, I thought there would be so many people, so many characters, all strangers. But the people were so friendly and open that I felt in my comfort zone. It was my first camp, I am looking forward to the next one. It seems to be light in the dark,” says Arsen.
An article by Lika Zakaryan, Roots for Peace Media Consultant.
The recent war over Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) left a trace of massive destruction, loss of lives and thousands fleeing for safety to Armenia that faces a large-scale humanitarian crisis as a result.
Roots is launching a campaign to raise funds in support of young people affected by this ordeal.
Please join us in our efforts to make sure these young people keep hope and faith alive… Every contribution matters! YMCA Europe pledges to double the total amount raised. Yet yours makes a real difference, as it’s not only about money but about care and responsibility! You can Donate via PayPal.