Gayane Grigoryan: An Artsakh Mother’s Story of Love, Loss and Finding Home

There are human stories which should be told, published and even screened to demonstrate the will and power of an ordinary person being capable of fighting and winning. Stories revealing such individuals help each of us to look at life from a different perspective and reevaluate our work. 

Here is a story of a strong Artsakh woman who has been challenged by life several times, but managed to remain a generous individual, a loving wife and a caring mother.

Gayane Grigoryan

Gayane Grigoryan is 41 years old. She’s from the village of Gishi in the Martuni region of the Republic of Artsakh. After marrying a military officer, Grigoryan moved to Zoravan district (Nerqin Chartar) and has been living there since 2007. She is the mother of three children, who attend the same local school where she once used to be a history teacher. Her heart was filled with gratitude, and she was living the happiest life with her husband, her sons and their dog until April 2, 2016.

On that day, Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces unleashed a four-day war (also known as the April War). Zoravan was one of the first main targets of the offensive. Civilians, including Grigoryan, were convinced it was yet another field exercise of the military, and nothing serious was happening. Accordingly, that morning, Grigroyan took her children to school, oblivious of the danger ahead.

They were walking a few meters ahead of their mother, when a missile suddenly exploded in their path. Grigoryan was thrown back from the impact of the blast. A villager took her to the nearest basement, but she did not stay there as she was nervous about the whereabouts of her children. When she walked out of the shelter, Grigoryan found herself in a cloud of dust and smoke. She finally found her two sons Gevorg and Vagharshak – laying on the ground. Vagharshak was critically wounded. He died in his mother’s arms. 

While recalling these painful memories, Grigoryan couldn’t help her tears. The interview was paused for a few moments. 

As a result of the Azerbaijani attack on the school of Zoravan District, 11 school children were wounded. Grigoryan’s second son, Gevorg, and his classmate were severely injured. Gevorg remained hospitalized until July 2016. 

After the events of April 2016, Grigoyan’s sons were traumatized and unable to return to school and the place where their brother was killed. So, Grigoryan and her family decided to move to the city of Shushi (cultural center of Artsakh) because living in Zoravan became too unbearable. 

Grigoryan started teaching history and church history at Shushi Music Academy. In addition, to support the mental health of her sons, Grigoryan enrolled her children at the Narekatsi Art Institute and musical school for art therapy. The program was helpful for her children; her sons each learned an instrument: the guitar and the dhol. Grigoryan was proactive in helping her children overcome their trauma. She took them to pottery classes and the theater and spent more quality time with them. Going back home was difficult. Loneliness was a challenge for her, so she always tried to be surrounded by her loved ones. She also occupied herself by preparing her students for the History Olympiads. Her students ultimately took first and second place in the republican round of the competition. 

Grigoryan says the support of her community helped her rise up and recover. The fear of loneliness started to disappear. Colleagues helped her come back to life. Her husband was also a source of unconditional support; he even left his job to stay with her. Grigoryan said that without his help she would never have managed to overcome their loss. Life continued, and every day, she has been finding new reasons to live and love life. After some time, Grigoryan began to smile again, which not only made her heart blossom, but also became another turning point for her family. She describes her life in Shushi as wonderful, until regrettably, it was interrupted on September 27, 2020. 

Another war was unleashed by Azerbaijan against the Republic of Artsakh, and the nightmare which Grigoryan and her family had worked hard to forget emerged once more. On that day, Grigoryan and her family were in Herher village in Martuni harvesting grapes in their vineyard; this used to be a family tradition. This time, their weekend was cut short, and they had to return to Shushi as soon as they learned that a war had started. On their way back, their car was shelled by drones and a missile exploded right behind their car. They were rescued miraculously. 

Grigoryan began to tremble as she recalled her family’s journey home that day and their attempts to find shelter.

They somehow managed to reach their home in Shushi and take shelter. After two days, Grigoryan and her two sons fled to Yerevan; her husband stayed behind in Shushi. That was a hard decision, but he couldn’t leave Artsakh.  

Grigoryan describes those 44 days as the darkest period of her life. As she said, only God knew what she had to endure. She would pray night and day for her husband, for her family and for the fate of Artsakh.  

When Grigoryan learned about the ceasefire agreement and the loss of Shushi, she was shocked. To this day, she still cannot overcome that trauma. When the war ended, Grigoryan returned to Artsakh with her family to start a new life for the third time in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh. They rented an apartment and renovated it. Grigoryan started teaching at Lisagor school (Lisagor is one of the villages of Berdzor region that remained under Armenian control in the Lachin Corridor). She chose to teach at that exact school because she would be a little closer to Shushi with the hopes of returning some day. Grigoryan believes that her house still remains (according to the information available, Azerbaijanis have not destroyed it yet). She is hopeful that one day she will go back to her home, open the door and everything will be the same as it was on September 27, 2020.

Irina Safaryan

Irina Safaryan

Irina Safaryan is a political scientist, translator and freelance journalist based in Stepanakert. She earned her master's degree at Yerevan State University's Department of International Relations; she's also studied at the Diplomatic School of Armenia. She was an intern at the European Parliament and is well-informed on EU-Armenia relations. Irina is the co-founder of the first Wikipedia Club in Artsakh, an author of more than 100 articles in Armenian Wikipedia. Irina is interested in politics, education, new technologies and everything connected to peace and sustainable development of Artsakh.
Irina Safaryan

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  1. Tragic story that is repeated over and over again in Artsakh. The amazing thing is the resilience and strength of these people. God bless them.

  2. My heart goes out to her and her family and all the other families suffering this intolerable violence.

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