The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Central Executive Board’s (CEB) four-day visit to Artsakh from April 26 to 29 proved to be not only historic, but also a miraculous reality. Truly, to see Stepanakert – after the 44-day war – so enticing and so serene, no words can describe one’s innermost feelings of exultation.
After a 10-hour journey over endless winding roads, stopping for hours at some 10 checkpoints, the ARS CEB mission, forced to circumvent our Armenian Shushi, arrived at Stepanakert and, to everyone’s surprise, found Stepanakert standing, buildings renovated, teeming crowds attending to their daily lives. Yet, even as a certain melancholy permeated the air, one could feel the Artsakhtsis’ unyielding determination to develop the small area left of their homeland in order to expand it with a clear vision of recovering the lost territories of their beloved Republic.
In response to this invigorating environment of unyielding faith and hope, ignoring exhaustion, the members of the ARS CEB visited the organization’s offices in Artsakh, where they met the members of its executive body and presented the purpose of their visit. After tasting some delicious jingalov bread, the ARS CEB left to visit the main office of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Artsakh Central Committee (CC), where they had an informal meeting with the CC members and presented new ARS programs to be realized in Artsakh. ARF Artsakh CC representative Artur Mosiyan welcomed the mission, expressing great appreciation for the ARS’ endeavors and offering readiness to cooperate and assist in the implementation of our programs.
On April 27, accompanied by ARS Armenia Regional Executive chairperson Zora Kocharian, ARS Artsakh chairperson Lilit Martyrosian, ARS Artsakh members and Artsakh ARS Soseh Kindergarten coordinator Artemis Grigorian, the ARS CEB visited the Artsakh Yeghbayrakan cemetery and laid flowers at the base of the World War II Casualties Monument, paying respects to their everlasting memory. ARS members also visited the graves of martyred soldiers in the 2020 Artsakh War, placed flowers on their graves and prayed for their immortal souls.
Members were accompanied by ARF Artsakh CC member Aleona Grigorian to a brief meeting with Artsakh Republic President Arayik Harutyunyan. During the meeting, ARS CEB chairperson Dr. Nyree Derderian presented the latest ARS program, the implementation of a solar heating system in the Artsakh Republic. This program was received with great enthusiasm by President Harutyunyan, who promised to match the funds invested by the ARS.
On the same day, the group visited the recently rebuilt ARS Soseh Kindergarten and Youth Center, where its principal Nelly Ghulyan showed ARS members the modernized facilities of the building. The pupils, among which are children of martyred soldiers and displaced Artsakh families, welcomed the guests with an enchanting program of song and dance, bringing tears of joy to the eyes of the ARS members. This essential visit was not only enjoyable but encouraging, especially in conversing with the children. Many of them stated that they want to become soldiers to defend their beloved homeland of Artsakh.
After learning all about this beautiful kindergarten, the ARS CEB mission proceeded to the Askeran region’s Khndzristan ARS Soseh Kindergarten, where the principal Susana Hakobjanyan gave details concerning the kindergarten’s educational programs. Guests toured the classrooms, which were beautifully decorated by the handiwork of the children. Then, the students delighted the enthusiastic guests with songs and recitations.
In the evening, the ARS Best Student awards ceremony took place at the ARS Stepanakert Soseh Kindergarten. This year, the ARS CEB dedicated the event to college students who had, without hesitation, volunteered for the Artsakh Defense Army, risking their lives during the 44-day war. The ARS CEB awarded these students at Artsakh State University, Stepanakert Mesrop Mashtots University, Grigor Narekatsi University and Shushi Technological University with a citation of valor and a modest monetary prize. Speakers representing the above-mentioned colleges expressed deep gratitude. All the speakers appreciated and praised the global family of the ARS, their supporters, benefactors and donors who help realize assistance programs in Artsakh. They all spoke of their belief that Artsakhtsis will remain firmly attached to their sacred and indisputably historic Armenian soil until the liberation of the captive territories.
“We are proud to be with you today, sharing the pain you have lived following the 44-day war, proud to have the opportunity to give you this modest prize, along with the firm belief that a bright future awaits you, not only because you are citizens of the Artsakh Republic, but because you are Artsakh’s most committed soldiers,” said Dr. Derderian. On behalf of the ARS family, Dr. Derderian said she promised to always stand by Artsakh and its valiant people in times of both war and peace.
After this memorable function, the ARS CEB met with the membership of ARS Artsakh, during which they discussed various issues concerning the entity.
On April 28, the mission visited the Ashan ARS Soseh Kindergarten, where its principal Gayaneh Hovhannisyan, her staff and pupils welcomed the visiting ARS members with the traditional salt and bread and proceeded to describe the function of various facilities on the premises. The kindergarten has a large playground, well equipped with swings, slides and a variety of educational toys. Again, the guests were regaled with the lively song and recitation performances of Artsakhtsi children.
After this visit to the kindergarten, the ARS CEB visited the houses being built near the Ivanyan community by the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund for deported families. According to the builders, the houses will be ready for occupancy for 100 families by the end of the year.
That evening, the ARS CEB met with the secretary of the Artsakh Republic Security Council, Vitali Balasanian. During this meeting, Dr. Derderian presented the ARS’ latest project of a solar heating system across the Artsakh Republic.
Later, in the evening, the ARS mission, executive members of ARS Artsakh and several other guests shared a supper that turned into a merry celebration by all participants.
April 29 was the date of departure for the ARS mission; however, it was impossible to say farewell to Artsakh without visiting the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre. The center was established with the efforts of the English Baroness Caroline Cox. Director Vartan Tatevosyan presented the scope of activities in the center, which serves the needs of citizens of all ages. Treatment is offered to wounded soldiers as well as residents. It has specialized departments that treat children with speech impediments or suffer from autism, along with a physical therapy section. Well known for its specialized training courses in photography, drawing, pottery and other artistic handicrafts, these items are put on exhibition and sold to the public, securing income for the Center. Presently, it has 21 beds. The center treats 1,200 patients, 300 of whom are citizens. The rest are wounded soldiers and freedom fighters. The ARS CEB left the Center with tearful eyes and unshakable determination to help Artsakh on its way to a bright future.
The ARS CEB lived four days of pride in Artsakh, pride for an Artsakh that, in spite of its wounds and lost territories, retains the will to recover and endure, solidly entrenched on its remaining millennial patrimony and sworn to reclaim its legitimate territories now illegally occupied by a brutal aggressor.