The 44th day. Again, it’s the 44th day, and everything turns upside down in the soul of the people of Artsakh.
That vicious number doesn’t bring back any good memories. We have a feeling of déjà vu.
After the 44-day war, Artsakh again relives the 44th day of another kind of war. Yes, this blockade is also a war aimed at ethnic cleansing and genocide in Artsakh.
On the 44th day of the war in 2020, the hearts of thousands of Armenian sons stopped beating and life ceased also for those who were alive. With their unfinished dreams, the dreams of all broke into pieces. Our country appeared on the edge of the abyss.
The human heart’s physiological beats, inhaling and exhaling, made thousands of people of Artsakh face the unbelievable reality. Despite the maddening reality, the people continue to live on the land, which is sanctified by the blood of their sons…on the land, which their sons once protected and now their souls rest there.
The 44th day of blockade is chilly in Artsakh. The cold is blowing from everywhere—from the faces of passersby, from the empty shelves of stores, from the streets emptied of traffic, from the closed schools, from the half-dark windows of the houses lit by the dim light of a candle.
From the window of my home, I see the way leading to Shushi. Below, I see the Stepanakert memorial. Outside my window, darkness descends on the town, making the silence of the memorial more complete. The snow-white peaks of the lost mountains blend into the azure of the horizon beyond Shushi.
When the lights of Shushi are turned on, the lights of the capital are turned off, and the cold winds of the winter start to howl in the dark streets. Who knows, perhaps that wind came from those mountains, which blend into the horizon, stroking Ghazanchetsots’ holy walls deprived of Christian prayers and touching Shushi’s impregnable fortress.
This cold wind is more pleasant than the world’s and our compatriots’ coldness. There is a big longing in this wind, which hits you in the face not allowing your mind to darken with the streets, not to lose your belief and your hope not to fade away.
In the darkness of the town, the stories about the 90s blockade, famine, war and student years appear before my eyes, as told by my grandmom and my mom when I was a child; these stories seem to reflect today’s reality.
My grandmom came through three wars, and she used to insist on keeping flour, sugar and oil at home, perhaps because of bitter life experiences she had. My mom recalls how they walked kilometers to get to university, how they all wanted to cook at the same time while the electricity was turned on and because of that the power system couldn’t keep up and shut down again. She also remembers how they waited in line for hours to buy a loaf of bread.
On the 44th day of the blockade, there are no minimum conditions necessary for human life in Artsakh. Food and medicines have run out. There is no fuel. Electricity is not enough. Schools are closed. Public transport is overloaded, and communication between Stepanakert and other regions has become difficult. People continue to subsist on only sugar, oil, pasta, millet and rice, for which they are given coupons. Vitamin-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables are missing from the diet. Rarely does any other product appear in stores besides the aforementioned five, and even if it does appear you know about it from a long line in front of the stores.
You have to get to your workplace on foot, as there is no fuel for cars. But if you are lucky enough, you can get public transport and get to the place you wanted on one foot.
Electricity isn’t enough, either. We already don’t have electricity for six hours a day. Children have to study and read books under the light of candles like in the 90s, but it’s very difficult to find candles in stores.
At the banks, you have to stand in line to withdraw money. If there is money left, you can withdraw 50,000 dram. You must stand in line to buy dairy products, and then you stand in another line for eggs, after that for cigarettes. In order to find hygiene products, you spend the whole day in the shops of the city and find nothing.
The difficulties of the blockade have increased the willingness of the people of Artsakh to sympathize and help each other. There is now a Facebook group in Artsakh, ‘I need…,’ where people often ask for the products they need, but along with the ‘I needs,’ the saddest posts are those of mothers. Can you imagine your children resenting you and not speaking to you because you can’t buy sweets for them, or your children see bananas on TV and start to cry and you can’t find bananas for them? Do you imagine? I don’t think so…
On the 44th day of the blockade of Artsakh…we are strong and with great hope.