The country is love. The land is life.

Askeran, Artsakh (Photo: Vahagn Khachatrian)

The country is love; the land is life. Life? Better to say, it’s a holy world. In its arms are sleeping thousands of innocent Armenian sons. The motherland has been nourished by their blood and sweat for centuries. The Armenian holy land is the symbol of our duration. We exist as long as our land exists, because our roots are deep in this rocky land. This stony land is our home, our heaven, our essence and our homeland.

We are forced to quench the thirst of our land with blood, while it misses water, soil, sow and the caressing hands of its farmer.

The people of Artsakh have been living in Artsakh, flourishing and building it for centuries as the enemy attacks, destroys and demolishes the region at will. But every time, after all this, the people of Artsakh love their land even more and deepen their roots even more into their land.

Armenian land has been rocked by many wars, captured many times and now it’s screaming in a frenzy waiting for its Armenian farmer.

Artsakh continues to be in blockade. Spring has arrived, which means that growers who are in love with their Armenian land must transfer their warmth and love to their motherland. They have to mix their sweat with the earth in order to receive life from it.

The people of Artsakh find strength in their country. The country is strong with its sons.

Alyosha Gabrielian (Photo: Weekly contributor Vahagn Khachatrian)

Alyosha Gabrielian loves his homeland. Along with his long-term career, he has also had a shovel in his hand, besides a pen.

Gabrielian is a member of the Artsakh movement and the initiative group of Askeran. He studied at the faculty of Physical Culture of the Armenian State Pedagogical University named after Khachatur Abovian. He taught in many schools and served in the Soviet army. When he married Lyudmila Grigoryan, he moved to Askeran. During the Soviet years, when the Artsakh movement was starting, he was the head of the district department of education, but for the sake of the activity of the movement, he left his position to avoid submitting to pressure from the leadership.

Alyosha Gabrielian represented the ARF in Artsakh’s National Assembly (Photo: Facebook)

Gabrielian has been serving in the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation since 1989. He was a deputy of three convocations of the Artsakh National Assembly. Today, at the age of 75, his main occupation has turned to farming.

Gabrielian has been farming since he was a young boy. He learned from his father, who was a great tiller of the land.

“Since the Soviet times, I’ve been engaged in agriculture, mainly in greenhouses. I have a pomegranate and pineapple garden,’’ shared Gabrielian.

He mainly grows vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants. His income is obtained from working with the land in early spring and late autumn, gathering the harvest.

Inside Alyosha Gabrielian’s greenhouse

“After the war, the government had a program for the establishment of greenhouse farms, which I took part in. Today I have two, 730-square-meter greenhouses. In the absence of electricity and gas, I do not have a heating system, but I try to use solar energy. Under these conditions, I am able to bring the crop grown in the greenhouse to the market one to two months earlier than the harvest obtained in the main open field,” he explained.

At this time, the preparatory work has already started. Gabrielian’s garden is bustling; all his family members participate. Gabrielian has been preparing to grow seedlings since January.

A farmer working in the garden (Photo: Vahagn Khachatrian)

Seedlings are grown in special conditions so that they do not freeze. “These are seeds. They are hybrids, which I acquired and grew with difficulty in the conditions of the blockade. On March 20, I have to transfer the already grown seedlings to greenhouses.”

Seedlings ready to be transferred to Alyosha Gabrielian’s greenhouse

Gabrielian’s garden is also full of trees, which he says require special care. “The climate of Askeran is quite favorable for growing tropical fruits. I prefer using organic fertilizers. I have a good irrigation system, which is the basis of obtaining a bountiful harvest,” described Gabrielian.

Today, many gardens in Artsakh have become borderlands and targets of the enemy. The people of Artsakh cultivate their land in front of the enemy’s eyes. Gabrielian says the people should not live in fear and should continue to create in their own homeland. He says the will and persistence of the people on their rightful lands should be visible in plain sight.

“Their positions are very close. We are under the target of the enemy. Five hundred meters from Askeran, the gardens are already under the target. There hasn’t been shooting toward this area, yet there was shooting toward Khramort and Nakhijevanik recently. Farming is very important under any circumstances, because obviously they want to scare us knowing that tomorrow’s harvest is from today’s work; thus, they want to disrupt our work in any way,” says Gabrielian.

The blockade has forced people to understand that the lack of products is the result of not farming the lands. Gabrielian says the farmer can’t suffer from hunger. “I love my land and farm it. It keeps you. Similarly, you must keep and protect your land,” he says.

During the blockade, working with the land has been like salvation for Gabrielian, when many people are losing hope.

“It seems you are cut off from the world when you grow something with your hands. How can I leave this land and move out? I invested here. This is my property. My family’s roots are deep in this land. My children and grandchildren live here. Land has a pull feature. It asks me to farm it and keep my family here. It is inadmissible to lose these lands, these fragile lands,” he expressed.

This is Gabrielian’s second time living under blockade. “The blockade of the 1980s was severe, but at that time, the products and weapons were imported by helicopters. There were collective farms, which had animals and food products. At that time, the people of Stepanakert used to go to villages to find food, as villages were more alive. There was no electricity or gas. We used firewood. We were literally cut off from the world,” recalled Gabrielian of the first Artsakh war.

Gabrielian says today there are a lot of people who are guided by self-interests and fail to take into consideration the fact that this nation came through war and deprivation. We lost our best sons for this land. Many families mourned. Many children were orphaned. He quoted the words of Aram Manoukian that we must fight alone both on the external and internal fronts, because the Armenian is strongly tied to his homeland.

“There was unity and a common ideology. Armenia was united: Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora. Armenians from Armenia and Diaspora were fighting here, as a result of which we were able to win,” he recalled. “Now, it is a little different. There is still unity, but it is not pan-Armenian in nature. It can be said that the people of Artsakh are left alone in front of the enemy and are facing all difficulties alone. We have to face it. We have no other option. We cannot abandon our ancestral land that has been inherited to us for centuries. Our descendants will not forgive us. They will curse us if we go,” insisted Gabrielian.

He explained that because of the communist party’s propaganda, the people were ideologically immature during the Soviet times, yet they wished to live freely and rule their homeland and destiny on their own. The people believed that it is possible to implement this plan under the guise of reconstruction, because they upheld elements characteristic of democracy, such as human rights and freedom of speech. But they encountered a challenge.

“The USSR decided that the nationalities must live together and that the Nagorno Karabakh issue must be solved under the name of social-economic problems. They provided some money to solve these so-called problems, but as you can see, it was impossible. We understood that we had to take action and solve our problems by ourselves. At first, we went on strike with the idea to reunify with Armenia, but we got distracted. First, we had to be joined to Armenia with the decision of the Regional Council of Nagorno-Karabakh, but Levon Ter-Petrosyan and the authorities found that reunification should be achieved through independence, which brought us to today, when our right to self-determination is being questioned. The government of the Republic of Armenia does not talk about it at all; they see us as part of Azerbaijan,” said Gabrielian.

“Our demand is that our authorities do not play games, negotiate normally and do not cross red lines; otherwise they will be called betrayers and receive a deserved sentence,” concluded Gabrelian.

Artsakh is like an oasis, God’s grace.

The struggle continues for the people of Artsakh. “Our right of independence must be accepted, and for that we have to struggle. The issue of Artsakh has a history of centuries and can’t be solved in one day,” said Gabrielian.

“Why are the people of Artsakh suffering deprivation for the sake of this land? Because this land is fertile. Even if we don’t look after it, our woods will look after us. You won’t find such an area anywhere else. Artsakh is like an oasis, God’s grace. That’s why the fight for this land has intensified. We have cultivated this land for centuries and felt its sweetness while working. I can’t imagine that I can go anywhere and find another land close to my heart. This land feeds us, sustains us, gives us oxygen, inspires us with hope and asks us not to leave it alone,” he described of his beloved Artsakh.

Gabrielian ultimately expressed optimism and the belief that there are many patriots in the new generation who understand the value of this land and who are ready to fight for it like our sons who sacrificed their lives during our 35-year struggle.

Vahagn Khachatrian

Vahagn Khachatrian

Vahagn Khachatrian was born on October 2, 1999 in the Republic of Artsakh. He graduated with a degree in economics from Artsakh State University. Vahagn is a member of the ARF Artsakh Youth Organization Central Department and a leader in the ARF Artsakh Junior Organization. He is also a journalist for Aparaj newspaper.
Vahagn Khachatrian

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