Moving Forward After War

Hayk Zhamkochyan undergoing treatment at Zinvori Tun

Editor’s Note: Information from the following Artsakh War veterans was gathered during multiple visits to Zinvori Tun from March 1 – April 17, 2023.

Zinvori Tun (Soldier’s House) is a charity NGO that helps soldiers who were mutilated, injured or disabled during military service while defending the homeland. The organization was founded by the joint efforts of Support to Wounded Soldiers and Military Disabled NGO, Yerevan State Medical University and Armenia’s Ministry of Defense. Zinvori Tun is not only a rehabilitation center, but also a place for injured soldiers to learn new skills and build a livelihood. The new skills acquired can help them pursue a future career and set them up for success. Soldiers also reconnect with old friends from the battlefield at Zinvori Tun or find new friends in their rehabilitation process.

Injured soldiers playing a game of table tennis at Zinvori Tun 

Hayk Zhamkochyan, 23 and Erik Mkrtchyan, 22 

Hayk Zhamkochyan and Erik Mkrtchyan were drafted into Armenia’s Armed Forces right after high school. They were in the army when the 2020 war began. With different backgrounds in civilian life, they became friends at Zinvori Tun and fell in love with butterfly art.

Hayk Zhamkochyan (left) and Erik Mkrtchyan (right) showcase their latest butterfly art

Zhamkochyan was injured by sniper fire during the 2020 war and was paralyzed from the waist down. In his spare time, he learns dancing with his wheelchair and also creates art through “Beauty by Soldiers.” This is a Zinvori Tun project that features compositions made with beautiful butterflies that are acquired from all corners around the world. Revenue generated from the sales of these pieces is directed to cover veterans’ salaries as well as other projects of the NGO.  

Hayk Zhamkochyan creates butterfly art

Mkrtchyan’s injuries stem from a primary blast during the 2020 war; he too was paralyzed like Zhamkochyan. After several surgeries, he continues his treatment at Zinvori Tun. He learns to play piano and, like his friend, dances and creates butterfly art. 

Erik Mkrtchyan playing the piano as Hayk Zhamkochyan looks on

Mesrop Saribekyan, 39 and Arsen Tiratunyan, 47

Mesrop Saribekyan and Arsen Tiratunyan met during the war and later reconnected at Zinvori Tun. They have been inseparable ever since.

Mesrop Saribekyan (right) and Arsen Tiratunyan (left)

Saribekyan decided to take up a career in photography, while Tiratunyan breeds rabbits in Gyumri and plays guitar in his spare time.

Mesrop Saribekyan behind the lens

Tiratunyan also took up another hobby, experimenting with electronics. He hopes to pursue some kind of career in drone technology someday.

Arsen Tiratunyan strumming the guitar with his electronic projects displayed behind him
Anthony Pizzoferrato
Anthony Pizzoferrato is an Italian American freelance photojournalist, documentarian and filmmaker based in Yerevan, Armenia. His work places emphasis on reporting and documenting conflicts, political events, complex social issues, human rights and cultural history within post-Soviet states and the Middle East while creating understanding, intimacy and empathy. His work on the war in Ukraine and protests in Yerevan has been published in Getty Reportage.

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