10 January 2012

English: interview with Martirosyan (interview 1)

Martirosyan A.S.
Born 1932 in the Soviet Azerbaijani Engelskend village, subsequently lived in Shamkhor village, Khenlar, and currently resides in YerevanArmenia.

" My parents were from Karabakh, residing in that region for a long time. They were Armenian.  When my aunt and father came to Engelskend, they met my mother. That’s how my parents ended up getting married. We went to Engelskend to live. In that village there were only two streets, and the small one where Armenians lived along with some Azerbaijanis and the rest were Germans. I don’t know where they came from or how, but that’s where they lived. I went to school there. The schools were in Azerbaijani and Russian, there was no Armenian. I learned Armenian by force when I would go to visit my relatives in the summer in Karabakh.

When the war started in 1941 I was already in third grade. They deported all the Germans. We were small at that time, we would go to the empty houses and walk around, we would find a doll’s dress and get happy, take it with us to play. The dogs and the cats with their twisted necks were left sad and homeless in the yards. They belonged to the Germans’ who had escaped and left them behind. Then we saw that the Turks came and started making a home in the Germans’ homes. My father, my uncles, all the men who had been taken to fight and the women got scared and went to Shamkhor. I was nine years old at that time. Then I went to school there, but I have only studied for six years in my life.

The war still not finished three years later, we got a notice that my father had unnoticeably disappeared from the battle grounds. I was living with my step-mother and she went to Karabakh when my father didn’t return. My aunt raised me. I was seventeen when I got married. I had four children. Three boys, one girl. My husband died young. His heart stopped. My oldest son is now in Armenia and he has become a Jehova’s witness. I’m not complaining. It’s just that they don’t do New Year’s and I end up alone on that day. I want there to be human interaction between us.

My middle child died from a heart attack. I wish I was blind so I wouldn’t have seen it. He was a musician. He played during weddings for Turks, for Armenians. From four in the afternoon to four in the morning he would play and sing. They would give him twenty manet. My other son is in Belgium now, in Brussels with his family. My daughter is also in Belgium. They ran away in 1991 so they could make some money.

I want everyone to be OK, to be healthy, to never see the face of war or an enemy. And I also want to not be alone.

One day an Armenian guy, his name was Sergey, killed a Turk because they wanted to beat him up. He took out the weapons in the house and killed the man. We always kept the weapons ready, so that when we were attacked we would be able to protect ourselves. We got news that we should run away since the Turks were heading toward Shamkhor to massacre the Armenians. In September of 1988 we got orders to leave our homes, get on buses and go to Armenia until everything would get settled. I locked the doors, gave the keys to my Turk neighbor Samat, a Turk who had done me many favors, and we got in yellow buses and came to Armenia’s border. At the border, Azeris told Armenians over radios that they had brought their brothers and sisters, to come get us. Someone without shoes, someone with slippers on, someone wearing a robe- we stood at the border freezing. We crossed the border and they brought us to Yerevan in soldiers’ vans. On the way I got off at Dilijan. I had relatives there. I stayed until dawn. I came to Yerevan on the next bus. The driver of the bus asked me if I was a refugee. I said yes. He said you can get off, sister, I won’t take money from you, it wouldn’t be right.

We got off in Yerevan. The soldiers said to us, “why did you come at evening, there is a curfew, you can come out during the afternoon.” They took me to the refugee station. In the morning I came to my distant relatives in Yerevan. I didn’t sleep well. I kept seeing my house in my dream, my children, and Samat who told me to give her the keys.

We stayed so long that December passed, then January and February. It was the year 1988. In February fights broke out in Sumgait. They told us come sell your houses or trade, take your things and go to Armenia. I went back to Shamkhor. Samat had taken good care of my house. Only my smallest boy was with me, the rest were in Karabakh. My oldest son went to Kislavodsk. I was left all alone. And then all of a sudden Samat came with her daughter at night. She said, sister I came to protect you so that those savages don’t touch you. She had a whip in her pocket so that she could whip anyone who entered the house with it.

That was the first night. The next day was a market day, all the Turks had their eyes on the Armenians’ homes and possessions. Someone came saying they were from Vardenis and wanted to trade his home with mine. Did I want to? I called my son in Kislavodsk, he said “no mom, sell the house but don’t go to Vardenis.” I sold it. One Turk said I will give you 15,000 manets for it, if you want it you want it, if you don’t want it don’t want it then, anyway you are going to go, these houses are going to be left for us. I said O.K. My house cost 40,000, I sold it for 15,000 and all the possessions in it I sold for another 100.

On the second night my oldest son’s close Turk friend came and said khana jan come stay at our house for the night, no one will hurt you there, in the morning we will call a bus and you can go, you have sold the house, you have done everything, go back to Armenia, everything is tense here now. He slept under the window at night on the floor so that if he heard something from the yard he would go out and beat up the Turks so they wouldn’t get into the house. So we slept peacefully that night. In the morning before the light came up he woke me up and told me to not tell anyone that I had money on me. He told me to tell people that I traded my home and the possessions with it, “if they find out that you have money they will hit you and take your money,” he said.

I quickly went and boarded the bus and came to Armenia. That was the last time I went to Azerbaijan. We came to find out later of the news that in Shamkhor whoever had sold a house was beaten and raped, killed, and their money was taken. I remembered my son’s friend and thanked God that Khalib had helped me. There was also a Turk girl her name was Afora. She sent my money to my relative and I received it. I am also thankful for her.  

My whole life passed like this. Running away. I love Turks and I hate them. I love them because they are good, they can be kind. When they get nationalistic they become beasts. They would come in front of our street and have meetings, they would scream “fad osum ermenlar karabakh bizim dir.” Get the hell out Armenians, Karabakh is ours. What does it matter whose it is? If I didn’t know Armenian in Azerbaijan I would have still been satisfied. What does it matter whose it is? I want there to not be fights, to not be war. I want us to be at peace, for them to not hate us and us to not hate them. We have worked together, built Azerbaijan, why did they want to kick us out? "

At the end of the interview the old woman took out a handkerchief and cried, saying in Azeri, “istim iram dinj yashyokh.”

Turks – used by the woman as a synonym for “Azerbaijani”, it describes ethnicity
Manet – Azerbaijani money, Armenians are using this word as synonym to any kind of money
Khana jan –  dear woman, it's interesting that Armenians and Azeris use the word JAN in the same way and cases

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