Stories of refugee children arriving in Armenia
At the end of September, 30,000 children fled their homes, leaving behind everything they know
In times without peace, it is children who bear the heaviest burden. This rings true for the 30,000 children who fled their homes after the escalation of hostilities in their home communities. Within a weekend, they had left behind everything they had ever known. Now, living as refugees in Armenia, they face the challenge of rebuilding their childhoods.
Lusine, a mother of three boys, travelled in a crowded car to Armenia with little space for any belongings. “Amidst all uncertainty, we didn’t know where we are going, what are we going to do, where we will stay, but all I could think of was keeping [my children…] alive,” says Lusine.
Amidst the chaos, some children were able to carry with them items that they hold dear to their hearts, a remembrance of their childhood, mostly small by size but huge in significance.
Fifteen-year-old Eduard managed to take only a part of his extensive collection of medals when he fled. He had dedicated six years to his karate practice, accumulating a remarkable assortment of medals and trophies. “I wish I could have brought all my medals and belts with me,” says Eduard, with a hint of longing in his voice, uncertain about whether he would be able to pursue his beloved sport in his new circumstances.
Much like Eduard, thirteen-year-old Zhenya also fled her home. She now lives in Goris in a temporary shelter with her parents, two brothers, and two other families. She managed to salvage her unfinished handmade macramé, a memory of her homeland. Although she left behind the design drawing teaching her the next steps, she's determined to complete her macramé.
Zhenya took crochet classes for four years, and she is saddened she won’t have a diploma now. "It was the final year for me to get a diploma, but... we came here... everything remained incomplete, unfinished,” says Zhenya. She expresses that it will take many years to heal the deep wounds but she has hopes for the future to become a doctor, just like her mother.
Eleven-year-old Gor came to Verishen with his mother, father, sister and younger brother and settled in his maternal grandparents' house. "It's good, children were a bit used to this house, they would often spend their summers here," said Gor’s mother, Shushanik. "We had lost our home already three times.”
The family now faces a new challenge, adapting to a new environment, a different school, and making new friends once more.
Among these children, Gor is the only one who has already started school in Verishen. "I still haven't made friends here. I really miss my school there, my friends, my music school, and my teachers,” says Gor. He carried his clarinet with him, the sole memento from his former musical school. "When I grow up, I will become a construction worker. I will build a new home for us. Two stories high, just like the one we had."
Thirteen-year-old Robert, leaving his home with his family, quickly grabbed a small container and filled it with soil from his garden before they had to leave. "There was hardly any space in the car for anything else," Robert explained.
Unlike Gor, Zhenya and Eduard, eleven-year-old Vika and many other children had to flee with nothing, just what they had on that day, when the fear set in, and they fled in search of safety.
Vika was not even able to return home. She went from shelter to shelter with her brothers and grandmother in the first days before they could reach Armenia. At the age of eleven, she lost her home, but also her father to a massive explosion in a gas station, when he went to get some petrol to drive his family to Armenia. She choked back tears, saying that if she had a chance, she would go back to fetch the bracelet, her father’s gift to her, and a photo of her grandfather.