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When the military vehicle returns to the village from the combat position in the evening, Andranik Grigoryan’s mother, Zina, thinks that her son will now enter the house.  

Mrs Zina herself went to the mortuary to identify her son’s body. She wouldn’t wish any mother in the world to see what she had to see: shot-out eye, belly cut open and cut-off ear. 

But even after this, it still seems to the woman that the door will now open and Andrey, as she calls him, will “fill with himself” the whole house as before.

Andrey worked since 13 years old, the woman recalls. His father left the family and he took care of his mother and younger sisters. Then a daughter-in-law, Nina, appeared in the house.  She was 16 then. Now Nina is 19, and she has already become a widow, left with two sons: 2-year-old Gor and 1-year-old Martik. 

We strayed long along the deserted roads of Hadrut region in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), searching for Sirik village, or the so-called Hakyavan. First taking the wrong track, we saw a couple of crooked houses in the ravine: that was the whole village.   

How Moldavian Zina appeared here is a separate story. Service in Gyumri military base, marriage, earthquake, departure to Ukraine and return.  But this time not to Gyumri, since there was no house there any longer, but to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Here, in the dark, cold and hungry years in the aftermath of the first Karabakh war, Zina began building her life again. She more or less renovated the old half-destroyed house, set up a garden and bought a livestock. Andrey became a contract soldier and the girls grew up. Then the daughter-in-law and grandchildren appeared in the house.

The life seemed to be getting right, only they didn’t build a new house, despite continuous promises.  And the old one is merely no longer subject to restoration…

Zina and Nina hope that at least now they will be given an apartment in Hadrut.

Andranik Grigoryan, 30, died during the April war this year. He was killed on the very first day of the Azerbaijani aggression, on April 2, but his body was found on the Azerbaijani side and was handed to Armenia only on April 9. 

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