In the wake of a devastating conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, thousands of displaced persons are fleeing their homes in search of safety, embarking on a perilous journey fraught with uncertainty. According to AFP, over 13,350 people have already crossed the border into Armenia, and more are expected to follow in the days to come.
These refugees, like countless others around the world, are bound together by the shared trauma of displacement. Their stories are heart-wrenching, and their futures are shrouded in darkness. They have lost their homes, their communities, and their sense of security, and they grapple with the haunting question of whether they will ever return.
For many of these displaced families, the journey across the border is a painful farewell to a way of life they once cherished. The familiar landscapes of Nagorno-Karabakh, where they have built their homes over decades, are now distant memories. The bonds of community and shared history have been severed, and they face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives from scratch.
One refugee, while awaiting the arrival of her relatives at a border checkpoint, speaks of the anguish felt by so many: "We are not just waiting for our families... We are waiting for the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh. How do we get back? Our Karabakh no longer exists. There is no help from any country, not a single country has stood up for us."
In the border town of Goris, which has received thousands of refugees, there is an outpouring of compassion from both local residents and humanitarian organizations. The Red Cross provides much-needed sustenance, offering food and drink to weary travelers before they continue their journey to other towns and cities in the region. But Goris is just a transit point, and many refugees remain lost, uncertain about their next destination. They are still in shock, mourning the life they once knew.
“We took the children and left our homes to come here, to find refuge,” says Rodmila, holding back tears. “Our nation has been sold out by a government that doesn't know what it is doing.”
The Armenian government has pledged to provide refuge for 40,000 displaced families, a testament to their commitment to aiding their fellow citizens during these trying times.
“My brother was seriously wounded, he was evacuated to Yerevan. But, fortunately, my husband, children and I were able to get out. We saw things that I can’t even describe - how can we live together with the Azerbaijanis after this?” Liana, a 36-year-old nurse from Stepanakert, told Politico.
Gennady Yusunts, another refugee, took his four-day-old son home from the hospital. Within hours, he had to transport his wife, newborn baby and six other children to an orphanage in his hometown of Martakert. There, his nursing wife and family spent days without food or sleep in a crowded basement as he headed to the front lines in a desperate defense of his homeland. Yusunts, one of more than 6,000 refugees who have fled Nagorno-Karabakh since Sunday, said his son was healthy despite everything. But his face darkens when asked about the short tour of duty he served before the Nagorno-Karabakh defense forces laid down their arms. “I can’t talk about it,” he said gloomily to the Guardian.
After housing thousands of refugees, border towns appear to be at risk of overcrowding, with city hotels and hostels fully booked and refugees crowding around municipal centers with all their belongings strapped to the roofs of their cars.
Two elderly disabled people were pulled from the back of the ambulance and carried on mattresses to the local administration, where they joined hundreds of other people who had registered as internally displaced persons.
As heavy rain fell on Monday, a young girl sobbed into her mother's lap in central Goris as they stood holding a plastic bag on a street corner.
“I spent 30 years building my house, and the only thing I have with me is this bag,” she said. “My home is in this bag. They should be very happy that we are leaving, because we left them our homes.”
“My wealth is with me,” Yusunts said, referring to his children. "I don't care about the rest."