12 Feb 2024
From Nagorno Karabakh to Middle East: A Journey Through Two Wars
Nana Grigoryan, 17, is from the village of Kolkhozashen in Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) located 49 km from the capital Stepanakert/Khankendi. Nana lived under the blockade along with more than one hundred thousand people in Nagorno Karabakh. She left the region in August, before the war and the exodus, to pursue her education. Nana went to study in Israel, at Emis International School. During the blockade, she started a diary, parts of which are presented here.
Between September 19 and 20, 2023, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military attack against Nagorno Karabakh. One day later, on the 21st of September, a ceasefire agreement was reached through the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping command in Nagorno-Karabakh. A mass evacuation of ethnic Armenian civilians from the region then followed; the population feared persecution and ethnic cleansing if they were to remain.
On the 7th of October, amid the escalating conflict and humanitarian crises in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Nana Grigoryan had to leave the country and move to Armenia.
Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh
It’s been almost two months since my country has been under a blockade. People say “the road of life” will be opened again soon. Who knows?
…I wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning and walk about a kilometer to school. I’ve started a diary, a new hobby I picked up because of the blockade.
We had six lessons today. Everything was as usual. We’re in the blockade, but no one is talking about it; we want to ignore the existence of this awful period. I will take my little puppy and the other dogs from the village for a walk to enjoy nature a bit. Oh, we have a youth center in my village, and ‘Jane’ helps me escape into another reality, far from mine.
I climbed the mountain in front of our house, where the entire village is perfectly visible. It’s a real wonder. The dogs are playing and enjoying their freedom. It seems they know that our nature is a treasure.
…I’m late. My mom has already called me a few times; she was worried. I said I wanted buckwheat again and it made her angry. “Don’t you have any other preferences?” she asked. Since the blockade started, I have been eating buckwheat almost every day, which has confused my mom.
I started loving this process of writing so much that now I’m thinking about composing poems. I write about everything, even the things that I would never tell anyone. I love hiding my emotions inside because no one is going to solve them, even if they know. My friends know me as a funny person, and that really is me, but I don’t like talking about what’s inside me.
The blockade reveals people. I’ve noticed that people have become more helpful; they have empathy towards others. My friends and I organize climbing trips and watch movies to make our days a bit more engaging. It’s easier in the village than in the city. We have food, at least. People in the city have to worry about things like food and transportation.
Sometimes our peers from the closest villages visit us, and we start organizing panel discussions about education and our plans. Before the blockade started, we weren’t as close. Now we are spending less time on our phones, especially when the electricity is gone, instead, we spend time together.
We still have eggs, milk, and butter in the village, so it’s a lot of fun to gather with friends and make a cake.
I’m preparing for my exams. I have applied to a few international schools. I want to study either at Dilijan’s school or “Emis” school in Israel. In the evenings, I love taking part in different online courses if the electricity isn’t gone. Education is extremely important to me, and I will not let anyone break my right to get a proper education. Oh, I’ve started reading a book called “Finish What You’ve Started.”
We spend a lot of time outside in the evenings. I try to talk with my grandpa a lot. He loves giving me nuts to eat. Sometimes we play chess or checkers with my siblings.
A few universities I applied to rejected my candidacy… Finally, I got a letter from Emis International School in Israel. I’m officially in. The exams were not that hard. I didn’t even have to prepare because this school values skills and abilities to survive in a new atmosphere. Your knowledge is important, but there are a lot of challenges you have to overcome during your studies, thus they highlight you as a human being. I’m preparing for my trip to Armenia; then, I have a flight to Israel. I’m not going to finish 12th grade in Kolkhozashen, but I will use my knowledge to do a lot of good things for Artsakh.
Soon, I’ll be in Yerevan. I’m going to miss my village badly because I’m leaving everything here. My country needs a powerful education system; thus, I’m going to make every effort to get a better education to return to Artsakh. Sometimes I ask myself, why did so many things happen to my generation? Why did we have to struggle with so many circumstances? I’m going to start a new life without war, fear, and loss…
It’s been two weeks since I arrived in Israel. Everything is new for me, but what shocked me is that almost no one knows about my country. I do my best to present not only the situation in Artsakh but also the outstanding history of my little homeland and the magnificent places that will capture their eyes.
It seems to me I’m far away from the war here…
The school is situated in Ramat Hasharon city, not far from the capital of Israel. There are a huge number of international students from all over the world, and they all treat me well. I don’t have a classmate from Azerbaijan…
…I was at school when I heard about the attack by Azerbaijan. I scrolled through my phone, then called my mom. She didn’t respond.
“It’s so tough, it’s so hard not to have any news from your mom, your friends. I have a bad feeling about this. I’m on pins and needles. I’m not eager to concentrate on my classes because I still don’t have any news from my mom.
Today I finally heard my mom’s voice. I’ve spent three sleepless nights listening to her voice. She said everything is normal, then she immediately hung up, and we couldn’t talk longer… …Now, my parents are on their way to Armenia; I’m in Israel. I’ve come here to study and get a better education to make Artsakh stronger.
All my relatives are now in Armenia because they can’t stay in Artsakh. The feeling that I’ve left my home forever kills me…
….My day starts here at 8:30. Usually, we stay at school until 18:00. The dormitory where I stay is on the school’s territory. We have a lot to do after the lessons. We need to take care of flowers, sow seeds, look after the animals, and feed them. Moreover, we have many events and educational discussions here, so my day isn’t boring.
In the evenings, we gather to play a game or watch a movie, and then we discuss everything. It’s the right time to share our stories, and personally for me, it’s an opportunity to tell a bit more about the situation in Artsakh. Although my friends listen to me and encourage me a lot, they haven’t experienced war, and they don’t know how terrible it can be. The food here is not suitable for me. I try to eat vegan food at least. Sometimes I miss the times in Artsakh when I could have my buckwheat.”
“The morning started at 6 o’clock with the very familiar sound that seemed so well-known to me. They took us to the shelter. It was kind of nostalgic. I felt history was repeating itself. I hate the sound of shelling; it has become annoyingly familiar to me. The shelter is very accessible; there’s everything one needs to spend a certain amount of time. It’s safe, and when we hear signals, everyone knows what to do. It’s strange for me that people are very prepared, and even though they are afraid, the discipline works perfectly. The war is not something new for them, so there is no panic.
I’m 17; I’ve already experienced two wars, lost my house, and my country. It’s so unfair that life has been so unkind to me. Now, I’ve lost the educational opportunity I’ve dreamed of. The situation is becoming more and more unbearable. The vast majority of the students have already left; only a handful of us remain. I’ve decided to return because this whole situation has had a very bad impact on me. But when I return, I won’t have a house. What if I can’t return to Israel? What if the story starts over again?
A day… I’m far from my homeland. Now I’m in another country, Armenia. I’m in a forgotten village where it seems so hard to find dreams. The days are boring, and it’s been a long time since I counted the days. There is no Day 1, Day 2… it’s just a day. Now I have online classes, and our teachers do their best not to miss a lesson. Many of them are still in Israel, but they smile on the screen to not show us what’s happening there. …I make a lot of effort to concentrate on my classes and take part in different educational programs to set goals for the future.
The End or A New Beginning
I finished the book that taught me to finish what I’ve started. I will get my education because it’s not my fault I’ve lost it; it’s not my fault that the people who make decisions haven’t thought about me and my peers when they started a war…
…I left my diary in Israel. Who knows? Maybe it’s better; maybe it’s a sign to start everything again. Is it the last “Again”?
There are some pages the author didn’t want to publish, and since she left her diary in Israel, we’ve collected these parts relying on her memory.