Mrs. Nelly’s harrowing journey and her healing kindness -


Mrs. Nelly’s harrowing journey and her healing kindness

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

During the attack on the Artsakh Republic by Azerbaijan on September 19, 2023, many people were forced to spend extended periods in bomb shelters. Nelly Tsaturyan, a resident of Stepanakert, remained at home with her husband Sergey Tsaturyan due to acute knee pain.


After enduring the harrowing three-day journey of forced displacement, Nelly Tsaturyan became one of the beneficiaries of the health support program for forcibly displaced persons from Artsakh, funded by the Izmirlian Foundation. Months after a successful operation, she has largely forgotten the excruciating physical pain, but the ache of losing the home she left behind in Artsakh can hardly be soothed in the same manner.


Mediamax spoke with Nelly Tsaturyan about the wars she witnessed, the blockade, the hardships of deportation, ongoing treatments, and the faint hope of finding her own place here.


The agony reflected in her eyes


"My children and grandchildren were in the basement, while my husband stayed at home with me. I couldn't sit, and there was no room to lie down in the basement. I was in terrible pain," Mrs. Nelly recalls the days of the Stepanakert bombing.


During the blockade, she had already been granted permission to travel to Yerevan in a Red Cross vehicle for surgery, but she hesitated to seize that opportunity. What if she couldn't return and had to leave her husband and sons alone?"

Photo: Mediamax

Going through the grueling journey of forced displacement while grappling with health issues proved to be a terrible ordeal. She had to remain inside the car, her thoughts consumed not by her own well-being, but by the safety of her grandchildren.


Upon reaching Yerevan, Nelly sought assistance from the Izmirlian Medical Center, where years ago she had undergone knee endoprosthesis surgery on her other leg.


"Professor Armen Charchyan performed my previous surgery, and I was immensely satisfied with the outcome, so I chose to seek his expertise once again," Mrs. Nelly remarks.


She recalls that upon entering the doctor's office, she was unaware of the program financed by the Izmirlian Foundation. She acknowledges that relying on her own financial means to regain her health after losing everything would have been impossible.


"Armen Gerasim remembered me from the previous surgery and recalled that I was from Stepanakert. He said with great sadness that he was deeply sorry. I could discern the immense pain reflected in his eyes that were no different from mine or that of other people of Artsakh," Mrs. Nelly recounts.

Photo: Mediamax

After the operation performed on November 3 last year, Mrs. Nelly has already made a full recovery. She is walking with ease and is confident that she will be able to run soon.


"We were lied to all along"


Born and educated in Baku, Nelly Tsaturyan later moved to Stepanakert after marriage. Artsakh is also the birthplace of Nelly's parents. Like many of her peers, she has witnessed four wars in the last thirty years.


"We lived with the hope that everything would turn out well. We worked hard and built a prosperous life, only to be left with nothing," she says. "The heartbreaking reality is that we were simply being lied to all along."

Photo: Mediamax

After the 2020 war, Mrs. Nelly was hesitant to return to Artsakh and face the prospect of going through another conflict, but her husband insisted on returning to their home. The presence of peacekeepers gave hope to many, as nobody anticipated that the civilian population would be left defenseless despite their presence.


"The journey was a living hell"


They intended to depart on the morning of September 26, but the health of Nelly's husband, Sergey, took a sudden turn for the worse as he suffered a heart attack. He received initial treatment in the Stepanakert hospital. On that very day, the dreadful explosion occurred, even further exacerbating Sergey's health condition after he heard the news and witnessed the injured.


They set off in the evening, hopeful that they would make the journey in no time, and that Sergey would soon be back under the care of doctors.


"The journey was a nightmare. There was no food at home to take with us for the road. As we approached the Hakari bridge, Armenian buses passed by us, headed to Stepanakert to transport people from there. They kindly gave us water and sweets. The children were overjoyed. You should have seen them devouring those cookies," Mrs. Nelly recalls, unable to contain her tears.


Upon crossing the border, the family was welcomed with immense warmth. Their first request was for medical assistance for Sergey. He was promptly examined and provided with medication. Due to the late hour and lack of available rooms in hotels, they were graciously hosted by a family from Goris. Mrs. Nelly recalls their kindness with profound gratitude.

Photo: Mediamax

"Complete strangers welcomed us with such warmth. They gathered in one of the rooms, while settling us into the largest room so that we could rest and freshen up. I will never forget their faces. They didn't own much, living a simple life, yet their souls were incredibly genuine and pure," Nelly recalls fondly.


Health at risk


Upon arriving in Yerevan, Nelly's husband had four stents placed in his heart. Presently, Nelly and Sergey are grappling with other health issues.


"It feels like we've taken up residence in hospitals. Perhaps the severe stress has triggered so many health problems," Mrs. Nelly reflects.


Currently, they live in rented accommodations. Nelly's sons have yet to find employment; they earn a living by driving taxis, and the health conditions of Nelly and her husband make it impossible for them to work anymore.

Photo: Mediamax

The nine months of blockade and the harrowing journey have caused health issues for many Artsakh people. According to Nora Alekchyan, the coordinator of the support program funded by the Izmirlian Foundation, since October 2, 2020, many forcibly displaced citizens from Artsakh have been receiving medical assistance.

Photo: Mediamax

"A part of them had surgeries, while others underwent outpatient examinations. Forcefully displaced Artsakh citizens come to us with various health issues: joint wear and tear, thyroid problems, diabetes, etc.," she notes.


The radiance of kindness


Mrs. Nelly recalls the warm atmosphere at the Izmirlian Medical Center and other hospitals where she and her husband received treatment with emotion. In these difficult and dark times, manifestations of genuine kindness shine most brightly.

Photo: Mediamax

"When we first arrived, my husband was admitted to the Nork Marash Cardiology Center, where Kristine Karapetyan and her team truly saved his life. At the Malayan Ophthalmological Center, Ani Hambardzumyan and her team performed cataract surgery on my husband's eye. He says that every time he enters the Hospital Complex No. 1, he feels enveloped in such warmth that it feels like meeting family. As for the Izmirlian Medical Center, I can’t find the right words; everything is always at a high standard. We are immensely grateful to the entire staff of the Izmirlian Medical Center and all the doctors at other medical institutions," Mrs. Nelly says.


It is indeed true that encounters with kind-hearted individuals have helped the family to navigate their challenging psychological circumstances. However, the pain of loss persists.


"I left my soul in Artsakh—the graves of my relatives, the resting places of all those young people who perished in the war and were laid to rest in that land. I have already lived my life, but I'm uncertain whether my sons will ever find their place here. I struggle to maintain optimism. For now, we continue to live with memories—the memories of the home we built," Mrs. Nelly says.


Gayane Yenokian


Photos by Agape Grigoryan


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