Shushanik T. describes her participation in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war (1992-1994).
“I hadn’t actually been a nurse earlier, but the war demanded this.”
“Just picture it: we had no pleasures. Our only pleasure was when there were no fatalities. During each operation, we pondered whose fate would come to ruin (lit. ‘whose house would fall down’ um tunn a khandvelu); you think about it, and I, you know, took part in all of this, and it could have happened to me. A shell, or this very cartridge, would hit its target indiscriminately. “A blind” bullet doesn’t think about where it’s flying”.
“I managed to run up to the lads. I saw one of the boys had his face bloodied, an arm crushed, covered in blood. A shell hit the wall, and it fell on the poor wretch. I kept my head, quickly laid him on a stretcher and carried him up to a wall where it was safe. I quickly wiped him down, applied a tourniquet, bandaged him and gave him an anaesthetic. And I myself asked the boys, “Who is this?” It was impossible to find out, as his face had been transformed into a bloody pulp”. “At this moment, one of the soldiers accidentally brushed the trigger of a “desheka” [a heavy machine-gun] and a tracer bullet flared up hitting battalion commander A. in the left side, tearing his lungs all to pieces. I saw it happen from the car, but despite this, whether it hit anyone or not, I rushed to the tank . . .[and] together with L. tried to save A. . . I saw that he was in a critical condition, that we were already losing him. Tears flowed from his eyes, but he couldn’t move his tongue. If only he had said a word; a single word. He moved his lips, but it was impossible to understand anything. Perhaps he was calling for his mother, or what else he wanted to say, I don’t know. Three of his tears fell onto my palm. My heart felt as if it had turned to stone: you know, he was a young lad of 18. You look at all of this and it is as if you have everything. You think, today it is him that this has happened to, tomorrow it is you, it’s someone else . . . Perhaps that is why there were no tears from me. . . A mass bombardment began. A young lad emerged from a tank, and right in front of my eyes his head was blown off and his torso fell back into the tank”.
Later in 2002 Shushanik received a medal “For bravery”. “. . . I was at my post. The regimental commander called and requested that I report to the regiment to receive my reward. I walked up to the regimental commander and announced my arrival to receive the award for service to the motherland, for the blood that I had shed, and for bravery!” “The whole regiment was formed up on the parade ground, and all of the senior officers of the army general staff mounted the rostrum. My turn came, and they read out my name. I was applauded by the whole regiment. . . . He [the commanding officer] shook my hand like a man, congratulated me and handed me the medal “For bravery!”. Then I was congratulated personally by the deputy commander and all of the senior-ranking staff officers. Every last one repeated that I really deserved more than this”.
Note. The commander of an assault detachment, where she had fought, acknowledged “I consider that she deserves a greater reward than a medal “For bravery!”. I would have expected a “Military Cross” at a minimum”.
sent by Shushanik’s correspondent, Nona Shahnazarian)