If I did this trip again, I would spend more time in Stepanakert, I found this a lovely town to stroll around, lots of restaurants, impressive government buildings and two excellent tiny museums reminding of the war. Generally, a very inviting city. The news that one week after I had left, fighting broke out again was extremely shocking. I remembered the people sitting in street-side cafés, children buying ice-cream on the way home from school, couples on benches in the many parks. All in all, living a life as we all do and I wondered what happened to them.
Museums of Fallen and Missing Soldiers
They remind of the tragic human losses of this war in a very touching and dignifying way. Looking back I am so glad that I did not give up looking for these two tiny museums, they were extremely hard to find. I had people taking me through a what looked like a ministry, along halls, before I stood in a backyard, in front of the entrance.
Family members of the young men killed or officially considered missing run both museums. In one an elderly lady took me around and although we spoke no common language it was so clear that she was the mother of one of young men in the photos when she pointed him out. This scene still makes me cry.
The displays consist mainly of portraits of young men, photos taken during the fighting and equipment used in the war. Also a lot of photos express strong patriotism.
When I left this museum a young soldier passing by, pointed at another building. A friendly man received me and immediately made a few phone calls to organize an English speaking person, a pleasant well-informed lady.
The wall of the three rooms were full of portraits again, a lot more than in the other museum. What I remembered most was the lady pointing at a large map of Armenia. She expresses not only her worries about neighboring Azerbaijan but also being surrounded by Muslim countries. Her fears about Azerbaijan were justified only a week later there was an attack killing 33 people.
Having coffee with Khackik’s relatives
After my excursion through Stepanakert I met Khackik at his relatives home, both retired teachers. What struck me most was the discrepancy between the apartment itself, which could have been any flat in Vienna, and the building. The windows in the staircase where missing, it desperately needed painting. All in all, the place was in a pretty bad state.