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Living in Peace with the Enemy


Թշնամու հետ ապրելով խաղաղ
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Düşmənlə sülh içində yaşamaq
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I am from a small town in Azerbaijan. Our house was located near the settlements of the internally displaced people (IDP). Since childhood we were told at school, on TV, and through the personal narratives of IDPs themselves about the horrors they had experienced. The past left deep scars on them, we felt it in their eyes. All those stories made us afraid of them, and for some reason we didn't even go to play with the IDP children. The feeling of pity for IDPs, footage from Khojaly, the loss of Karabakh, socio-economic conditions of the post-war period acted to legitimise the hatred towards Armenians.

In the 7th grade, I met a girl, she was so beautiful and smart that I always wanted to be around her. I remember how I cried when I found out that we had been divided into two separate groups, but this did not stop our friendship. My town is tiny and my family found out who I am friends with (it’s important for the parents to know with whom their children are friends). Once we started talking about my friend, my father said that she was our distant relative and her grandparents had been very respected people, originally from Armenia. I shuddered, I didn’t know that my friend’s mother is Armenian! My father also told me that her grandfather had been a school director in Soviet times and had contributed a lot to local education. After this discovery of the century, I did not know where to go, I felt very bad! However, my family didn't pay attention to my reaction, my grandmother kept talking about my friend’s family and recalled her Soviet memories. I remember when I used to go to see my friend, it seemed to me that her mother couldn’t be Armenian, she was not like those who are shown on TV. She took care of me, and treated me to some Moscow chocolates. I remember once I opened up to my granny and said that the Armenian woman was very kind to me, why?!… to which she said: “Yes… R. is a well-educated woman and cooks very delicious meals” (these two characteristics are the main indicators of a “good person” for my granny). Every time I wanted to highlight her nationality, my family didn't understand the essence of my feeling of alertness... I wondered why they weren't interested in the fact that she was Armenian.

In the early 90s my friend’s grandparents left Azerbaijan, but her mother stayed with her children and only recently they all have moved to the USA. I remember information about the death of my friends’ grandpa (he died in the USA) quickly spread throughout my town, many people went to her to express their condolences. It may seem strange to mourn the death of an Armenian in Azerbaijan, but it was the most touching moment that I always remember.

I also left Azerbaijan, but whenever I go back, I see how elder people remember my friend’s family and particularly her grandfather. He is remembered as one of the most influential people in our town.

There are a lot of stories about the friendships between these two nations, they are passed on to us from our parents and grandparents. However, this story got me thinking about how my generation, unlike the old, is filled with violence and hostility. I don't know what happened, but I have changed my views about war, and maybe meeting with that woman had a major impact on my overall perception about war and its resolution. Since then I have squeezed the enmity and anger out of myself which was transmitted to me not from my family but from the environment in which we all grew up. The feeling of hatred is gone, but its marks still remain.

Unfortunately not everyone is as lucky as me. We are the lost generation who is reaping the bitter fruits of the first, and now the second Karabakh war. As long as the old generation lives, we must come to peace, only their memories and experience of coexistence can inspire us to restore a new community.

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