BY MARIA TITIZIAN
Tranquility, stillness, and serenity are words that no longer define our lives. They were obliterated from our collective narrative decades ago, maybe centuries ago, perhaps millennia ago. From the moment I developed the ability to formulate memories I cannot recall many instances when I was in a tranquil or serene state of mind. We always seem to be in a whirlpool of distress, in conflict with our past and struggling to confront the outrages being committed on a regular basis as we live and breathe in the present.
A recent tragedy that rocked a village, a people and a nation brought this state of existence more clearly into focus. I do not want to dwell on the circumstances of this tragedy but rather, I want to try in a very humble way to celebrate a life that was cut short but one which possessed an abundance of valor, bravery, patriotism, love and dedication.
When I read the devastating news of the passing last year of army doctor Vahe Avetyan after a vicious beating at Harsnaqar, I was thousands of miles away. I remember vividly the overwhelming nausea that gripped me when I saw the news. And as I watched hundreds of my compatriots holding a candlelight vigil for him, I thought my heart would break with sorrow for not being there to stand beside them, to express my horror at the action and convey the outrage I felt to those responsible.
On April 2, Hratch Mouradian, an Artsakh war hero, compatriot and friend was gunned down in broad daylight in his native village of Proshian. I was once again a world away, across the oceans in a country that is no longer my home. There are no words to describe the feeling of knowing that the life of a patriot like Hratch meant nothing to the person who shot that final, fatal bullet. As I read the harrowing news item about his murder, his wife’s image appeared before me and those of his four young children, who were now left to grow up and navigate the difficult currents of their lives without the wisdom and guidance of their father. I thought of my friends Nigol and Zabelle who lived in Proshian and who had not only developed a close bond of friendship with Hratch and his family but were among his most ardent supporters as village leader. I thought of my husband who had discovered much of Armenia and Artsakh because of Hratch. I thought of my son who after years of battling the demons of injustice all around him, finally felt the strength and understood the value of homeland because of Hratch and his friends. I thought of my daughter at whose wedding Hratch and his wife danced for hours….and my heart broke once again.
Whatever the motivation for his murder, whether it was political or personal, whether the murderer thought of all the lives that had been saved because of Hratch’s heroism during the Artsakh war, whether he cared how the lives of the villagers of Poshian had improved because of his care and benevolence, the fact is that a man who was a hero of the nation is now only a memory to all those who knew and loved him.
The image of Hratch that I will always remember is of him dressed in his army fatigues, standing in the warm living room of our friend in Goris, his feet set wide apart with his arms clasped behind him, a sparkle in his eye and a crooked smile on his face. But what will forever be entrenched in my memory is of him dancing the dance of Sassoun with his wartime friend and confidante Magich – their dance was an expression of strength and grace that moved me to tears the first time I saw them; it was the dance of their lives and shared experiences, something which only they could understand and something which defined the very essence of our nation. I am thankful to Hratch for allowing me to experience it.
I don’t want us to forget the Vahe Avetyans and the Hratch Mouradians of our world. I want us to remember that they were ordinary men who served for their country and were murdered not by the enemy but by the traitors of our nation. The continuing impunity and injustice in our country is the reason why these men and others like them are lost to us today.
I don’t know what good can come from all of this, but I am hopeful, as we all must be that the real perpetrators will be punished, that no one in our country shall be above the law, that all those who commit a crime will understand that their time will come. We need to be vigilant and we must continue to struggle to ensure that heroes enjoy the gratitude and appreciation of society and traitors no longer have a place in our world. I am confident of this because if our nation can bring forth men like Hratch, then we have much to be hopeful for.