To live alongside former enemies without rancour means to recognise the suffering and pain which has been felt on both sides.
·This essay has been written based on writings by Armenian and Azerbaijani authors on the Karabakh War. Lusaharvatzner is a village in the future where the Armenians and Azerbaijanis living in an open space open their eyes after a prolonged darkness and see each other in the light.
The bullet flies, cutting through the air, passing alongside birds, whose nervous flapping causes all kinds of feathers to fall. Mainly black ones, sometimes white; rarely, emerald-coloured.
This is a small village without doors, windows or roofs; it is surrounded by trees, animals grazing in open spaces, bushes, mounds. They say that in this village people kept their eyes closed for a long time once they realised that they could see each other even in the shadows.
But one day, an Azerbaijani pensioner named Balaş, who had lost his son in the Karabakh War, met an Armenian woman who had retreated into the forest under three days of beating rain. Balaş had lived on dry bread and water in Azerbaijan, putting money aside for his son’s headstone, while the Armenian woman had removed the swaddling around her baby on the third day of retreat to find that her child was dead (these characters are from stories written by Günel Anarqızı and Ara Nazaretyan). Suddenly black dust filled the eyes of both, a white feather fell from the sky. This was the first meeting.
This is a story about those who see. That doesn’t mean clairvoyants, soothsayers or witches; this is about one human meeting another, resulting in the mythical image of the enemy vanishing into thin air. The people gradually began to open their eyes – first one, then another, and the village became called Lusaharvatzner, meaning ‘struck by light’. After profound darkness for many years, the light pierced their eyes.
For those struck by light, Baku and Karabakh are names with a special significance. We of Armenian nationality who had lived in Baku could no longer set foot there. Sometimes, when they found out that someone struck by light had come from Baku, they would say, “Let me smell you. You smell of Baku.” (Seymur Baycan, Gugark). In the same way, the eyes of the Azerbaijanis would glitter when they heard the name Karabakh. After all, many of them had been born there. When they found out that someone struck by light was originally from Karabakh, they asked them to speak of the mountains of Shushi and Karabakh, and they would ask, “Is the air as pure as it used to be?”
Human beings always have the need to live and believe in life. In Balzac’s novel The Magic Skin, the protagonist preparing to throw himself off a bridge keeps extending his journey, using a thousand different means – he examines shop windows, people, puts his hand in his pocket and the ringing of coins brings a faint smile to his lips. It is characteristic for humans to believe to the very end, to cling on to life.
Moving towards death is unnatural, because life is what is real. The same holds true for them, the people living in fear of war, those fighting: they would not have believed that the mine would blow up beneath their feet.
In the village of Lusaharvatzner, I stand in the middle, like a prophet. I shout because I am emotional, and not because I feel like a real prophet.
“People of Lusaharvatzner, do you hear? The soil cannot speak. That which is underground does not belong to those us who are alive. What is in the soil belongs to the soil. But there are those who have seen the war, and here is what they have to say.”
The people of Lusaharvatzner were quiet. Then an Azerbaijani stood on the same grass and opened a heavy book.
“By building a house, the people may have assumed that it would one day be destroyed in an earthquake, burn and be reduced to ashes, but it had not occurred to any of them that it might one day be destroyed by a bomb.
“The human mind could have imagined that the regional centre would be destroyed by a dragon that emerged from its cave. But even the ones with the most fertile imaginations would not have dreamed that the houses and gardens could be devastated by bombs.” (Seymur Baycan, Gugark)
“War is the antonym of life, friends,” I shout from my spot, as if making a big discovery. What I say is nothing new, but it rings out as if for the first time among the people who had kept their eyes closed for a long time and lived in the shadows.
Hatred is generally always abstract and overarching. Hatred towards your enemy, towards strangers, as soon as you try to make it specific, that hatred disappears, it becomes smaller, weaker. As proof of my words, I read an extract from L. Khechoyan’s book to the people of Lusaharvatzner.
“A desire has come over to fire at every burning light. I confirmed that it was hatred. And I was speaking a few days ago to a girl who had ended up their prisoner. She was crying with large tears. I felt no hatred.”
“War is fear, war is… obligation,” said an old man standing in the corner, his eyes staring at the ground; then, without raising his hands from the ground, he read a poem by Armenian poet Husik Ara. “The boys gushing in your blood, who definitely loved you rightly and truly, got up one day from the orchard, the street and the café, and bearing guns walked straight to the battlefield, but they are not on any of your bronze or stone statues… And there is the constant reminder of the heavy price we paid to gain victory in the war that came to us as an obligation.”
His voice was like a dried leaf in autumn. The old man cleared his throat. The words choked within him.
“What should we tell the children who hear the exploding shells, the homes and wells destroyed by the firing artillery? How can we erase the war from their eyes and ears?” One of the old women, with a thousand pock marks on her face, said that even if the shells had burst far away from her, they had nevertheless managed to leave indelible scars on her visage.
I felt that at that moment we were all profoundly filled with human beings – yes, I mean to say it like that. All the children of the world move to the future through their childhood. Many of us have come from childhood, but that old woman, putting her finger in one of those pock marks –one of those indelible craters – was speaking of her lost childhood.
There was still some fear in the movements of the children scattered like stars in that green space; they had mentally not yet let go of the guns. One of those present stood up and spoke: “At first, I too hated the light. I wanted to kill it, because I was afraid of seeing that which I had not seen in a long time… that which I was not used to seeing, that which was not allowed by my nationality, my history, and finally by the war. It was in that light that the Azerbaijani boy with the Armenian mother felt ashamed of her, that is why he wanted to lose her in the darkness, to forget her. But you cannot forget the human sitting within you; that is the same thing as forgetting God.”
A little scattered applause was heard, but people were afraid to boldly clap their hands after such truths were spoken. After such truths, you usually feel like getting lost in a forest for half an hour and keep asking yourself, “But why? Why have I buried that human so deep within me?”
There is a bullet flying in the air, but can that bullet turn into a bird? Put your ear to the soil, and you will hear a sound emerging from its depths. Softly, such that only you can hear it, it will say, “A bullet is a bullet, whether it is on the ground or in the air, in the water or underground.”·