GORIS, Armenia — “That’s how we became refugees for the second time,” sums up Milena Ordiyants, a 39-year-old Armenian woman recently displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).
In her four decades, this woman has been forced to move twice, once from Baku (Azerbaijan) to Berdzor (Nagorno-Karabakh) and ultimately, finding temporary residence in Goris (southern Armenia). Due to the skills in carpet-making she acquired in her younger years, she is now getting back on her feet, supporting her family financially and sharing her know-how with the women of her new community. It’s a new awakening after a dreadful nightmare.
On the morning of September 27, 2020, Baku launched a major offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh, continuing the longest-running unresolved dispute on the territory of the former Soviet Union.
“Like hundreds of thousands of Armenians, we moved to Armenia from Baku in 1988, when the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict first ignited,” says the woman. Later, she got married and resettled in Berdzor, a small town that bridges Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. That’s where she learned the techniques of carpet-weaving and sewing. When the war started last September, Milena says she didn’t even think of leaving the town despite the constant bombardments by the Azerbaijani armed forces.
“I wasn’t scared because all my relatives and beloved ones were there with me. The government encouraged women and children to evacuate, but how could I when my father, my husband, and brothers were at the frontline,” she recalls.
After the war, the status of this little town was left uncertain. The mayor, Narek Alexanyan, announced in December 2020 that only around one hundred people currently inhabit Berdzor, whereas the population reached 2,000 before September 2020. The presence of Russian peacekeepers doesn’t inspire hope in the local population, as Azerbaijani armed forces are deployed too close to the border.