The explosion of the gas station in Berkadzor

WATERTOWN — The Artsakh Refugees Aid Program launched by the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada (TCA) already has begun to help forcibly displaced Armenians from Artsakh and continues to raise funds for this purpose.

At the Yerevan National Center for Burns and Dermatology

The Tekeyan Cultural Association has supported Armenia and Artsakh for decades through numerous projects. The Armenians of Artsakh persevered despite a nine-month blockade initiated last December by Azerbaijan, and endured hunger, cold and many hardships to live on their ancestral land of thousands of years. Azerbaijan then on September 19 launched a massive attack, bombing settlements, schools and hospitals.

At the Yerevan National Center for Burns and Dermatology

This final Azerbaijani invasion of the territories of the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic forced a mass exodus of the population of the latter and led to a humanitarian crisis. For the first time in history this ancient land was emptied of its Armenian population in the course of only a few days. TCA could not remain indifferent to one of the greatest disasters in modern Armenian history.

At the Yerevan National Center for Burns and Dermatology

During the exodus, news spread about another terrible event. On the Stepanakert-Askeran road, at a filling station in Berkadzor near the city of Stepanakert, an explosion took place, followed by a terrible fire. The people of Artsakh, mostly men, had come to get gasoline so that they could escape Azerbaijani persecution. As a result of the explosion and fire, at least 220 people died, and there are still at least 50 people missing without a trace as of October 14, according to Artsakh Internal Affairs Ministry Spokesman Hunan Tadevosyan. The burnt remains of 150 people were extricated from the explosion site for identification in Armenian through DNA testing.

During the two days after the explosion, injured survivors were taken to hospitals in Armenia.

TCA determined as part of its assistance program first of all to help those Artsakh citizens treated at the Yerevan National Center for Burns and Dermatology.

Gayane Muradyan, director of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the US and Canada Armenia office, at right, at a recent meeting with Berdzor Armenian refugees

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Gayane Muradyan, the director of the Armenian office of the TCA of the United States and Canada, relates some details about the process: “For four days on end, I went to the hospital, and had meetings at the reception area. I spoke with surviving mothers, sisters, wives, grandfathers or grandmothers, who were taking care of their sick… I took down the necessary information from them so that money could be transferred as donations to the bank accounts of the families. These transfers were made on October 9, 2023.

“The allocated aid was transferred from the bank account of the Armenian representative office of the TCA of the United States and Canada to the bank account of the beneficiary.”

Muradyan noted that some of those who had been severely burned were transferred to France, Germany, and other European countries for specialized treatment. Unfortunately, those with more than 60 percent of their bodies burned died.

Muradyan provided information about the situation of some of the victims. Narek Gabrielyan, 27-years old, was being taken care of by his sister, Egnara, who brought food for her brother every morning, sat next to him all day, fed him and took care of him.

The hands and faces of Levon Sagatelyan, 25-years old, and his brother Vrezh, 24-years old, were burned. Their mother, Marine Karakhanyan, would run to Levon at the burn clinic to feed him, and then to the dermatology hospital to take care of Vrezh.

Mher Arustamyan, 55-years old, was taken care of by his son Gurken, a doctor by profession. The latter did not go to his classes. Instead, dressed in a white coat, he came and stood next to the doctors in this hospital and helped bandage the patients.

Mher Martirosyan, 27-years old, was taken care of by his sister Marine. Yegor Khachatryan (30 years old) was taken care of by his wife Snezhanna. Her husband was in a very serious condition, so she asked me to transfer him abroad and continue his treatment there.

Gayane Muradyan concluded: “I felt a special kinship with all of them and in those days I lived with their worries. I kept asking how the surgery went, how did he spend the night?

The strong and proud citizens of Artsakh inspired endurance and optimism, as they gave glory to God that at least their father, son, or brother survived. Even with burns, which will later become a deep scar, at least he is alive. Many of the caregivers brought their children with them and stayed seated in chairs for several hours, hoping to get some good news from the doctors.”

The TCA assistance programs for Artsakh Armenians continue without a break.

TCA gratefully acknowledges all who have donated so far, including the generous gifts of Canadian Armenians John Kostanian ($20,000) and Paul Ahmaranian ($5,000).

If you want to help our compatriots, please send donations in the USA to the following address: Tekeyan Cultural Association Artsakh Aid, 755 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown MA 02472, or online at; and in Canada, Tekeyan Cultural Association Artsakh Aid, 825 Manougian Str., Ville Saint-Laurent, Quebec H4N 1Z5, Canada or online here.

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