On July 23, Hamazkayin Forum participants opened their eyes in Stepanagerd’s Parc Hotel, a beautifully designed cozy building that one can’t help but fall in love with. To say Artsakh is beautiful is an understatement; an endless train of majestic mountains accompanied the group to Asgeran, where the bus stopped at the gates of the largest military training base.
Within less than ten seconds the gates were opened and what followed was an impressive entrance, toward the Monument that was erected in memory and honour of the fallen soldiers, who gave their lives during the Artsakh war; three walls including a thousand small pieces of stone, on each side of the wall where a sword with the infinity sign in the middle was hanging. While the group waited in the shade, the military representative accompanying them, ‘kntabed Mouradian.’, arranged for a tour of the base. ‘Pokh kntabed’ Kamalian guided everyone first toward the Flag of the army base, provided information about the base itself, then they proceeded toward the training area, where it all started to sink in… The feeling of pride, love and brotherhood was common among each and every participant. Following a group photo, which was the only photo opportunity the team was provided with for obvious reasons, participants proceeded toward the area where new recruits were lined up and a small military band played a couple of tunes. Forum participants handed out boxes and bags of cookies and sweets and then proceeded into a building where behind iron gates, each room housed military equipment and gear. The group also got to tour the sleeping hall of the soldiers and explanations were provided about the protocols and some rituals.
Following a prayer in the tiny chapel and the Artsakh anthem which the band played, it was time to depart. On the way back to the hotel, the famous Dadig and Babig monument greeted participants, atop of a beautiful hill. Following what seemed to be an endless array of photos, the group proceeded back the hotel. A delicious lunch followed and then, it was time for the visit to Artsakh parliament. The group sat in the hall, while a holistic walkthrough of the history and current day Artsakh was provided; during the session, a couple of the participants, Talar Baghdasarian and Aram Bartevian shared their thoughts and feelings about Artsakh, with Artsakh TV, then the group proceeded toward Shoushi’s famous St. Ghazanchetsots church, where the local priest told them about the area, the church and the struggles and hardship Shoushi endured during the Artsakh war…
Dinner at the hotel was followed by a stroll in the gorgeous main section of the town of Stepanagerd, the ‘hrabarag’ and then, it was time for the general information contest. The contest was held in the dining room of the Hotel, where the group was divided into six. Each group was asked to pick a name; the end result were the following: Ara P, Groung, Shoushi, Monte, Pegor, Tushman. Questions in Armenian and English were projected onto the wall and were a wide mix of questions the group was provided with, and new questions that covered the presentations and areas visited during the Forum program thus far. A fun and enjoyable experience that resulted in Ara P coming out on top.
The evening continued on the outside patio under the stars, where guitar, shvi on one hand, games and laughter on the other, Forum participants wrapped up another emotional and educational day that will no doubt stay with them forever. As Forum participant Ardag, a native of the Mardouni Artsakh put it, we ought to be proud; after all, Artsakh was earned back with bloodshed…May the souls of our Artsakh heroes rest in peace.