Haykadzor is a small and remote village of Armenia at the border with Turkey. Its life and prosperity has been torn apart for years by its geo-strategic position : its houses and fields are split in the middle by the border guards and buffer zone, with no
more access to the river down below.
It is rather hard for a villager to organize his work in Armenia, especially in this particular village, since it is located on the borderline, very close to Turkey. This is Grandpa Hovsep. He is 61 years old and has lived here, right on the borderline, all his life.
Interview with grandpa Hovsep Margaryan (speaks with local accent).”Come, come and see. This is our land, this is our military border.
All that we have ends here. This is the borderline and there you see Turkey.
See. Alaja Mountain is over there, see, and there you can see the city of Ani.
Have you seen Ani?
Haykadzor was one of the suburbs of Ani, capital of historical Armenia, back in the 5th-6th centuries. Even nowadays Ani is rather close for the people in Haykadzor and meantime is rather far from them. Haykadzorʼs only church has remained on the other side of the barbed wire along the border/ Part of the land belonging to grandpa Hovsep also remained on the other side of the barbed wire.
Russian soldiers patrol the border, and one needs а special permit to cross it.
“Russian soldier keeps saying no way, no way, and thatʼs it”
His life resembles the life of a border guard. Their home has become empty, their children have left the village, and their son has left the country.
Meanwhile Grandpa Hovsep Margaryan and his wife Granny Tsaghik Margaryan have only one opportunity to leave the country- several times in summer they cross the gates of their house with the special permit to cultivate the land on the other side of the border and then return home.
Grandpa: This is my passport, and this is my special permit. Here you see the entrance time, the exit time, dates and hours.
Author: And what if you lose the special permit?
Grandpa: In the event that you lose the permit, they will not let you cross the border anymore. Without this permit they have no right to let us go tend to our lands. This permit is given for a one-year period. There was a time when Haykadzor was a rich village. Only half of its 300 households remain. About 250 people have left the village within the last 5 years. And those who remained in the village feel neglected. However, young farmer Arestak (Ares) Yeghyan still lives here. And he will live here and wonʼt leave the village. His elder brother will also stay in the village; he is the only veterinarian of the village.
“We work here; we can supply ecologically clean meat products to the State”
Аresʼs father, who was the eldest in their family of ten, died recently. He left a message to his sons asking not to leave the village and not to let the house fall into disrepair.
Ares: - Long ago our ancestors built the village right on the bank of the river. At that time the villagers had water and everything they needed. Later, when the borderline was drawn, we were obliged to move to the top of this mountain. Now we have neither water nor anything else.
This river is called Akhuryan. We cannot use it. In case we go down, they will catch us. They hardly let us cross the neutral zone to feed our cattle, though the cattle cannot drink water from Akhuryan River. Our drinking water resources are on the verge of disappearing. The stream is over there.
Aresʼs elder brother Artyom Yeghyan: We produce wool. However, there are no consumers. Neither the people nor the state need it. Everything that we produce remains here. Be it leather or any other products, we cannot sell them. Most of them remain and go to waste.
Nowadays Ares has a large household. They have cows, pigs, sheep, beehives and about a hundred chickens. Ms. Larisa gathers 60-70 eggs in the coop every morning. They bake their own bread and make their own cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt and honey.
As a result of the high migration rates, the only market of the village closed recently, and it is rather difficult to take own production to the city. They harvested a lot of wheat this year, but even the wheat is used for the needs of their own household. Part of the wheat is stored as grain; the rest is used for chickens or made into flour.
Ares:- It would be good if they opened the border. There could be some trade. We would also benefit; Turkey is a quite large market for us.
Artyom: - We have something to learn from them. For example, they are rather good at choosing the right time for harvesting. It happened that we worked 50 meters far from each other on the neutral zone. They work rather well.
Today is the right day to come to Haykadzor. Today the gates of the village will open for those people who have left the village long ago and are now here to visit the church.
It is rather difficult to open the door since the lock is only used several times a year. As people seldom visit the church, they spend most of their time here to clean the church. All these buildings neighbouring the church are what is left of the old village. Time has not yet been able to wipe the traces of the old village entirely.
Interview with grandpa Hovsep Margaryan: All those lands belong to us. Just when the lions fight, the rabbits fall under their feet. We are those rabbits. Letʼs hope that the day comes and historical justice is restored.
Even if we do not see this, let our children witness this.
This is what life looks like on the border. If even the day comes when the border opens, life in the village will improve, because the historical reality will remain the same.