Family fleeing from bombs: We need food and medicine
By Svend Løbner, journalist and Kim Hartzner, founder 11 Nov 2020 |

Family fleeing from bombs: We need food and medicine

Ashrin, Albert and their two children had to flee Karabakh when Azerbaijani planes bombed their home and a church where their children were hiding. Now they are safe but they have lost everything.

Ashrin and her family were uprooted when Azerbaijan broke a 1994 ceasefire and launched a massive bombing raid on Karabakh on September 27, 2020. The bombs from planes and drones hit several cities and military installations.

Ashrin, 27, had to flee Karabakh with her 41-year-old husband Albert and the couple's two children after their apartment was hit directly by an Azerbaijani bomb while the whole family hid in a shelter under their apartment complex.

We meet her in the Armenian capital Yerevan, where the family is now temporarily housed in a small bedroom and a run-down kitchen.

Ashrin is pale and nervous as she tells her story. Her husband Albert is too shy and full of despair to say a single word in the hour and a half we spend together.

A bomb hit the church where the children were hiding

After 11 days of war, the family still lived in their fifth-floor apartment in Karabakh's traditional capital, Shushi. But this particular day - October 8th - became fateful for the little family:

- We had nothing to eat, so we went to a store to buy food, after hiding our children in the cathedral across the street. My 16-year-old sister looked after the kids and we thought they would be safe there. So, we went to a nearby store to shop.

- But then we heard a loud siren and got scared. The police came and said it was an air raid and that we had to stay inside the store. But we told them we couldn’t. We had to get our children as we were afraid that they would die.

- We left the store and saw to our horror that a bomb had hit the cathedral and left a large hole in the roof. When we entered the church, which was filled with dust and smoke, we could only faintly see a 74-year-old man who had laid down and covered our children to protect them from all the rubble that fell down. The old man saved their lives and they were not injured. Our 5-year-old boy Artur was in shock and could not speak until his father took him in his arms.

- When we came out again, we heard the sound of a drone and were afraid of being hit again. The same moment, the church was hit again, and we hurried back to the church room, where we found three Russian journalists - two lightly wounded and one badly wounded. We called for an ambulance, but they said they had no more cars. So, we got my uncle to drive the badly injured journalist to the hospital.

The family apartment bombed to pieces

After that, Ashrin, Albert and their two children did not dare to return to their apartment and therefore stayed in the shelter under the apartment complex for several weeks.

But then something happened that made the whole building shake:

- On October 31 at 08.30 in the morning, our apartment on the fifth floor was hit directly by an Azerbaijani bomber, and we lost everything in a second. Realizing that a bomb had hit our apartment directly, I felt personally hit: Why should it be us, why were we being targeted?

A priest from the church told that the Azerbaijani was now only a few kilometers away that the family had to flee the city immediately. And a journalist from Yerevan was shocked to see that the family with the two children were still staying in the city.

- The journalist, Jirair, said his heart was broken when he heard the story of our children. He left us his phone number and told us he would do anything to help us. Then the church organized a car for us and another family that drove us to the bus station in Yerevan.

- We thought there would be someone there to pick us up, but no one was waiting for us. Then a lady came and said she would help us and take us home to her in a village outside Yerevan. I had a very strong headache so she gave me some pills.

Great need of money for food and medicine

Jirair, the journalist, now called to hear how the family had fared, and offered to send toys to the children.

- I asked him to forget the toys and just collect some money so we could survive, says Ashrin.

The next morning, he got someone to pick up the family and led them to a house in Yerevan, where the landlord lets them live in the small bedroom and kitchen.

- Now we've been here for a week. We have nothing left. We've lost everything. We have no money. Our biggest need is cash so I can buy medicine for my high blood pressure and then we need money for food. Sometimes people come by and help us.

Just before the interview is over, the 5-year-old boy Artur says:

- What I really want is money so I can buy a gift for Jirair, the man who saved us!