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George Mnatsakanyan, 72 years old

This quiet and peaceful man is a refugee from Baku, born in a family of workers. He was 16 when his family moved to Baku, Azerbaijan in search for better job opportunities and improved life. Baku at the time was an international city and being an Armenian was not an issue: they lived hand in hand with Russians, Azeris, Georgians, and Greeks. George was smart, capable that that enabled him to be a great help to the family. It was a modest family with hopes and dreams about the future. George became a good carpenter and that paved his way for security and hope for a better future.

He was 28 when he married and lived a happy life with his family: a wife and three kids. When the Soviet Union collapsed, many things changed, political leaders of the time took advantage of that, while using people for their own career and promotion. Azeris started killings Armenians in a small city of Sumgait, only 18 km away from the capital city of Baku; a few dozen were killed in a few days just for being Armenians. The TV and radio were silent about the ethnic cleansing. As these events unfolded unnoticed, a new wave of tortures and killings started in Baku. Political impunity promoted even more cruel events.

George’s older brother got killed in their house, right in front of their eyes. Shortly after that his brother’s wife had heart attack and passed away: the pain was too deep and the memories too fresh to bear. Fortunately, George’s second son was serving in the army at the time and his daughter was married: that was how they survived. As to George, he survived by pure luck: his neighbor, a Russian, helped him run away. He escaped overnight leaving everything behind: everything that was earned in many years of hard work.

When I asked George if he liked it here, his eyes became alive: “Of course, it’s good, it’s good to be home, it’s good to be in Armenia.” He is in the Nursing home several years now, has no contact with his children: both live and work in Russia. That I’m sure is bothering George, and he carries that pain with him all the time. But there is a lot to reflect on: how the political turmoil affected his family and his life; where he was 15 years ago and where he is now…amazingly sad. People sometimes can be such helpless creatures.

But George feels he is home and that gives him a sense of security.





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