You are on my mind Shusha!

What are my memories of Shusha?

Some of my memories about the last days in Shusha is about how dangerous it was to stay in the city. Almost every day there was shooting and attacks, unexpected missiles and artillery shelling. I remember my father warning us almost every moment to be careful and stay indoors, not to go outside especially in the afternoon. We would spend most of the time in the basement sitting against the wall, because in case of a missile attack at least these walls could probably save us. And then one day, when we woke up, I heard my father saying to my mother that the day before a missile hit our relatives house which was almost next to us, down the street. But, I have to say, after a while we didn’t feel scared any more, just because it was happening so often.

At some point, my father decided to take us out of the city. First, we moved to our relatives house in Barda, which is in the unoccupied part of Karabakh, and then to Baku. But, Dad, still went back to Shusha couple of times. It was hard for him to believe in what was happening. Actually, he told us we would be going to stay in Baku for a couple of weeks and then go back home. But, unfortunately, 20 years later we are still waiting!

I started school in Shusha, when I was seven years old at the time. My first day at school was very exciting for me. Despite the war, we were happy in our city. Every time I would forget something in the class when my parents came to pick me up. And when they didn’t see me at the door, they would get worried as all parents do. Me and my friends would play football (soccer) in the gym. When we were at school, our instructors would also tell us – in case of a missile attack to stay close to the wall in the class and not to go outside until our parents would come. I didn’t even finish learning the alphabet there. We learned till the letter “Y” and then we had to move, and become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

What does this day – the Day of occupation of Shusha mean to me?

Really sad and upsetting, for my entire family. This is obviously a very bad day for all of us. But we always believed, and continue to believe, that we would be going back soon. That’s how my parents used to calm me down. In Shusha, we lived in a very big single house with a large orchard – most kinds of fruit grew there. It was unusual for me as a child and really upsetting to have to move from that place to a different environment, leave behind the town where you came to this world, where you made your first steps, where you started school for the first time. Lots of memories, lots of important family moments are left there. I don’t really know how to explain it in words. It is hard. I think, until a person experiences it, it’s hard to explain what it was like. And I hope, no one has to go through that.

What do I tell my American friends about Shusha?

I talk about this special flower named “XARI BUL BUL” that according to local traditions is believe to not grow anywhere in the world but in Shusha. Interesting thing about that flower is that if you take it outside of its natural environment to some other place, and it would not grow – or at least won’t look as stunning.

I make a comparison with Washington, DC and Virginia. In DC you have buildings, universities, shopping centers. But when you get outside of DC area you have nature, places to camp, relax and walk around. Shusha was like that. The city of Shusha was very cultural, had busy downtown area with historical buildings, markets. But when you drove outside for a little, all this natural beauty would open up for you. Especially famous water springs like “Tursh Su”, “Isa Bulagi”, “Cidir Duzu”, and “Dash Alti” which were always packed with tourists. And I talk about the weather, how it was stable for the most part of the year – sometimes rainy, sometimes sunny, but weather was really stable. My father often compares Shusha to Davos in Switzerland because of its nature and culture. I tell my American friends that Shusha was a famous resort in Soviet Union. People would come from many countries in the area to get treated for cardio-vascular diseases, for stomach illnesses. I talk about Shusha being a “musical conservatory” of the Caucasus region since so many known musicians, both classical and traditional mugham, were born there. Music was everywhere in Shusha.

Do I believe I will see Shusha again?

Of course I believe and I know we will go back again. My country and my government is working on it. We are doing what we can to get our lands back peacefully. No one wants war.

Every soldier is someone’s son, someone’s father and if the war breaks out, it doesn’t matter which side looses – it is a human life. And we would not want anyone to go through the same pain my country is going through for the past 20 years. Even today, the military conflict is not over. A lot of families are waiting for their loved ones to return from the front line, because despite the cease-fire, there are almost weekly losses.

We want peace. I don’t believe that people in Armenia want war either. I would go back and live together with Armenians in Karabakh, but with civil, tolerant people who don’t promote racism. Not those who murdered, raped and destroyed my home, who support hostilities.

I talk on-line with some of my fellow guys from Shusha and other regions of Karabakh who have been displaced from their homes. Most of them say we still don’t fully understand how it has happened. We don’t have problems living like neighbors. But the politics of occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia must stop! Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis who at the moment are displaced in less-than-wonderful conditions have a right to return home. I do hope we are going to resolve this problem peacefully. War should be the last resort. But, one way or the other, we will go back. Because I want my motherland back, I want my son to grow up where my family belongs. I am waiting for the day when I can kneel down and kiss my land once again.

And I am ready to do anything for that. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I do, if there comes a day when my government says we have to get Shusha back, I am just going to drop everything and run as fast as I can to be there and help restore justice and fairness.

Post Written by Panah Ibrahimov, Karabakh Foundation Cultural Ambassador and Student in the USA