I was born on October 28, 1978 in the city of Baku. My family
had two apartments – one in “the 8th kilometer” district, the second one in
Razino – Kirov str. 7, apt. 48. I still remember the postal code (370040) and
the telephone number -25-10-75. We had a multinational neighborhood, with Azeris,
Armenians (nearly all of them managed to escape on time), Germans, Russian,
Jews, Lezghins, etc living around. In a word, it was a multinational city.
Before the Sumgait events I didn’t know what nationality I belonged to. The
nationality did not matter then. Nothing portended these events; my family
believed in the Party up to the last minute. I’m not going to speak about the
prerequisites; they are well known.
Everything started for my family on December 1, 1989 when my father got fired
due to his being Armenian. He left for Russia searching for a job with family
hostel for us. Unfortunately, he didn’t find anything and came back the same
On Saturday, January 13, 1990 I was at school. We had then classes on Saturdays.
Life went on normally. That day my Azeri classmate (I don’t remember his name)
told me that the next day (January 14) the war between the Armenian and Azeris
would break out. I didn’t understand what he meant; several hours later I realized
About 10 PM, January 13, 1990 (A Georgian movie “Donki Khod” was being broadcast
on TV at that moment). Some strangers knocked at our door saying they wanted
to buy our apartment. We explained that the house was not for sale. They kept
demanding that we open the door. We did not. And then everything began; they
started breaking our door. As ill luck would have it, we had a brazier in the
corridor, and they used it. Fortunately, our door was armored. They had cut
the telephone cable beforehand. Somehow, shouting, we called the police. None
of our neighbors interfered. I don’t remember what the police told us then,
they just came, spent there some time and left. After they left my father took
my sister and me across the balcony to our Russian neighbors with the help
of an ironing board. Since then I vaguely remember what was going on. My parents
told me they tried to break our door twice, and twice the police were arriving.
My father moved the coach up to the door - our door was opening inside. The
Azeris said, “You’ll see tomorrow what we’ll do to you”. At night an Azeri
neighbor of ours came to our apartment (to my parents) with a knife, sort of
to protect us. (He didn’t bear ill will to anybody, he was a 35-year-old hashish-addict,
had spent some time in prison). My parents deposited with him some valuable
books and some other things. I don’t know what happened next, but my father
came to us on January 14 morning, we left the house quickly and went to the
road. The only thing I noticed was our broken window. The cab was waiting for
us. We were going to the center of Baku, where my mother’s friend, a Jewish
woman was living. As far as I understood the cab had come to our house twice.
The first time it took out Grandmother with our living essentials, and then
us. The taxi-driver was a Lezghin, and treated us normally. He also took offence
at the Azeris.
January 14 we spent at my mother’s Jewish friend. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon
everything started, mass pogroms of Armenians began. My mother’s friend was
in the city, she told that Armenians were being killed in the streets. We sat
very silently so that the neighbors didn’t inform against us. The horror began
On January 15 we went to the station to leave the city. There were no trains.
Our family consisted of five people. I don’t remember how we got to the station;
we had a few packs with the necessities. My father and I were carrying our
bags from a nearby square to the station. We couldn’t “flock”, that could arouse
suspicions. My mother and sister stayed at the station, my father and I went
to find my Grandmother, but failed to. My mother told my father to stay with
my sister, and I went to search for my grandmother with my mother. Male Armenians
were being killed. We couldn’t find my grandmother. (Later we learned that
Azeris had taken her to “Shafag” cinema where Armenians were being driven together.
They took away all valuable things that Granny had with, even pulled out her
teeth with golden crowns, and then took her to the ferry berth). Upon arriving
at the station we didn’t find my father and sister. The police told us they
were catching Armenians and taking them to the ferry berth. They took us to
the station square; a bus was waiting there (a village-type “Gaz” bus). Azeri
builders and Russian soldiers were setting us in the bus. I remember them curtaining
the windows. I saw horrible scene on the way.
Beaten Armenians were being taken out on lorries from the yards, and Azeris
were standing around and shouting things. We didn’t find either my grandmother
or father and sister on the ferry berth. Mom decided they could have returned
to her Jewish friend. We got somehow to her place; they were not there. (Later
we learned that they were at the same Armenian-collector cinema, grandmother
was taken to Krasnovodsk on the ferry on January 15, and my father and sister
– on January 16). My mother called to her Azeri deputy director (she worked
at a musical school) to ask for some money. We had only two kopecks around.
We met on January 16. I remember Azeris checking documents of all men. The
deputy director gave us some money and took us to another place Armenians were
being taken to. (Afterwards we learned that Azeris killed him). I guess that
was an officer house, there were Russian military and a gun. Later a bus took
us to the ferry berth. It was horrible – beaten Armenians, mainly children,
elderly and women. Male Armenians were being killed. The last thing I saw in
Baku was the Government House and the monument to 26 Baku commissioners. We
were kept inside the bus for a few hours, and then taken to the berth. It was
the first time I saw soldiers in black uniform with shields; that was amazing
to me. The evening was cold, we were kept at the berth till morning, a cool
wind was blowing. I remember in the evening Azeris brought a wagon with bread.
They gave everybody buns and water. Early in the morning the ferry arrived.
The soldiers circled the berth. People were striving to get on the ferry; Azeris
were shouting something. I was standing facing a soldier’s shield. Then they
let us on the ferry. We were lucky to get to the saloon; some people were in
the engine-room. They told us Azeris drowned the first ferry - fortunately
it was empty. Azeris wanted to drown the ferry my father and sister were in,
but a plane or a helicopter from Krasnovodsk drowned the Azeri boat. I remember
we went out to the deck; I was scared. A storm broke out, or maybe that just
seemed to me - that was the fist time I appeared in the open sea. There was
volleyball net on the ferry. I don’t remember how long we sailed.
It seems to me we arrived in Krasnovodsk on January 18 morning. They took us
to a house; a crowd was standing there. They gave us a “Refugee leaflet”; I
keep it up to now. I can’t figure out when they managed to print them. Then
Turkmen gave us some rice to eat and then separated us. Those wishing to get
to Moscow were leaving by train, and those who wished to leave for Yerevan
were taken to the airport. I fell asleep as soon as I appeared in the plane,
and then woke up at the landing.
This is the story of my life. We were fortunate to find each other. My father
was waiting for us at “Zvartnots” airport; we had buns and tea there. We all
stayed with our relatives. Thus I became a refugee. Naturally, I don’t remember
all the details; maybe I’m lucky to. It’s a pity few people talk about these