- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 February 28, 2003 

War Wounds: Veteran of famous brigade still fighting for survival

The former hero.A cold and indifferent sun lights Gagik Gasparyan's apartment through a narrow window. The place he made can hardly be called an apartment as it lacks most of the basic needs for living.

Gagik says he's not afraid of the cold; considering things he has seen, he fears little. In 1989 Gagik joined the famous "Arabo" brigade in the village of Khachik and participated in the liberation of Mardakert, Lachin, Shushi and other Karabakh sites of vicious fighting with Azerbaijan.

"The one who used to sleep in the rain of deadly GRAD missiles, will somehow withstand here as well," he says. "Those days none of us could imagine where we had been going to go, when during the hottest minutes of the battle we had no weapons to defend ourselves. It seemed we had been infected with unexplainable fever of patriotism."

He was 23 then and it seemed fate protected him. Now not even fate is his friend.

Gagik was wounded and returned to Armenia in 1993, expecting to find his family, recuperate and return to fight.

"When I had returned home I found myself on the street," he says. "My family - mother and two sisters - had no home and my wife with our son was living in her mother's place. We rented an apartment and began living all together, however, there was no job and we had no money to pay for an apartment and soon we were expecting to find ourselves on the streets again."

As a participant of the war Gagik Gasparyan referred to the Yerkrapah (Defender of the Motherland) Volunteers Union for help, however, he got only an advice from there - to find an abandoned house, break the door and began living there.

"There were many magnificent abandoned houses but I couldn't enjoy something that had been created by other people. I found out that there were emergency houses in Shinararneri district. And residents of those apartments either had been provided with other apartments or had just left for other places."

After he had found that semi-dilapidated building in one of the remote districts of Yerevan he surrendered himself to despair. On the first floor, where nobody lived, there was only one wall standing and the whole apartment that appeared outside was full of rubbish and sewer pipes.

"I couldn't imagine how I would be building an apartment from this rubbish with my wounded leg and spine but I had no other choice," he says.

No place for a family.With financial and physical help of his friends Gagik filled a huge hole under the building with several tons of dirt. He raised a wall, dug a sewerage ditch and set up his meager house.

"My poor mother had been selling lemons in the market from dawn to dusk and she was managing to buy only bread not to become weak," he says. "I wasn't even thinking of getting normal medical treatment."

In addition to leg and spine injuries, vision in one eye is -12 as a result of battle contusions. He only recently had shrapnel removed from his legs and is left with a constant ache to remind him of the bitter years of war.

After solving the problem of making his so-called apartment, another period of misfortune had started in Gagik's life. Those once seen as heroes in "Arabo" became enemies of the State and many of Gagik's comrades in arms and his commander were arrested.

"By chance I heard in transport that such an order was adopted," Gagik says. "I reached my apartment, sold everything I had and escaped to Moscow."

In Russia the pursuit continued and Gagik had to escape to Poland and later to Germany.

"I reached Germany illegally. I was walking for days through forests and swamps. I was passing the borders creeping. Once I even fell into a river in frosty February but God was protecting me again. I reached the place and demanded political asylum from corresponding bodies."

In 1994, after living for two months in Germany, Gagik was deported.

"I didn't know where to go and where to look for my wife and son, in Moscow or in Kharkov? My inner voice told me that they were in Kharkov. I went to the place where my wife's parents were living. There was nobody there. One of my acquaintances told he had seen my mother and sisters. I wandered throughout the whole city and found them. However, I hadn't found my wife and child.

"Later my mother told me how they accidentally found my wife and son sitting near a wall of one of Kharkov's stores. My wife was pregnant and my son was already three year old. Two hours before my visit to Kharkov my mother had sent them to Yerevan so that at least there could be somebody with her during childbirth.

Gagik says he spent his last money to return to Yerevan. But once there, he found his wife unwilling to take him in because of all the family had gone through because of him.

"I couldn't provide them with a normal apartment and there, where I live, they can't live," he says groaning.

Spared through some of the war's bloodiest battles, Gagik Gasparyan has gone from hero to outcast, surviving an enemy's onslaught to be challenged now by faceless attacks.

"I don't know whether I'm divorced or married. I don't know whether I have child or I don't. I don't know whether I live or … I'm only 37 year old."

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