Sunday, 18 August

The Bardakjians from Aleppo: “It was raining bombs”

“Every time a gas tank blows, we think it’s as a bomb. The situation? It’s really bad there,” says Arpi, who then remains silent.

Even though Arpi and her family arrived from Aleppo five days ago, they still live in fear. Any loud noise is perceived as a bomb, a threat.

Arpi Bardakjian and Hovhannes Maranian say they took their two kids and left their home to come to the fatherland. It’s their first time in Armenia. They prefer to talk about Yerevan than Aleppo.

They find it hard to talk about the war raging in Syria.

As we talk, their two kids Yeghia and Araz are playing nearby. Arpi says the kids have seen their share of the results of war back in Syria. On the day they left for the airport, says Arpi, the children saw corpses and blood on the road and in cars. The mother describes all this calmly. But then, her eyes turn red.

Arpi says her boy Yeghia was constantly crying after witnessing such a scene. In fact, the children never left their house in the Aleppo neighborhood of Nor Kyugh for months out of fear.

Starting last year, the children would go to school with battles raging around them. They’d attend class for two days and then spend the next two weeks at home. The shelling would get so intense that going outside was out of the question.

Arpi tells me that there hasn’t been water or electricity in Aleppo for two months. They had to purchase water for drinking and household use.

Only two families were left in their building. During the shelling, they would take cover in a room on the ground floor where it was relatively safe. The couple say that oftentimes they were caught off guard and couldn’t make it downstairs.

They recollect that for days on end the bombs came down like rain. There was no let up. Their doors and windows were blown out.

“It’s war, a bad situation. They all want to come to Armenia but don’t have the money,” says Mr. Maranian, adding that they made it to Armenia with the help of a family friend.

Today, they rent an apartment in the outlying Davtashen district of Yerevan.

It will take a while for the couple to find their footing before looking for work. Hovhannes used to sell grocery items in Aleppo. Before that he made stoves.

The children are already going to school. Yeghia is in the sixth grade and Araz the first. During our talk, Araz was running around with a toy gun in hand. Arpi said that back in Aleppo, Araz saw loads of people carrying guns. She saw it as a normal occurrence.

Hovhannes tells me that the family has no plans to return to Aleppo. They don’t know if the city and the country will ever see peace again. He plans to bring his parents to Armenia as well.

“It’s sad that we left our homes. We are happy here. If we can find work, even better,” he says.

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