This year, we – the participants of the 10Pan-Homentmen Jamboree from London – had the privilege of an added 3-day trip in Artsakh before the camp began in Byurakan.
We arrived in Stepanakert on 27 August and headed straight to Park Hotel, which was to be our home for the next three days. The first evening was very relaxed, taking into account that most of us had been travelling for longer than 24 hours. Following a rich dinner featuring dishes from the local region, we headed out to explore the city. As we neared the city-centre I was instantly struck by the almost Western feel of the place, whilst I remembered that this country was still recovering from the effects of the Independence War in 1988.
The first day in Artsakh for me was a real eye-opener. We began with a visit to Stepanakert’s central barracks. Walking around it was hard not to notice the sense of pride and readiness the soldiers had, and it was easy to forget that some of the men were as young as 18. Whether it was appreciating the work the men do to protect the Republic, or to simply learn about what life was like for them, I think all of us gained something from the visit. That day we also visited the national museum, Nikol Douman’s House/Museum and Gandzasar.
The final day in Artsakh was both informative and emotional. We began with a visit to the Parliament, where we listened to the Speaker of the House, Ashot Ghulyan, talk to us about the present situation in Artsakh. He spoke about current affairs and also of the imminent possibility of a peaceful Artsakh. It was encouraging to hear Mr Ghulyan speak about plans to develop relations with the Western-world, and the talk itself taught me a great deal. Our next visit was to the neighbouring town of Shoushi, where we visited the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral as well as the Shoushi mountains. The architecture of the Cathedral was incredible, from the intricate stone carving on the exterior walls to the delicately designed stain glass windows inside and it’s somewhere I would definitely like to visit again.
Undoubtedly, my favourite part of the trip was the visit to the Shoushi mountains. After a short picnic, we were given a lecture on the liberation of Shoushi in 1992 by Lernig Hovhanesyan. The lecture itself was educative and the setting around us was almost surreal and something which I will never forget. It allowed me to appreciate the sheer beauty of this mountainous republic and the extremes to which the people went to in the years of the war to ensure that it remained our own.
Our penultimate visit of the day was to the Mamik and Papik monument, after which we went to the Sossé nursery in Stepanakert. This visit made a great impact on me. Despite the difficulties the children at the nursery faced, they all ran around with a fulfilled smile on their face and an appreciation of what they had. This made me realise how much we take for granted, and how unappreciative we are of everything we have in our lives. This incredible trip ended with a party back at our hotel after which we all reluctantly prepared to leave the next morning.
I think it’s fair to say that each and every one of us not only took a great deal from this three-day adventure, but also extremely enjoyed it, clearly evident from the tears as we bid farewell to the staff at the hotel. To say I found the trip amazing would be an understatement; I learnt a great deal from listening to others and had the opportunity to experience new people and places I would otherwise had never had the chance to do so. I am infinitely grateful to Homenetmen London for giving me and 39 other young individuals the opportunity to experience the delights of this beautiful country.
— Noemi Stepan-Sarkissian