January 15, 1990 is a day that 94-year-old Nora will never forget. It is the day she was forced into exile. For over 29 years, she has been suspended in an in-between place, living in a dormitory, a refugee from Azerbaijan.
Starting on January 12, 1990, a week-long pogrom against Armenians broke out in Baku, Soviet Azerbaijan. Armenian civilians were beaten, burned alive, tortured, murdered and eventually expelled from the city. There were verified reports that the attacks were not spontaneous as those responsible had lists of Armenian residents. At the time, approximately 200,000 Armenians were living in Baku. It is estimated that approximately 90 Armenians were killed.
The massive exile of Armenians from Baku and her own personal horror has left the elderly woman paranoid. She no longer wants to show her face to the world.
When Azerbaijanis stormed into her home and began beating her, Nora says she ran in one direction and her daughter Nina ran in another. She found Nina 12 hours later. “My brother’s wife was killed,” Nina recalls. “We stayed at the airport for four days and then they brought us here. We were supposed to go to Moscow a few days later, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t have the heart to leave.” She says that they should have gone like others did, instead they stayed and for three years forgot “the taste of meat.” She suffered along with the nation, but this time in her homeland.
Nora is also a veteran of the Second World War. She was an artillery officer with the Soviet Army and along with Soviet troops, she ended up in Berlin. For her service, she was given a medal by Josef Stalin and 11 commendations by other generals. She was injured and hospitalized twice during the Great War. The scars on her forehead are from shrapnel.
Nora becomes pensive. She remembers that when the Azerbaijanis were beating her, she managed to grab some of her medals that had been thrown to the floor, the others were on her uniform. “If I didn’t grab my medals, I would not be entitled to a veteran’s pension here,” she says.
Today, Nora lives with her daughter Nina at the Artsakh dormitory. Despite the horrors that she has had to bear, and while she continues to live in horrible conditions, she somehow has not lost hope.
A newspaper article that also features a poem written by Nina. The caption under the photo reads, “Nina Oganesian in her graceful young days. She gave us this picture and asked us to print it with the poem.”