A week ago, the people of Armenia and Artsakh woke up to the news of war. Sunday, September 27. The air in the capital felt heavy. It was embraced by a thick coating of silence. In a matter of a few hours, the morning silence was interrupted by the voices of volunteers who gathered around Republic Square willing to be sent to Artsakh to join the young soldiers on the Line of Contact.
A week ago, the people of Armenia and Artsakh woke up to the news of war. Sunday, September 27. The air in the capital felt heavy. It was embraced by a thick coating of silence. In a matter of a few hours, the morning silence was interrupted by the voices of volunteers who gathered at Republic Square eager to be sent to Artsakh to join the young soldiers on the Line of Contact.
“They drafted our Pash.”
“I went and got registered [as a volunteer]. I’m waiting for their call.”
“Mom, please calm down. Where are they sending dad?”
“He’s been badly wounded.”
“I haven’t had news from him for three days now.”
Taking a quick stroll, one will lose count of the cardboard boxes that have taken over the city. They are ubiquitous: on the sidewalks, under trees, in front of barber shops, universities, schools, in the hidden backyards of the suburban districts. For a week, volunteers have been collecting food, medicine and other necessary supplies to be sent to the servicemen on the frontlines as well as the families in Yerevan who had to leave their homes in Stepanakert as a result of shelling.
The United Student Council is one of the largest self-organized groups of volunteers. Settled in Scancelli Gallerie on Abovyan 1/1, the volunteers start their working day at noon collecting and sorting various supplies till late at night. “Last night we sent two trucks and two cars of clothes to the people who came from Artsakh,” says Tatev Margaryan. “We collect everything, literally everything; food, clothes, hygiene products, pillows, duvets, anything that might be needed.
This is not the first time they've come up with such an initiative. “Whenever there’s an emergency situation, we quickly mobilize and provide assistance. We’ve helped during Tavush [escalation], after the Lebanon blast,” says Tatev. They reach out to people for donations via social media platforms. “The Internet is our friend,” she notes, “My phone doesn’t stop beeping for a second.” Tatev happily says that there are lots of volunteers who aren’t even members of the Council but have heard about them and decided to help out.
Despite the frantic situation, they make sure to keep safety measures considering the present threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wear masks, always make sure to use gloves and sanitize our hands. We also disinfect everything we put in the boxes, except for the clothes.”
For many people residing in Yerevan, the working day ends by visiting Matenadaran, donating food and other supplies. Hundreds of volunteers, mostly young people from all districs of Yerevan, have been working here from morning to late nights collecting and sorting the supplies. "How can I help you?" they kindly ask to each car approaching to the collection station. The mood present in the Matenadaran courtyard might as well remind of the days of the Velvet Revolution in 2018. The youth have smiles on their faces and move vigorously carrying boxes larger than themselves. "We're going to win," says 16-year-old David. "Coming here, meeting new people and working with my peers brings positivity to me," he notes, adding that similiar initiatives are being organized in his neighborhood of Malatia Sebastia district as well.