Bittersweet Symphony

AYF Youth Corps volunteers watch over campers in Baghanis, Armenia


BY ALEENA SIVAZLIAN

In the early hours of the day, you hear the sounds of the crowing rooster. In the distance, the firing shots.

In the early hours of the day, you hear the sounds of the mooing cows. In the distance, the firing shots.

In the early hours of the day, you hear the sounds of the old creaking wood floors. In the distance, the firing shots.

In the early hours of the day, you hear the sounds of the ticking clock as time stands still. In the distance, the firing shots.

This is the bittersweet symphony of the village of Baghanis.

Baghanis is found in the northeastern Tavush region of Armenia bordering Azerbaijan. The village is small, the population number is low, the stores are scarce and there are no restaurants in sight.

One may wonder why anyone would voluntarily visit such a place. Every time I spoke about our jampar in Baghanis, I received two different responses. The first was people not knowing anything about its existence. The second was concern as to why 25 young Armenian diasporans from the United States would want to visit such a remote and, at times dangerous village so near the border of Azerbaijan. My response was always the same, we were going to bring happiness to the children of the village.

Upon reaching Baghanis I began realizing the validity of the responses I had received. The life of Baghanis was very simple, the food was gathered daily from cows, pigs, and chickens who roam the fields of the stone buildings. Water was boiled by wood fire, if it were even available. And at least once a day, from a distance, we heard the sounds of Azeri shots being fired.

The scenery of Baghanis was unlike any other. We spent many hours each day in the school field playing soccer, a favorite pastime of the campers. And each day my co-counselors and I took a moment to appreciate all the nature of our homeland, the green of the mountains, the clear blue sky, the shining golden sun and the bright smiling faces of over 100 local children that attended our jampar – the true beauty of Baghanis.

Even in such poor conditions, the children were always full of joy, hope and happiness, something I had thought we would be bringing them. Instead they brought it to us – the mere joy, hope and happiness in befriending the future generation of our resilient people.

Although we were merely one mile from the border, we were never in danger of the enemy. The only real danger we ever encountered was falling deeply in love with the children and knowing that only after five short days we would depart, and sadly never see them again. The danger was in our devastation and heartbreak.

This is the bittersweet symphony of the village of Baghanis.

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