The time that hero of Artsakh Robert Abajyan shaped

“I have already removed the ring of the last grenade and am ready to bomb them and myself as soon as they approach. We shed blood to maintain this military position, whoever submits it, I will…” These words and the immeasurable endeavor that followed became the start of the new and eternal life of 19-year-old soldier of the Armenian Army Robert Abajyan.

It was a life that began in one of the houses in the district referred to as Monument (as the people say) in Yerevan where time stopped on 2 April 2016. The people in that house are living in the time of hero of Artsakh Robert Abajyan, and every Armenian feels the pulses of sorrow and pride.

The house is still the same — the same street, the same yard, the same address. The only thing missing is Robert with his liveliness, laughter and presence. Now he is a hero, a hero of Artsakh, a legend and history and “lives” so that we can continue to live.

“He was born and grew up in this house. He went to school, the institute and the army and…now he is no longer with us. He had to be the first in everything. He had to stand out with his actions. That was the way he was. There was no other way. All the memories of him are good memories. The only sad thing is that he is no longer with us,” Robert’s grandmother, Anahit Gevorgyan, who is a Russian language and literature teacher, says as she tries to hold back her tears.

Her husband, Gevorg Abajyan “helps” his wife by saying the following: “He had an amazing personality. He had to do everything with humor. He was born like that. I always say that his last act was due to his temperament. He didn’t want to leave his friends alone. He wanted to complete his task and stay at the military position. He even “stood out” at the last minute. He used to have a big circle of friends. Many knew him, but now, everyone knows him.”

“If he wasn’t like that, he wouldn’t wait and fight until 7 in the morning. He stayed alone during the last two hours. Even when he was wounded, he managed to help his wounded friend, Andranik Zohrabyan from the nearby trench so that he could be near him and so that Andranik wasn’t held in captivity, if there was help from the rear. He not only fought, kept in touch with commanders and transmitted information, but also thought about his wounded friend who, however, lost a lot of blood. He was always like that. He would never leave his friend alone. He would come to school and tell his grandmother that he had a problem and had to go. I would let him go because I knew that he was going to go anyway and we would know where he is going. I would call home and tell his mother, Anna to be careful and let her know that Robert had gone to the particular place. My daughter-in-law would tell me I am letting him go and then telling her to be careful,” the grandmother said, making it seem like she wanted to forget the sorrow that Robert felt at the last minute.

“Andranik’s father says Robert is a hero for him just because he didn’t let his son become the enemy’s captive. He says if only Robert was living and could say what his son’s last words were. The Azerbaijanis tried to take Robert and Andranik as captives when they were dead, but they left them on the road halfway. This is why only on 8 April were their bodies transferred to the Armenian party with the help of the Red Cross…” the grandfather says and goes to the window to light another cigarette. The grandmother continues: “When we heard that Armenak Urfanyan had bombed himself with a grenade during the first days of the war, I would ask myself how that nice, 24-year-old boy could do such a thing. Little did I know that that boy was my Robert, now that I think about it. We had no news about Robert, but hoped that he was living.”

Robert’s relatives knew about his death right after Robert had died, but they didn’t tell his parents and grandparents anything. They only told them after finding the body.

“We only found out on 8 April. People came, brought the Armenian national flag and medal…A sad, sad life. On 1 April, he had called his father to congratulate him on his birthday. He was very attached to his father. His father meant the world to him. He wanted to be like his father — strong and a person who would go out of his way to help people. Robert would say that he was going to burn like his father. My son received a burn when he was little and had deep burns. He had even told the children at kindergarten about it. The nanny told his mother to be careful and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. He would help everyone and go out of his way to help people when he was a kid. There were many times when he wouldn’t wait for people to ask him for help and would offer it himself,” the grandmother says.

“He was on the run the whole day with the phone to his ear. I would call and ask where he was, and he would tell me he had errands and would come soon. He was constantly in a hurry. It was as if there was never enough time for him. He was interested in everything and even had to deal with things that didn’t concern him. Whoever needed a phone number, they could ask Robert. There are endless stories about him. We know something new about him every day. We are amazed at how a 19-year-old managed to do so many things and left such a big trace,” the grandfather remembers.

At that moment, a blue-eyed child enters the room and tries to disperse the heavy sadness in the room with his brilliant presence. “It is a good thing God granted us a new grandson two years ago. During those difficult days, he kept us occupied; otherwise, we might have gone crazy. The child is Robert’s nephew and we have named him Gevorg after Robert’s grandfather. He looks so much like Robert that we often feel that he is little Robert — fearless and mischievous. The child is not scared of anything. He will even go out to the yard in the dark,” the grandmother says, hugging her grandson and adding that Robert loved kids.

“My son has a friend whose wife died at a young age. The little son took his mother’s death hard and stopped talking. When Robert found out, he said he would take care of everything in a couple of days. After interacting with Robert for a couple of days, the little boy was back on track. The father told my son that he had done what he and the rest couldn’t do,” Robert’s grandfather recalls, and the family friend named Artak, who had also joined the conversation, went on to say the following: “My 5-year-old son was very attached to Robert. Robert would always call from the army and talk to him. Although he doesn’t understand what has happened, he often tells me that he misses Robert and asks to go to his house. We are amazed at how he is able to find and look at Robert’s photos on the computer. I have their photos and videos saved in my mobile phone, and he knows where they were and what they did by heart. Robert was also like a real brother for me. He loved walnut jam. During his last vacation, he came to our house, and we opened a jar of walnut jam. He ate it and told us to keep it for next time. That jar is still in our refrigerator.”

Whereas all of Robert Abajyan’s child acquaintances knew him in the past, now everyone knows him. They not only know him, but also consider him their hero. “One day, Robert’s brother, Ruben said the following: ��?Grandma, you know, little children often see me and whisper to each other that I am Robert Abajyan’s brother’. Recently, Ruben’s friend’s sister had a son and named him Robert,” the grandmother says.

Almost all of Robert’s female acquaintances also loved Robert, but he… “I have trouble saying if he ever loved any girl, but he would always fall in love. In the 9th grade, one of his female classmates was from Russia. He liked her, and they would walk hand-to-hand. That was short-lived. He was always in the center of attention. One day, he brought home pastry and told his grandmother it was tasty and that the girls in his class had made it. He would also say that all the girls at the institute were in love with him. He knew how to speak well and attract the girls. He was talkative and would smile a lot. How could one not go crazy for him?” the grandmother said with pride.

“He would solve problems while he was in the army. One day, he called me and said ��?grandpa, buy two parrots, put them in a cage, and some people will come and take them’. When his friend came to take them, I asked who it was for, and he said he didn’t know. We never knew where he took them,” the grandfather remembers.

Robert Abajyan’s photos also say a lot about him, and his grandmother remembers the short stories about each of those photos by heart. “He loved to be in photos. It was as if he was trying to capture the moment. This is a photo of the ceremony we held when his first tooth appeared. He held a medical device. This was taken in Moscow. Look how he is walking. This is a photo of his baptism. Look how unhappy he is. The priest told him that he had to kiss the hand of his godfather. Robert said he wouldn’t kiss it. We tried to explain to him that it is an accepted rule. He calmed down a little, but only his lips touched the hand. In this photo, he has kept a door open with a sword during a wedding ceremony. On this day, he came home happily and said ��?grandma, I earned $200 dollars as a decent godfather’. He wasn’t too happy during the next wedding because he had only earned $10 dollars. He said the godfather was cheap. These are photos of him in the army. Look at how he is holding the gun in his hands. He would say ��?grandma, you know, not everyone can hold it like this’. Well, not every person would do what he did, leaving him with his photos and endless memories. He would always come and kiss me, call me and ask how I was doing, if the trees had blossomed or not, what I was doing in the garden, what his grandfather was doing, if anyone was making me or his cousins feel bad. He had to know everything.”

“If he set a goal, he had to accomplish it. After studying at a technical school, he said he had to study at a university. He went and got accepted to a university to become a good specialist, but…

He would find a way of communicating with strangers quickly. You would see him bring a stranger home and say ��?grandpa, I found one of your relatives, let me introduce you to each other’.

I am from Maralik. My elder sister and my nephews also live there. We would visit Maralik a lot. I was amazed at how many people knew Robert. I would tell him that people knew him more than me and that I was born and raised there,” the grandfather says, and the grandmother continues. “When Olympic champion Artur Aleksanyan returned from the Olympic Games, the residents of Maralik had closed down the road, welcomed him, threw a party and expressed their gratitude to him for wearing a shirt with a picture of my Robert on it. What Artur did was a great act. It seemed like he reminded everyone about Robert again. It took courage. Not everyone would do it. After all, he could have been disqualified and deprived of his medal, but he did it, and the residents of Maralik wanted to express their gratitude to Artur. The people of Maralik also want to place a statue of Robert. Recently, a football tournament was organized and named after him.”

The football cup is at Robert’s house, next to the photos and awards that are placed in every corner of the house and serve as a way of consoling the great sorrow that the family will always feel, just like the absence of Robert.

“Before the war, I was proud that I have a wonderful family, sons and 5 grandsons. My husband and I, two sons and their families live in peace at our home. We used to sit around a table with 15-20 people. Even today, I am proud that I am Robert’s grandmother, but my sadness has made me bow my head, do you understand? I would like to see my child next to me instead of being proud to be the grandmother of a hero. Having Robert next to me would be the greatest joy and pride. I fight with Robert every day. I sit in front of his photo and fight…I want them to be the last victims and don’t want to see any mother or grandmother shed a tear. My Robert had so many dreams…He was going to come and continue his studies and become a good specialist. Before going to the army, he worked and earned money a couple of times. I would take pride in the fact that he worked and bought something for his grandmother with the money he had earned. Now I am left alone and with my sadness. We live by consoling each other and giving each other strength. Whenever I am alone, I cry. I know that crying is not a good thing, but I can’t stop. The more time passes, the harder it gets. Now we are “hot”, but his absence and the sorrow will be intolerable later,” the grandmother says, wiping her tears.

“Robert is proud again somewhere. Perhaps he is saying there are so many people talking about me and so many people who know me. People call us from different countries and cities (Canada, France, USA, Russia, Batumi), express their condolences and their gratitude for having raised such a grandson. Many people even come to our home and tell us that they have come to show their respect to us. The people remembers Robert in a different way and will always remember him,” the grandfather says.

Not an epilogue

Robert Abajyan will always be remembered. Even today, his endeavor is a legend and makes most of us want to live. It all started on the night of 1 April 2016. The subdivisions of the adversary’s troops were making large-scale attacks along the entire length of the Artsakh-Azerbaijan line of contact. After bombarding the military positions stationed in the northeastern direction of Artsakh, the Azerbaijani troops made an attack. Armed with tanks, the groups of nearly 300 soldiers make an attempt to seize the Armenian military positions. Under the direction of commander of the company, Captain Armenak Urfanyan of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, the borderline troops comprising six soldiers take oval defense, successfully pushing back the enemy twice, striking one of the enemy’s tanks. After the failed attempt, the enemy goes back and starts bombarding the Armenian military positions again. Captain Urfanyan and machine gunner Kyaram Sloyan quickly die from the explosion of one of the projectiles.

After the death of the company’s commander, Robert Abajyan, who had received a leg injury, takes on the burden of being a commander and continues the battle on top of the barrier. Noticing that the ammunition in the trench is almost over, he sends the soldiers to bring bullets. In this period, the adversary manages to penetrate. Abajyan and machine gunner Andranik Zohrabyan, who was the only remaining serviceman and had received an injury, retreat to the shelter with persistence. Zohrabyan soon dies after hemorrhage. Positioning himself on the battlefield, Robert Abajyan continues to fight against the enemy’s large number of troops alone until he fires the last bullet, but also stays in touch with the battalion’s commander and transmits important information about the events taking place at the military position. Noticing the enemy approaching him, Abajyan contacts the commander one last time and tells him that he has the last grenade and is waiting for the enemy to approach so that he can bomb himself and them and not give up. Seeing the adversary approaching him, Abajyan hides the opened grenade in his palm and lifts his hands in the air, making it seem like he is surrendering. He lets the enemy come close enough and bombs himself and several soldiers of the adversary with the grenade.

Choosing to die knowingly, by sacrificing his life, Robert Abajyan also saved the soldiers of the Armenian troops who had come from the rear to help him.

On April 11, under a military procedure, Robert Abajyan was buried at Yerablour Military Pantheon. He is living an eternal life…

On May 8, commander of the squad of the second shooting platoon of the fourth shooting company of Military Unit N of the Defense Army of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Junior Sergeant Robert Abajyan was posthumously awarded the highest “Hero of Artsakh” calling and the “Golden Eagle” Order of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic for his exceptional courage and valiance shown during the defense of the state border of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

Robert Abajyan has become the 24th soldier to receive the highest “Hero of Artsakh” claling and the youngest bearer of that title. He was only 19 and will always remain 19…

Lusine Abrahamyan

Source: Canada’s Horizon Weekly

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