I Was a Real Man …

[December 4, 2006]

Asya Agajanova's son Grisha Agajanyan and her daughter-in-law Marine were doctors in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. They were both killed by Azerbaijanis in 1988. Asya Agajanova doesn't talk about it. The 82-year-old former employee of the Azerbaijan National Security Office was forced to leave Baku with her husband in 1990. She now lives alone in Vanadzor.
Asya Agajanova was born in the Azerbaijani town of Shamahi. My father was a son of an abbot and my mother the daughter of a clergyman. “Faith occupied a great place in our family. Once I saw my father get down by the bed and do some strange things. I asked my mother but she said, ‘It's none of your business, you won't understand it.' Then I noticed that my father did the same thing all the time, so I couldn't keep quiet and I asked my mother to explain. My mother whispered in my ear that he was praying,” Asya remembered.
Asya graduated from high school with honors and enrolled at the Medical Institute of Baku. She was a third-year student when World War II began. She was sent to the battlefront, and spent five years at the scenes of the fiercest battles for five years; she was wounded and received different commendations. She went back home after the war only to find her home occupied by strangers. Her father and brother had died during the war and mother had died of heart infarction when she had learned that her daughter was being taken for military service. Her two younger were sent to an orphanage.
“I applied to the court and got my home back,” Asya said, then took a deep breath and continued: “Afterwards it was discovered that I had been sent to the battle front in someone else's place. I went to the institute, tore my documents into pieces, threw them in the dean's face and walked out. I told them I didn't need them or their medical education.” Asya ended her medical career and decided to study law instead. She enrolled in the faculty of law at Baku University. When she graduated from law school she went to work for the Baku KGB (State Security Committee). Her long professional career began in this organization first as ordinary employee and then as department manager. She didn't talk about her work much. She just said that she dealt with government agencies, had good relations with all her Azerbaijani colleges, and what's more important, they were exceptionally respectful and trusting toward her.
“I was a real man. No one dared to approach me disrespectfully. My deputy was a young Turk. It is hard to imagine how respectful he was to me and how he appreciated me. I was in Baku until 1990. I was taken to and from the office in secret. The driver came early in the morning, picked me up to the office, and brought me back in the evening. However one day I was told that I could not stay anymore, as they couldn't keep me safe, so it would be better for me to leave as soon as possible. My husband and I packed our things for the journey. We were sitting on our luggage and waiting when my deputy called me up and told not to leave with luggage under any circumstances. He told us that the suitcases of Armenians were emptied and filled with stones and that's how Armenians were sent away. That deputy was a very good man. He told me that he would send our luggage to Georgia and from there it would reach us safely. And that's exactly what he did, “ said Asya Agajanyan.
“I came to Armenia with my husband. We arrived at the station. There was noise, chaos everywhere. We were in confusion and didn't know what to do or where to go. Suddenly a man approached me. He looked at me astonished and asked if I recognized him. I looked at him carefully for a long but I didn't recognize him. Eventually he realized that I didn't know who he was and said, “I am Karen Demirchyan's driver.” I didn't remember him, but he remembered me well. I had attended Karen Demirchyan's meetings during his visits to Baku. The driver remembered me from those meetings. He told me that Karen Demirchyan was at the station and took us to him. Karen Demirchyan was very happy to see me- how he hugged and kissed me! He gave me a firm promised that he would solve my housing problem very soon, and that man did indeed keep his promise. We got an apartment in Kirovakan several days later. I still live in that apartment today.”
Asya Agajanova spends most of her time in the Vanadzor branch of the NGO Mission Armenia. She has meals here, attends meetings, and speaks with other lonely elderly people. Grandmother Asya lost her husband in 1994. Her brothers took her grandchildren to Russia after the Sumgait events because of the difficult situation and harsh living conditions in Armenia. Occasional telephone calls from her grandchildren and news about them are Asya's only source of consolation. Her daughter was engaged to an Azerbaijani boy in Baku and fled to Russia after those events. She called her mother several years later, but didn't say where she was, and Asya has not heard from her since.
“It was in 1998. I had problems with my pension. I needed some documents from the place I used to work. “What shall I do?” I asked myself, and ultimately decided to call my former office. I thought that some of the old employees would still be there and I could ask for help. So I called up and found out that my old job was occupied by my deputy. I asked them to call him to the telephone. ‘Do you know who this is?' I asked him. He didn't at first. Then I said that I was his mother – and I had been like a mother to him when we worked together, and he recognized my voice. You can't imagine how emotional he was and how he cried. I told him why I was calling. He asked me to come in and not to worry at all. He would arrange everything and make sure I could come back safely; all I had to do was get there. We agreed to meet at the border between Bagratashen and Sadakhlo. We met and I was taken to Baku in secret in a closed car. I stayed in Baku for seven days and took care of all my business. When it was time for me to go home, they held a dinner in my honor at a restaurant on the sea. It was like paradise. There isn't any place like it in Armenia. We ate, drank, and danced and in the end my former deputy drank to my health and said, ‘Long live Stalin! Long live Stalin!' I looked at him with surprise and couldn't understand why Stalin. ‘You are Stalin. Only you could do such a brave thing. You are a real man,' he said.
When I got back people from the KGB kept coming and asking me why I had gone and who I had seen in Baku. But I put all of them in their place and threw them out of my house, and so they forgot where I was.



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