Azerbaijani village that survived two Karabakh wars

Some residents of Garachinar are waiting to move to Karabakh, others are waiting for the development of the village to finally begin
“After the war of 2020, I still can’t recover from depression. Before I was so cheerful, I could rejoice in everything: sunrise, sunset, any little thing. And now it’s like I have forgotten how to laugh heartily”, says Vazifa. In my opinion, she is a bit too harsh on herself - despite everything she has experienced, this woman has not lost her optimism.

Vazifa Guliyeva, 46, lives in Garachinar, one of the small villages in the Goranboy region of Azerbaijan.

The village of Garachinar is located at the foot of the Murovdag mountain range. Nivas are parked at the gates of almost every house - it is difficult to drive other cars in mountainous areas. According to the 2009 census, there are about 150 houses in the village and about 400 people live here. The local population is mainly engaged in animal husbandry, but also in other types of agriculture - beekeeping and gardening. They sell their produce in Baku, Goranboy, and neighboring regional centers.

According to Vazifa, if you are not lazy, then you will always earn a piece of bread in this village.

The work, of course, is not easy, but if you love nature and animals, if you want to raise your children by teaching them honest labor, and if you are deft by nature, then agriculture can even feed you very well. We keep cows and make various dairy products for sale. We also have beehives, we collect honey. And all the vegetables on our table come from our own garden”.

New life among the ruins of the first war
The village of Garachinar is located next to the Kalbajar region, which came under the control of the Armenian armed forces during the first Karabakh war, and was returned as a result of the second war. Therefore, during both wars, this village was part of the zone of fierce battles, although it remained under the control of Azerbaijan.

Before the first war, Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived here together, but Armenian population was forced to leave when the countries exchanged refugees during the escalation of the Karabakh conflict in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Refugees from Armenia and internally displaced persons from the Kalbajar region settled in Garachinar. Vazifa Guliyeva is one of them.

After the first Karabakh war, not a single house remained undestroyed in Garachinar. Although later, new buildings were built here, the houses that were destroyed in the early 1990s never got restored and still lie in ruins. So now the village is a kind of synthesis of ruins and new buildings.
During the 2020 Karabakh war, the village also came under artillery fire. About forty houses were damaged, including the house of the Guliev family.

“It turns out that we ourselves had to go somewhere and report the damage caused to us. But we did not know this, and therefore no one helped us with the repair of the house. We did everything ourselves”, says Vazifa Guliyeva.

We don’t have a phone line because we live in the middle of nowhere

According to Vazifa, in the fall of 2020, during the 44-day war, most of the residents left the village and moved to safer places. There was practically no one left here, except for Vazifa and her husband.

To be honest, if I had my way, I would leave too. It was very scary. Every minute a shell would fall. But my husband did not want to leave. He said that if we were destined to die, then death would find us anywhere and if it is not meant to be, then nothing would happen to us here either. Well, on the other hand, my son fought, and all my thoughts were about him.

Guliyevs have two children. The eldest daughter is married, lives in Baku, and has already given her parents a granddaughter. Son Bakhtiyar, at the very beginning of the war, volunteered to fight at the frontline, was wounded, and is still being treated.

“He received a shrapnel wound. They performed a surgery, removed three fragments, and left two more inside because they are located in a dangerous place and the doctors do not risk touching them. But the worst of all is not this, but a traumatic brain injury. It made him very nervous. In the blink of an eye, he can lose his temper. Only Tik-Tok distracts and calms him”, says Vazifa.

The Guliyevs’ house stands on the very outskirts of the village, and although all houses of the war veterans were connected to the phone line, their house was neglected. Therefore, they do not have Wi-Fi at home:

“Almost the entire pension that the son receives as a veteran is spent on the Internet. And what can we do if only the Internet helps him calm down. I went and asked to connect us to the phone line - even though we live far away. We were even ready to pay for the cable ourselves. But it did not work".
Routine throughout war

During the war, even while being left alone in the village, they did not change their daily way of life:

“Every morning, when I woke up, I milked the cows, took care of the cattle, as in peacetime. I took care of chickens - not only my own, but also those of my neighbors. Most of those who left the village asked me to look after their houses and livestock. I fed them, but I could not save them all. More than ten of our cows died during the bombing”.

Before the war, their farm had more than thirty cows, but now, only about two dozen are left. Vazifa is very sorry about her cows. She loved each of them. Garagez, Mardzhan, Telli, Maya, Sulkhana, Aruni, Bezek, Mamul, Nargiz and others - she remembers each by name. She says that cows understand when you treat them well.

“After milking the cows, I baked bread, then I started cooking dinner. Although in those days I didn’t even really set the table, we ate just to satisfy our hunger. But on the edge of the village there was an artillery brigade, and I prepared food for the soldiers, and my husband took it to them. After all, my son was at the frontline, and I didn’t even know if he was full or hungry.”

Vazifa Guliyeva says that at that time her husband also helped to take the wounded and the bodies of the dead from the battlefield in his car. But he didn't talk about it at home.
Life back on track and hopes for the future

The war coincided with the harvest of autumn fruits. But no one in the village picked them, and all the fruits rotted on the trees.

The war ended, everything calmed down, then we remembered the fruit trees, and found that the harvest was gone. The hazelnuts all crumbled and spoiled. We only managed to collect one basket of apples”, says Vazifa.

After the return of local residents, life also returned to its normal course. But what is striking is how their mood has changed. Vazifa says that before everyone built houses, equipped their yards, and tried to create better conditions for themselves. And now everyone seems to be waiting for something.

“We ourselves are renovating the house so that we can get good money after selling it. God willing, we will sell it and move to Kalbajar. And there we will need money to get settled. Most of the people here are immigrants. Everyone is waiting for the day when they can return to their native lands.”

The taxi driver taking us back to Baku turned out to be a refugee from Armenia. He does not hope to return to where he was born. He plans to live for the rest of his life in Garachinar, and is full of hope for the future of this village.

“After the liberated territories are cleared of mines, they will be equipped. Sugovushan will turn into a tourist paradise. The scenery is beautiful there. Hotels and restaurants will be built there. Local and foreign tourists will flock and they will all pass through Garachinar. And this means that the village will develop. People will be able to sell their products to hotels and restaurants. Tourists passing through the village will also buy local produce. I think we have a lot of good things ahead of us”.

Samira Ahmadbeyli

İsa Musayev
Trajectories is a media project that tells stories of people whose lives have been impacted by conflicts in the South Caucasus. We work with authors and editors from across the South Caucasus and do not support any one side in any conflict. The publications on this page are solely the responsibility of the authors. In the majority of cases, toponyms are those used in the author’s society. The project is implemented by GoGroup Media and International Alert and is funded by the European Union
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