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Remnants of Lusik Agouletsi’s Past.

To my deep conviction, a human has to pass a long way during his life, yet he is formed as a personality only when he unites his soul and roots with his culture and national lifestyle.”

-- Lusik Agouletsi

Lusik Agouletsi Samvelyan was born in Agoulis, Nakhijevan, in 1946. In 1953 her family moved to Yerevan. After studying art and painting she participated in a number of exhibitions and received many awards, including the Movses Khorenatsi Medal, which was given to her in 2010 by President Serj Sargsyan. I was recently able to spend time with this fascinating artist and record some of her reflections on her life and interests.

Lusik Agouletsi’s memories of childhood are vivid. There is little else in the world more powerful and important than those memories, she says. There was a spring in the neighborhood of the market where she grew up in Agoulis and her house was just a two-minute walk from it. When she was six years old, Lusik would sit by the spring and watch how the town’s women would bring their goods and chattels on trays and in buckets to wash and rub with ash.

“I saw so many incredibly beautiful things — Armenian trays, buckets, jugs, pitchers, clay pots and samovars. Such coppers things were imprinted with Armenian letters that could fascinate every educated person with their beauty and wonderful appearance,” she said.

In 1965, Lusik’s grandparents were still living in Agoulis. She would often visit them and work on her paintings there. She loved the streets of Agoulis, with its unique architecture and the houses where Armenians had planted walnut-trees in their gardens. For centuries Agoulis had been rich with merchants, intellectuals, clergymen and craftsmen. There was a library, a bathhouse, two storied and three-storied constructions, and cultivated gardens. But Agoulis gradually deteriorated. Near the bridge there was a red “tuff” church with an antique door. It was later torn down.

“Seeing such things made me comprehend the stories of my grandfather in another way. The paved street, which stretched up into the Azerbaijani district, had had a fatal role for the people of Agoulis,” she said. “Before the Genocide, the Azeris had already decided to massacre the Armenians and that street was where the slaughter began.”

By the 1960s there were only four Armenians left in Agoulis. When she returned in 1975, Lusik saw many churches in ruins. Nearly all khachkars had disappeared and the cemetery near the market had been pulled down, too. By then her grandparents had left Agoulis, abandoning their beautiful house. Only one Armenian woman named Tamara had stayed. Lusik drank from the spring once more and washed her hands in the water for the last time. “Before leaving, I kissed the door of the house and went away with tears in my eyes. I left Agoulis and the seven graves of our ancestors. Now it is not difficult to imagine their destiny. That river carries the sullen history of my birth place.”

More of Lusik’s memories are captured in the book, “Remnants of the Past: A Collection by Lusik Agouletsi.”

Naira Hambardzumyan is one of this year’s Margaret Ajemian Ahnert Journalism Scholars.

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