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Returning to Artsakh After Loss

Karine Tarkhanyan, 61, has worked at Arevik Children’s Hospital in Stepanakert for the past 38 years, 10 of which she headed the hospital’s pediatric department. The recent Artsakh War changed her life, leaving her on the brink of despair until recently when she found renewed strength to return to Artsakh.

“It was a Sunday morning and I was jogging at the track as usual when I heard the shelling. For awhile, I didn’t realize what it was. I ran toward myhouse, where a group of children had been playing and were scared. I calmed them down by saying that there couldn’t be any war during the pandemic, but I was wrong,” Karine said.

The next day she left Stepanakert with her daughter-in-law who needed surgery for her gastritis in Yerevan. Her husband and son stayed to fight in Artsakh.

Karine never would have guessed that the war would have dragged on for 44 days and would result in a painful defeat and a great loss of life and territory, particularly in Shushi, one of her most beloved places in Artsakh. She found out that she had treated many of the soldiers who had died in the war when they were children.

“I have spent all of my professional life working at the children’s hospital. I dedicated my life to treating and caring for children, many of whom are now gone. It’s hard for me to meet with their parents and even more difficult for me to look into their eyes. Their children were part of a generation of clever, handsome and driven boys who had had dreams and aspirations,” she said. Her 23-year-old cousin was also killed in Shushi on November 9thjust hours before the peace agreement was sealed.

While she was in Yerevan she stayed at her sister’s home with her son, husband, and daughter-in-law, Karine thought she and her family would stay in Armenia and start over. Her sister also lost a son in the war and needed support. Karine started searching for a new job in the city.

When the war ended Karine visited Stepanakert twice, but she couldn’t convince herself to go to her beloved hospital or stay in the city; it was too hard for her. After all of the losses from the war, she became too emotional even upon entering the hospital.

A month ago, she was accepted into FAR’s Continuing Medical Education Program (CME) for the third time. She has been working on enhancing her knowledge and skills in pediatric allergies during her four-week-training at Arabkir Medical Center in Yerevan.

CME, she said, has given her new hope. When Karine completes CME she has decided to return to Stepanakert.

“Pediatric allergies are new direction for me. Unfortunately, we don’t have a specialist at the children’s hospital so I will be able to help address some of these issues in Artsakh. I really like the CME trainings, the case discussions, and the visits to the National Medical Library. I have learned new methods of treatment and examination,” said Karine, who added that now, more than ever, they need her back in Stepanakert. “I receive dozens of calls from parents of my patients who ask me to go back.”


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