Helping Local Farmers like Martin Go Back to Work by Sevak Hakobyan

On September 24, 2015, the Azerbaijani forces opened fire on border communities in the Tavush Region. The attack claimed the lives of three innocent people in the villages of Paravakar and Berdavan.

Martin Khojoyan, a resident of Berdavan, was picking figs in his orchard that day. Suddenly, sensing that something in the air was headed for him at breakneck speed, he leapt instinctively and fell to the ground. “I was picking fruit high up in the tree,” he recalls. “I noticed something approaching me from afar. At first I thought it was a bird. But as it drew closer, I felt heat. I realized at once that the Azeris were firing shots at the village.” Having seen numerous such attacks in recent years, Khojoyan can identify the type of weapon being fired by the Azeris based on the sound and velocity of an approaching bullet.

Khojoyan is a physicist. After completing his studies in Yerevan, he returned to his native village. He taught at the local school, got married, and raised a family. Later he worked at the mayor’s office. Today he is a farmer. He says he earns enough to provide for his family. The only problem is the constant threat of war.

“They can shoot at us at any moment, without any warning,” he says. “And that day, when they started attacking the area, the villagers were just peacefully going about their business. No shots had been fired up till that point. It all started unexpectedly.”

After falling from the tree, Khojoyan rushed home, gathered his grandchildren, and whisked them to the basement. He says it wasn’t the first time they were doing this, and the kids already know the drill whenever there is an attack. That day, as the Azeris kept the village under a barrage of fire for six terrifying hours, Khojoyan didn’t realize that his abdomen was hurt as a result of his fall. Soon he felt a strong pain, which made it difficult for him to work. He didn’t seek medical help.

“I have never gone to see a doctor, nor taken any medication, even though my wife is a pharmacist,” he says jokingly. Still, as his condition worsened and his work suffered, Khojoyan was forced to sell most of his animals.

A few months after the Azeri attack, Khojoyan was diagnosed with abdominal hernia and told he needed surgery. “Last year, I had heard that American doctors had come to our area and performed major surgeries, free of charge,” he recalls. “As I knew that they were coming back this year, I decided to wait for a chance to be treated by them.”

On October 20, Khojoyan was operated on by Glendale Adventist Medical Center (GAMC) general surgeon Dr. Simon Keushkerian. A 42 member medical team from GAMC had come to Noyemberyan Hospital to provide a wide range of free medical services. Their mission, was implemented for the second time since 2015, through a joint initiative of Armenia Fund US Western Region and GAMC, benefited over 1,700 residents from the Tavush and Lori regions.

Among those beneficiaries is Martin Khojoyan of Berdavan, who, following his successful surgery, is planning to replenish his livestock and continue to work in his native village.

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Photo Credit: Areg Balayan