By Raffi Elliott
It’s odd how cries of joy and cries of pain sound the same in the beginning. I was in the other room when we got the call—yes, that call—the one you pray never to receive in war time. My wife’s cousin was at our house to get her mind off the fact that both her boyfriend and father were on the front. In a call with my parents, she had lamented not having said good-bye to her father. “That’s unnecessary,” my mum told her, “because he’s coming back.”
Arthur Misakyan (1971 — 2020) (Photo provided by Raffi Elliott)
They say when you marry an Armenian woman, you marry her family. While I was stuck with most of her relatives, Arthur Misakyan was the sort of man I would have admired regardless of the bonds of tradition.
Arthur was by no means an important man. Head of security at a local hospital, he made a modest, but honest life for himself, his wife and two daughters, while still making time for the pleasures of life. Short, balding, and with a belly that suggested he had enjoyed his fair share of khorovadz in his day, his near-constant smile reflected the sort of jolly personality which was so infectious to his friends and family.
He was the sort of man who would show up on the shore of Lake Sevan at a moment’s notice with his BBQ kit ready-deployed. He was the kind of man whose devotion to his family was only matched by his readiness to help others. He would regularly come to my house, often unannounced, to fix this trinket or tighten that socket.
The last time I saw him, he had taken me to a car dealership in Yerevan’s Erebuni neighborhood to pick out some wheels. I can’t shake that cathartic feeling of knowing that the most lasting memento I have of him is my 2016 Subaru Forester—for which he helped negotiate a reasonable price.
Arthur wasn’t called up to fight this war. He volunteered on the first day—just like he did three decades prior. He knew what was at stake: our very existence. He never even flinched. He was just a simple man who gave his life for his family, his country, for me.
But perhaps that’s what true heroism is: simple men who rise to the occasion in the most trying of times to answer the call of duty.
I’d like to tell you that he died a glorious death under a hail of bullets while defending his post. But he might as well have been blown apart by a prohibited Israeli munition or a Turkish drone sporting illegal Canadian infrared optics. The truth is I don’t know. I can’t imagine what the last days of his life were like. And that’s besides the point. War is not glorious; it’s pain.
Perhaps I’m abusing the voice I’ve been so generously granted by the staff at the Armenian Weekly, but I’d like to use it to repay my debt to this man in the only way I can: by immortalizing him in print.
I’m asking you to remember Arthur because I know Arthur. He was my relative by tradition and my friend by choice. But across Armenia, hundreds of Arthurs are being mourned, and hundreds more will be buried in the coming days. Arthur and his comrades sacrificed their lives on the supreme altar of freedom. But I like to think that the blood they spilt on that holy Armenian land became the mortar that solidified our Artsakhian soil into the impregnable walls of our homeland.
I am angry at the Azeris for taking him from us—so angry. But I’m also immensely proud and humbled. My wife wondered why it’s always the best of us that go this way, and she’s right. Because it’s the best of us who volunteer to defend their families, their communities and their country from harm.
Arthur lived life as a simple man, but died a hero. I owe him an eternal debt of gratitude.
Rest in Power, Arthur Misakyan.