Armenia: Trees as living memories

04 August 2015
Armenia: Trees as living memories
Armavir, Armenia. Supported by Armavir town council and with the help of the ICRC and Armenian Red Cross volunteers, relatives of missing persons plant seedlings in the town's central park. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / H. Galstyan

Families of missing persons recently gathered in the central park of Armavir to plant ash trees in memory of their loved ones – 41 people from Armavir Region who went missing in the early 1990s, during the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. The event was a tribute to missing persons who have no grave – not even a plaque where their families can go to remember them.

Families of missing persons recently gathered in the central park of Armavir to plant ash trees in memory of their loved ones – 41 people from Armavir Region who went missing in the early 1990s, during the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. The event was a tribute to missing persons who have no grave – not even a plaque where their families can go to remember them.

Armavir, Armenia. Gayane Sargsyan plants a tree for her missing husband. She has been bringing up two daughters alone since he disappeared. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / H. Galstyan

"My husband would have been 67 today," says Svetlana Melkonyan. "He loved nature, so I'm happy that the tree planting ceremony coincided with his birthday. It was difficult for me to bring up our two children all alone. And today, I'm here with my grandson, who's watering a tree planted for his grandfather."

Geghetsik Manukyan has lived alone ever since her son went missing and her husband died. She marks her newly planted tree with a ribbon in a promise to come back regularly to take good care of it.

Armavir, Armenia. Geghetsik Manukyan has lived alone ever since her son went missing and her husband died. She marks her newly planted tree with a ribbon in a promise to come back regularly to take good care of it. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / H. Galstyan

Karine Zaderyan was 30 years old when her husband went missing, leaving her alone with four children. "Our loss is huge. Nothing can comfort us," she says. "Now, after 23 years, we're planting these trees to remind us. This park is in the city centre, next to the church. As the trees grow, I'll bring my grandchildren here and tell them, 'look, this is your grandfather's tree.'"

Armavir, Armenia. Karine Zaderyan plants a tree with her son and her grandson. Avetis is named after his missing grandfather.

Armavir, Armenia. Karine Zaderyan plants a tree with her son and her grandson. Avetis is named after his missing grandfather. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / H. Galstyan

The idea of planting trees in memory of those who have disappeared came from their families and was supported by the Armavir branch of the Armenian Red Cross, the ICRC and the local authorities. Armavir town council allocated an area in the park. As the saplings grow, this area will become a special place for the families; an avenue, where each tree will symbolize a missing person.

"For us, it's very important to have his name engraved somewhere. We'll visit this park, sit down to rest and remember him. We're so thankful for all the support we've received," says Gayane Vardanyan, whose husband went missing in 1992.

Similar events took place in Vedi and Masis, in Ararat Region.

Vedi, Armenia. With the support of young Armenian Red Cross volunteers, Mrs Armanush plants a tree in memory of her husband, one of eight people who went missing on the same day in 1992.

Vedi, Armenia. With the support of young Armenian Red Cross volunteers, Mrs Armanush plants a tree in memory of her husband, one of eight people who went missing on the same day in 1992. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / A. Kachotyan

Vedi, Armenia. Lida Mkrtumyan left her sick husband at home so she could come and plant a tree in memory of her missing son.

Vedi, Armenia. Lida Mkrtumyan left her sick husband at home so she could come and plant a tree in memory of her missing son. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / A. Kachotyan

Masis, Armenia. Vladimir Kaprielov is the father of a missing person. He is also the only man from Masis who takes an active part in all the events for families of missing persons that the ICRC and the Armenian Red Cross organize in his town.

Masis, Armenia. Vladimir Kaprielov is the father of a missing person. He is also the only man from Masis who takes an active part in all the events for families of missing persons that the ICRC and the Armenian Red Cross organize in his town. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / A. Kachotyan

Masis, Armenia. Maria, the daughter of a missing person, gives a warm hug to Vladimir Kaprielov, who is respected and loved by the families of everyone with a missing relative.

Masis, Armenia. Maria, the daughter of a missing person, gives a warm hug to Vladimir Kaprielov, who is respected and loved by the families of everyone with a missing relative. CC BY NC ND / ICRC / A. Kachotyan

As part of the ICRC's Accompaniment Project, various commemorative events involving the relatives of missing persons take place across Armenia. The events are organized jointly with the Armenian Red Cross Society, local NGOs and the authorities.

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