When Mariam Avanesian and her family fled to Yerevan from Azerbaijan 25 years ago this month, they thought they were lucky; they had escaped physical danger, and left behind an apartment rather than “a grave” in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. But moving to Armenia didn’t mean the end of uncertainty for Avanesian’s family members, and tens of thousands of others.
Many of those who escaped turmoil in Azerbaijan over two decades ago have struggled to find a sense of equilibrium since then. In the Avanesians’ case, roughly a month after they arrived at a camp for displaced persons in the northern Armenian city of Vanadzor, the devastating 1988 Spitak earthquake struck. The quake left 25,000 people in the area dead, including the Avanesians’ seven-year-old son, Vadim.
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Gayane Abrahamyan is a freelance reporter and editor in Yerevan. Anahit Hayrapetyan is a freelance photojournalist based in Yerevan and Berlin.