Maybe Tomorrow There Will Be War Again
Armenia, December 2022
It‘s shortly after midnight on September 13, 2022 when the residents and tourists of the Armenian resort town of Jermuk wake up to a roaring sound coming from the woods.
After decades of bloody disputes over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, that night Azerbaijan‘s troops start a large scale attack on Armenian territory along the border. A new chapter of the conflict has started and Armenia is facing the risk of war.
Two months later, only a few tourists dare to visit the town. Hotels, restaurants, stores - the local economy is on the brink of collapse. And the special relationship that once connected Jermuk‘s inhabitants to nature has been put upside down as Azeri military outposts are believed to have expanded in the surrounding mountains since the current ceasefire.
In this photo essay, I document the mood in Armenia in the wake of the recent escalation, which, despite the overwhelming threat of war and destruction, shows an impressive resilience and an unshakable will not to give up and move away.
I set out to towns and villages, like Jermuk, Goris and Margara, as well as the capital Yerevan to capture the fate of a country struggling under a sword of Damocles and a deep-rooted zest for life - shedding light on a conflict that has been largely forgotten by the international community, overshadowed by the war in Ukraine and the uprising in Iran.
Passport, cash - Kristina Iwanjan stuffs both into a backpack, pulls a thick jacket over her pajamas and runs off. It's just after midnight and the sky over Yermuk is roaring. On the road, Ivanjan later recalls, she encountered people who thought the bright lights in the woods were fireworks. A celebration, perhaps, in honor of the southern Armenian resort, where on that September 13, after two years of corona pandemic, it was high season again.
The "Olympia Sanatorium," a mousy gray colossus with 52 rooms where Ivanjan works as manager, is also fully occupied at the time.
When she arrived at the "Olympia," the staff was already directing the guests down the stairs, reports Iwanjan.
During the day, visitors were still being pampered with essential oils in the underground treatment rooms.
Now the thick cellar walls serve as a bunker, and the massage chairs and sofas are converted into camp beds.
It soon became clear to everyone what Ivanjan had long suspected: Azerbaijan was attacking Armenian territory after decades of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Other regions in the border area between Armenia and Azerbaijan are also under large-scale attack.
A first in the conflict between the two countries.
Text: Anna-Theresa Bachman