It is often very difficult to speak about memories. Especially when it is about childhood.
Memories have their own taste and even their own smell. By catching the trail of that smell, you can go back to some ten and even twenty years. Sometimes that smell easily takes you to the joyful past. Sometimes, it is so sharp that it pierces one’s heart and like a piece of dry bread, sticks in one’s throat, causing distress.
Those who were born and grew up in Sumgait know that it is the country’s most war-affected city. Built and beautified with the incredible labor of Russians and Armenians, from 1992-93, the city was gradually turning into hell before our eyes.
Children’s playgrounds in the yards, benches and entrance doors in apartment buildings were pitilessly destroyed and broken by the refugees that flooded the city.
Hanging dirty sheets waved in the yards of once comfortable kindergartens. Not kids, but mustached men went out of the kindergartens in the morning, going to meat markets where they slaughtered and flayed cattle.
Our school’s gym was also taken and turned into a refugee habitat. Certain districts throughout the city were given to refugees. Student hostels also became refugee shelters. More specifically, refugee and nomadic life became part of the culture (or lack of culture) of the entire people.
The bad smell (stink) of food coming from the hostels could not be confused with anything else. That stink was surprisingly the same in all hostels. That stink enveloping the city, destroying our childhood, traumatizing us was in the air everywhere. Little by little we got used to waking up with cluck of chickens, bleat of sheep and mooing of cows. The youth that had no root culture gradually turned the city into a refugee settlement. But Sumgait, not having the strength and potential to change the crowd, steadily changed itself.
For years, I reflected upon why that stink was the same everywhere and did not find an answer until the source of stink became clear – the same set of products from packages of humanitarian aid for refugees. That stink is still in the air …it remains in Sumgait, the sickening stink of our childhood…
Years passed. Life scattered and hammered us to our corners. Everything has changed since then, and the only thing that has remained unchanged is the specific smell of humanitarian aid packages with inedible food and our habit of parasitism and freebie, our constant expectation of dole from someone.
Everything has changed – ways of aid, amounts and forms, with the exception of one thing – expectation of aid from outside. We necessarily need some force from outside to be able to “lay one stone on another.” Without foreign funds, we are not able to find ways and possibilities to create something. In order to carry out some work, we necessarily need some project, some scope from the outside. Not only ordinary people and NGOs, but also government agencies are infected with this illness.
As a result, the funds the international foundations pour into the country to develop civil society are simply played away. Numerous heads of NGOs (that include no one except the chairman) tramp all over the world wasting these funds “in the name of patriotism and diaspora activities,” with a pile of brochures in their hands instructing how “to smother the Armenians wherever you come across them,” at the same time hoping that the world will perceive and understand the Azerbaijani truth, receiving good wages and “representing Azerbaijan’s interests in the world.”
Yes, the country is changing and developing. Ready to tear each other apart for the parcels of “humanitarian aid,” they currently call that aid a “grant.” But just like before when the cooked food from “aid packages” spread intolerable stink, killing the desire to eat, nowadays the things done with grants are absolutely empty and ineffective.
P.S. At the time when the notion “grant” had just come into use, at a Milli Majlis session, a female MP persistently asked for the floor. Taking the rostrum, with a conspiratorial, but happy air, she dumbfounded the parliament with the statement that she found evidence that the opposition is funded by Armenia, saying the following…: “as you know, Grant is an Armenian male name, or more exactly, a surname. This proves that the opposition is funded by Armenia.”