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AUA Commemorates Second Anniversary of 2020 Artsakh War

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia — September 27 marked the two-year anniversary of one of the darkest days in recent Armenian history, the start of the 2020 Artsakh War. The war claimed the lives of thousands, including seven of the American University of Armenia’s (AUA) students: Aziz Aghajanyan, Areg Gevorgyan, Hakob Hakobyan, Erik Hajikyan, Shavarsh Muradyan, Davit Virabyan, and Davit Uzunyan. Hundreds of soldiers fell captive and thousands are still missing, their fate unknown. To commemorate the anniversary and eternalize the immortal memory of the University’s fallen heroes, AUA organized a tree planting ceremony at Daditun, followed by a candlelight vigil on campus.

At Daditun, a memorial initiated by the Uzunyan family, AUA students, staff, and faculty, together with the brave heroes’ friends and family members, planted eight trees: one for each of AUA’s seven heroes and one to celebrate the lives of all of Armenia’s fallen soldiers. Davit Uzunyan’s father spoke about his son — the first Armenian citizen child to be born in the 21st century — recalling some of their most cherished memories together. He explained the origin of “Daditun,” named after the nickname “Dadi” that Davit’s older brother used when he first met the newborn Davit. The idea for Daditun also was originally Davit’s. His father recounted how Davit always dreamed of building a house for his mom — a house with a beautiful garden like the one in the family’s favorite film “Mayrig” (Mother). Uzunyan’s father had chosen July 31st as the garden’s opening date, the day when Davit was expected to return from military service.

Uzunyan’s father then described the different sections of the community garden. On one side was a cluster of fruit trees planted in memory of the fallen soldiers interred next to Davit at the Yerablur Military Pantheon. Each spring, he gathers the harvest and delivers it to the families of those soldiers. The opposite side of the garden was designated for decorative trees, where AUA planted eight fir trees with commemorative plaques installed alongside each. The event was a realization of the wish expressed by Muradyan’s father, “to live and keep the [fallen students’] memory alive” for generations to come.

Following the memorial tribute to the fallen heroes, the group returned to campus for a candlelight vigil and reception at the Student Union.

In his remarks, Provost Dr. Brian Ellison thanked the parents and families of fallen soldiers for being with AUA today and allowing the University community to celebrate their sons’ lives with them. He also drew parallels between the Artsakh War and the difficult security situation Armenia faces today, expressing hope that the nation will once again rise above and enjoy sunny days. “This university, this community, will always come together, and we will always work for each other,” he said. In closing, Dr. Ellison reiterated the significance of the day’s gathering. “I want to stress that this event signals AUA’s absolute commitment to remembrance, to gratitude, to engagement, to our community, for the lives of these fallen soldiers and the sacrifices their families made for this country.” 

Next, AUA student and musician Apraham Tamerian (BAEC ’24) delivered a rendition of the song “Kyank u Kriv” (Life and Battle) accompanied by a photo slideshow of the seven heroes played in the background. In turn, LL.M. Program Chair Adelaida Baghdasaryan took the stage assuring the families of the fallen soldiers that they will always have a home at AUA where the entire university community stands ready to assist and support them in any way they can. Then, she continued with her purposeful message.

“There are two very important words I want to convey,” she said. “The first is commitment not superficial, but deep, contemplative commitment to the motherland…I want us all, especially during these times, to make this commitment, to think deeply about this. The second word is dedication, endless dedication — and it’s not necessary for this to be with weapons. It can be through words, literature, art, effort, diplomacy. I want you to constantly keep these two words in mind.” The guests then made their way over to the patio, taking turns to light candles.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.