After twenty years of being happily married Nelly Hayrapetyan, 40, lost her beloved husband, Rudik, in the Four-Days War of April 2016. Since then, to relieve her grief, she has engrossed herself in her work as a stylist at a local salon.

Nelly, who lives in Stepanakert, also grows flowers in the small garden in front of her house. “Rudik was fond of flowers,” she said with sorrow in her voice. She still picks flowers early each morning to place in a small vase in front of Rudik’s picture perched in “his corner” of the house, as she calls it.

Rudik was 39 when he was killed by a drone strike. Ranked as a major, he had been serving in Artsakh’s army since 1994. “Rudik couldn’t live without family; he would rush home after a nightshift and would never allow himself to go to far-away areas. After 20 years in the army he was supposed to retire, however, he was such a good officer that the army administration didn’t let him go,” said Nelly.

While losing her spouse was the most painful experience Nelly has had to go through, she said her two daughters have been very supportive. Tatev, 20, is mom’s right-hand woman, and Elen, 18, who studies at Yerevan State Linguistics University, always adds some comic relief to Nelly’s day. Tatev graduated from Artaskh Medical College and is now a nurse at the local medical center.

In 2017, with generous support from the Knights of Vartan, FAR expanded the Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP) to also provide financial aid to those who had lost their fathers during the April 2016 War. So far, 62 children and youth throughout Artsakh have received annual stipends of about $250 per year, per child.

Elen is one of them. Nelly said that the financial aid she has received through CASP for the past two years has helped her to cover Elen’s rent in Yerevan.