автограф
     пускай с моею мордою
   печатных книжек нет,
  вот эта подпись гордая
есть мой автопортрет

Stepanakert
                   Saga

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    days:

February 23.

(I was on the brink of writing 'December' once again.)

Two missile-volleys at night: of forty-rockets each. They, reportedly, hit Sashic-Carina's quarter.

After breakfast, I went down there. At times I was walking along stretches of sidewalks not covered with crashed rubble and boughs hacked by explosions off the street trees.

In one of the trees—some thirty-feet above the ground—there hung a half-burned yellow armchair.

When I entered the underground in Sashic-Carina's apartment block (there are no compartments there, just two huge rooms in the basement), someone near the door recognized me in the flickering of the gas jet and called out for Sashic.

'There will be no trip to the village,' announced Sashic.

The evacuation plans were canceled because Valyo had promised him places on board of a helicopter to Yerevan within a couple of days.

Their apartment block was not damaged in the last night bombardment except for lots of shattered windowpanes.

As for my family, there is no prospect of getting them on that helicopter. Valyo has got numerous and much closer relatives.

Besides, with Roozahna packed off to her aunt's village, moving anywhere beyond this Republic is out of question.

And, it is good luck she was not in the town when three GRAD volleys hit our block today.

The first hail exploded when I was on my way back from the downhill town and at a five-minute's distance from our flat.

Actually, I was passing the Club and—when the volley was over—used my key to drop in for a piss.

Then, I went to the epicenter.

The former Military Commissioner Building,
now the phedayee PHEDAYEE —
     (Armenian borrowing from Greek) "freedom fighter".
headquarters, had lost half of its roof and two or three rooms in the left wing's upper floor.

Two ambulances parked at the entrance were turned into useless riddled tins—all chips and holes.

Phedayees PHEDAYEE —
     (Armenian borrowing from Greek) "freedom fighter".
were carrying armfuls of guns from the damaged wing of the building to a nearby cottage.

Obviously, no-one was killed.

I caught a glimpse of a shocked civilian youth rinsing his pallid face with the white snow, his thick-lipped mouth agape.

All the street was littered with branches and twigs slashed off from the trees.

Lydia's house, opposite to the MC Building, was intact behind its locked gate.

But the one-storied houses clustered to each other a little down the street were almost falling apart with their walls furrowed with cracks and fissures.

Armen, my mate in the pipe insulation team of 5 at the gas pipeline construction firm, called out my name.

He was in the khaki uniform now.

We entered the yard of the cracked up houses to shut up the vent-cocks on the riddled gas pipes hissing with the leaking gas.

Then, we went away.

Walking along the street, he picked up from the ground a huge pipe-like fragment of an exploded missile and asked me what it was made of.

Then, probingly, he tap-tapped with the fragment on his hatless head.

I asked him not to.

The second volley thundered an hour later.
It hit the phedayee PHEDAYEE —
     (Armenian borrowing from Greek) "freedom fighter".
barracks (a former kindergarten) and the row of houses along the long and winding road I tread at my water-walks.

The third one exploded in the evening and caught me literally pants down, even more than that—stark naked—when I was taking a tub in the washing outhouse in the yard of our flat.

The thin brick walls jiggled and quaked from the close explosions.

The nearest one had blown up a house some twenty-meters from the washing hut.

The furthest swept away the house wall-to-wall with the mother-in-law's.

After rinsing the suds off and putting on my clothes (observing closely if the fingers were not trembling), I went up there to see whether Aram, my brother-in-law, was OK.

The house was locked, all the panes smashed; Aram obviously was out at the time of the bombardment.

The Soviet regiment answered with their artillery.

They say, there were casualties among the soldiers. Twenty-year-old boys not even being paid for getting killed.

All the day my family kept to Underground.

I shipped there both lunch and supper, ferried a mattress with a pillow, cut up and brought some wood for the stove from the supply stored at the mother-in-law's.

One page from Joyce translated.

Yoga. (The slipped knee still pains, but what else do I have to do to pass the time?)

The water-walk is ahead after which this day off will be over and succeeded by a (hopefully)
good night.

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