Gyumri: 38 Hours Under the Rubble

Lusine Balyan

When Mkhitar Khachatryan went to Gyumri to document the 1988 earthquake, he was not ready for the tragedy unfolding before his eyes and lenses. Among the ruins and the desperation, the then-28-year-old photographer ended up shooting an image of a mother with her three children clinging to her. The photo was published across the world, becoming a symbol of despair as well as life.

The day was December 9, 1988. That woman was Marine Nuroyan, now 60 years old. When Khachatryan took that image, Nuroyan and her three young children had just been rescued from their destroyed house, 38 hours after shockwaves reduced it to a pile of rubble.

Nuroyan’s family received a new house and Khachatryan kept on working as a photojournalist. The two became friends and Khachatryan portrayed her again, 20 years after the earthquake; this time, with her grandchildren.

Gyumri: 38 Hours Under the Rubble



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