A year ago, Arsen and Haykaz Harutyunyan were medical students. Two brothers living together in the Armenian capital Yerevan, focused on their studies and following the footsteps of their pediatrician father, Dr. Aram Harutyunyan.
Arsen, 24, a fourth year medical student, and Haykaz, 26, who was in his first year of residency, opted to stay in the capital once the pandemic struck instead of moving home to their native village of Areni, 110 km from Yerevan.
As studies moved online, the two brothers started to volunteer treating coronavirus patients.
"I wanted to become a doctor to help people. This is what fascinated me about my father's life, I admired and was proud that he always helped people,” Arsen said.
Aram treated patients in his community, while his sons logged in hours of time caring for Covid-19 patients in Yerevan. Haykaz caught the virus once and Arsen caught it twice during the summer.
For Aram, 57, the fact that the two were on the front lines of the pandemic was both frightening and a source of pride.
"When my sons said they decided to work as volunteers at the Covid Center in Yerevan, my wife and I were just happy that our sons realized the importance of their professional mission and wanted to help people,” he said. “Of course, the danger is great, but there is no other option. Doctors are always fighting against the disease, and my boys must fight as well. If they have chosen that profession, then they must fight.”
He and his wife, Alisa Hambardzumyan, were again forced to watch their sons put themselves in danger when war over Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh) started in September.
"When my sons decided that they had to fight against the coronavirus as volunteers, I never tried to hold them back. As for Artsakh, my wife and I did not try to hold back our sons then, either,” Aram said. “A doctor's duty is to save lives. Even if it is a state of war, bombs and projectiles explode next to him, one thing is for sure, the doctor must remember his professional mission and save lives.”
Haykaz left for the frontlines on September 27; Arsen left the next day and was stationed with his unit in Yeghnikner, in northern Karabakh, which was a hot spot.
Aram knew the danger facing his sons: a native of Karabakh, he had served as a medic during the 1988-1994 war, and had to fight at times so he could reach the wounded and treat them.
Before his sons went to the frontlines, Aram said he told them “your life is not only yours. Your life is the life of wounded boys. I understood that when I went through the horrors of war in the 90s.”