Since 2020, the people of Armenia and Artsakh have been going through an unbearably difficult time. The 44-day-long, second Nagorno-Karabakh War in September 2020 and the Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes in September 2022 shook what relative peace there was in the region. The war resulted in the death of thousands of Armenian soldiers and some civilians as well as severe injuries in thousands more.
An overwhelming amount of injuries in soldiers were caused by pieces of shrapnel being lodged in the eyes, resulting in severe eye damage, loss of vision and sometimes even loss of the eye. Additionally, these tragic injuries have also caused psychological stress in Armenia’s soldiers, leading them to self-isolate and lose interest in their everyday lives.
Prosthetic eyes and eye procedures that the Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP) provides has helped these young, injured soldiers overcome these troubles and begin re-entering society with newfound hope. Since 2011, thanks to its devoted donors, the AECP has been providing prosthetic eye replacements for adults and children in need all over Armenia. Since the second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, nine wounded soldiers were able to receive prosthetic eye surgery. Haykaz Grigoryan was one of those soldiers.
Haykaz, 23, is from the Noratus village in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province and loves to read. Like the heroes of his favorite novelist, Erich Maria Remarque, Haykaz has experienced the horrors of war.
He was modest while speaking of his heroism on the battlefield but the reality is that Haykaz is a true patriot of his country. Spending 912 days in service, Haykaz was one of just six Armenian soldiers fighting against 70 Azeris. After a piece of shrapnel got lodged in his eye, Haykaz continued to fight for 15 minutes with a bleeding wound on his face. He spent 29 days in the hospital, where doctors removed 20 pieces of shrapnel from his body. Twelve pieces are still in his head since they are too dangerous to touch.
Though it was not possible to save Haykaz’s eye, the AECP was able to provide this brave soldier with a prosthetic eye replacement. Undergoing treatment at the Malayan Eye Hospital in Yerevan, Haykaz was seen by AECP Volunteer Physicians who were in Armenia for our 2022 Medical Mission. Haykaz’s physician, Dr. Georgi Grigoryan discussed this complicated case with AECP Founder Dr. Roger Ohanesian and his colleagues Dr. John Hovanesian and Dr. Richard Hill. After a detailed eye exam and advisement, Haykaz was able to receive his prosthetic eye surgery with a custom prosthetic that AECP provided.
Haykaz’s courage and dedication to his country is something we should all be grateful for, but on this day it was Haykaz who expressed gratitude for the aid he received. “I am very impressed with what you do for people in our country,” Haykaz said. “I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and to feel that I am not alone.”