Tears of joy: Survivors of earthquake meet rescuers 28 years later

On December 7, 1988, one of the worst natural catastrophes of the 20th century occurred in Armenia. A horrifying earthquake razed dozens of cities and towns from the face of the earth. More than 25,000 people lost their lives and over 100,000 were badly injured.

People from all over the world donated time and money to help the victims of the Spitak earthquake.

Kazbek Kuzaev, a young surgeon from Soviet-controlled state of North Ossetia (today the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania), volunteered with a number of colleagues to go to Armenia to assist with recovery efforts. For a number of weeks the doctor worked night and day, taking care of hundreds of traumatized people whose homes, dreams, and bodies had all been wrecked by the natural disaster. 

Dr. Kuzaev was always an optimistic sort of person who emitted vital energy and love for his patients. So in addition to the necessary medical help he also gave them hope for a better future — despite their terrible injuries and losses — and taught them to smile again.

A young woman called Aida Saakyan was one of his patients. When the earthquake destroyed her house, she was buried under the rubble. For hours she was trapped in darkness, crying for help until her voice failed her. When she was finally rescued, they took her to one of the few hospitals left intact. People burst into tears upon seeing her: her entire body was blue with bruises, the bones and organs of her mid-section had been dashed to pieces, and her bladder had been ruptured. But that wasn't even the worst of it. 

Aida was pregnant. In addition to losing half of her family, she also lost her unborn baby.

Given her injuries, no one believed that she would ever walk again. And it looked highly unlikely that she would be able to bear a child. But that changed when Dr. Kuzaev and his colleagues arrived. Thanks to their speedy, excellent treatment, she started smiling again too. A few months later she did in fact take her first steps — into her new life.

But the greatest surprise came a year later: Aida got pregnant again! Her healthy little daughter was born via C-Section and grew up hearing the story of the young doctor who'd saved her mother's life, helping her reclaim her hopes and dreams. To Aida's daughter, it came to feel as if this doctor, though she didn't know him personally, was a member of the family.

For 28 years Aida wondered if she would ever see Dr. Kuzaev again. She was convinced that she owed all her happiness as a mother and grandmother to him. So you can only imagine her astonishment when she found out from her younger daughter that the doctor was also searching for her.


Aida's daughter was astonished when she saw pictures of her mother on social media. She decided to contact the man who had posted them. Who'd have guessed that Dr. Kuzaev would keep a picture of his patient from all those years ago and one day post it on his Facebook page? The surgeon explained that he had often wondered what had happened to Aida and how she'd managed to overcome her loss and injuries and get on with her life. He'd hoped that the post might reach someone who could answer his questions.


His photos were shared thousands of times and Armenian media even supported the doctor in tracking down his patients and colleagues from 28 years ago.

In December of 2016 they organized a reunion and with tears in his eyes, Dr. Kuzaev got to see Aida walk in with her whole family. A long-awaited desire on both sides was finally fulfilled!


For Russian speakers there's a fascinating report on Aida's whole life, and for the rest of us, check out this moment when Dr. Kuzaev and Aida, along with other patients, finally met again. It's also in Russian but watch it for the look on their faces — so touching (starting at 4:05):

Even the worst historical events can bring out the best in us. And sometimes when hope appears utterly lost, someone turns up who believes in you and can give you your smile back — which might be the most important thing of all.




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