Hagop Kevorkian has been waiting for the same train for 22 years. He used to work as a conductor on services crossing the Turkey-Armenia border, but now he is the sole watchman at the decaying Akhuryan Station, in northern Armenia, 2 kilometers from the border, according to
“Trains came to the station loaded with all kinds of things. We would do customs checks and then unload the goods. One hundred fifty people used to work here. They were all from Akhuryan village. The trade supported the whole village,” Hagop said, sitting at his table in the gloomy station office surrounded by yellowing technical diagrams of train lines and wagons. “Now there’s nothing. I just sit here every day.”
Service between Akhuryan and Dogu Kapi (East Gate) in Kars province was halted in March 1993, after Turkey closed its border with Armenia in solidarity with its ally Azerbaijan amid the Nagorno-Karabakh War. It has not resumed. Today, Akhuryan Station, which sits outside Armenia’s second largest city, Gyumri, is a symbol of the human cost of the bitter impasse in relations between Turkey and Armenia.
“I have been here for 33 years. For 22 of those years, I have had nothing to do. There’s nothing here anymore,” Hagop said. Currently, he spends his days sitting alone, waiting, wearing the same uniform that he had worn during the Soviet era, smoking cigarettes and occasionally watching an ancient black-and-white television perched atop a filing cabinet.
Hope last came to Akhuryan Station in 2009, when the two countries signed diplomatic accords. The comprehensive deal foresaw the opening of the border and an exchange of ambassadors. With momentum building after the ratification of the protocols, steps were taken to reopen the station and resume cross-border rail links. Hagop said the station building was partly renovated, the platform spruced up and a new track laid. Then the agreement collapsed in 2010 after Turkey made it conditional on an Armenian peace deal with Azerbaijan.