I’d been thinking of starting a series of people living in border villages for a long time. I’m interested in their reality and everyday life. That’s why I went to Berkaber.
The first stop of my trip was Berkaber’s “Extreme” café, where I was greeted with a smile, invited in, situated and gathered around me.
My first question had to do with the name of the cafe, and the answer didn’t take long. Coffee and tea are the most delicious when you jeopardize your life, the locals joked. The issue here was not to have a café but to create an environment where guests visiting the village would feel good. The cafe is a means by which you can discover the lifestyle, perceptions and experiences of border people. I became acquainted with Margarita Gasparyan, who is the cafe manager and truly dedicated to her work.
I was informed that the café had just opened, but there are already customers, both men and women. One of the girls in the village will soon celebrate her birthday here, and the café has prepared a special surprise for her. Meanwhile, another event called “Women Only” is expected to be held at the end of the month.
Getting to know the true Berkaber began with the sampling of tea, preserves, and pumpkin jam. I discovered the secret of Margarita’s golden hands: whatever she served in the café, she prepared herself. While I enjoyed the pumpkin jam, Mrs. Arevik joined us, who introduced us to the whole village in 5 minutes.
During the most exciting story, she paused and asked me a series of subtle questions. And I realized that if I did not answer her, I would never hear the end of the story. I briefly described my life before Berkaber. I found out that in 1819 Russian playwright Alexander Griboyedov spent the night in this village, and there is a stone plaque commemorating this little known fact.
The Berkaber community of the Tavush region, situated about 200 meters from the Azerbaijani posts, is known for its water reservoir. It’s no coincidence that inhabitants of this place are still present themselves as divers. The reservoir built in the 1980s was a source of irrigation water for Soviet Armenian and Azeri residents of nearby villages. But everything changed in 1992. After the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the reservoir serves as a water border.
Life carries on with a different course: difficulties, losses, fears but also new ideas and accomplishments.
I often say that travels change me, but during this trip, I actually found myself. Only the border village allowed me to be true. And if you ask how the village differs from others, my answer would be the people. People are different, they are unique characters.
There is an ethnographic museum, a secondary school, a church, free WiFi in the village, and a kindergarten, the expenses of which are covered by the residents of Berkaber. At the end of the first day, I returned to the house where I was to spend the night. Stories continued around an abundant table, and I could feel a sensation in my chest – this could only mean one thing – I loved the people here.
Mrs. Sonya, Tatul, Armine, Ara, Anushavan, Tigran and other characters continue to live in the village and create a new and interesting for Armenia. I am preparing to periodically to chronicle them with my material. This community of about 500 people has unique initiatives such as smoked fish, organic dried fruits, lemon greenhouses, and honey exports abroad. The village is still not satisfied and eager for more, so other new ideas are also being successfully implemented.
At the end of my trip, I realized that there is real life along the border where you’ll meet many educated people and find yourself not in a border village, but on the frontier itself and understand that people are the border itself.
And the Berkaber, which I’m going to introduce, can easily become yours too. All you have to do is visit once.
Translator Alice Ananian