Narrow, winding stairs lead up to 60-year-old housecleaner Ophelia Hakobian’s poorly furnished room on the second floor of an apartment building in the Istanbul district of Kumkapi. The tiny room, barely 1.5 square meters in area, contains hanging laundry, a table and chairs and photographs of Hakobian’s son and grandchildren.
“Is this a real life I’m living? I’m living like a slave here,” grumbled Hakobian, who migrated illegally to Istanbul from Armenia more than a decade ago. Each morning, she starts her work at 7 am; then comes back in the evening to sleep before starting another round of work again.
Nearly two years after signature of the protocols intended to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey, bitterness between the two neighbors remains strong, but has done little to detract thousands of Armenians from migrating to Turkey in search of the work they cannot find at home.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am. Anahit Hayrapetyan is a freelance photojournalist also based in Yerevan.