I try not to be sentimental but knowing that some of Kiruna’s historic buildings will be knocked down this year has me repeatedly wandering around them, running near them, looking longingly back at them.
Among the buildings due to disappear this year are Kiruna’s station and the old Railway Hotel. If you look at photos taken around 1903 the area looks just the same. The old railway track runs right next to the buildings and was in use here until just a couple of years ago when the station was moved out of town making this bit redundant.
I read that at one point there would have been fifty or so trains a day so this wouldn’t have been a quiet part of town. It’s deathly quiet now. I like to run on the walking path that goes along the old track. There’s no longer any reason for anyone to come here; it’s just me and the ghosts. When the mining company (LKAB) knock these buildings down, the path will still be there, and then there will perhaps be even more ghosts – homeless ones.
The week before Christmas LKAB put out a full page announcement in the local free paper, listing all the buildings they’re going to knock down or move this year. It was a long list. It was very matter of fact, with no attempt to cushion the blow. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise – we’ve known what was going to happen for a few years now, but somehow the announcement of the details and the months that it would happen, and that it would all happen this coming year, came as a shock.
Now if it had been an information piece from the local council it would have felt much less of a blow. When they say something is planned to happen in relation to the moving and rebuilding of the town, then it might happen, or it might not, and if it does happen it most likely won’t happen when they say it will. But if LKAB say something will happen, then it most certainly will.
The timing is strange you might think. It brought me down a bit to read it, the week before Christmas. But LKAB are masters at the art of managing expectations. Or as is often said, nowadays in Sweden people are good at informing you first, in a nice warm consultative way, before they run you over. As I ran towards the mine offices, the office windows’ lights spelled out ‘GOD JUL’ (‘Happy Christmas’) from LKAB to the town. God Jul indeed.
Photo of Kiruna’s rail station, by Borg Mesch.