Granny Anichka, 82, Tskeri Village, Khada Gorge

“I was 18 when I started wearing black: first my parents died, then my husband and then my child. Perched on the top of the mountain, Tskeri is the last village in the Khada Gorge. I have been living here since I got married. I was 21 then. Some of my children and grandchildren live in the city now, while others in the villages near Pasanauri. I never leave the place, neither in winter nor in summer. Around seven-eight families come to live here in summer but as soon as it gets cold all of them go down. Only two families stay here – a couple living next to me and I.

People hardly ever visit Tskeri in winter. If it snows, they can reach the village only in a tractor, but even then, they can go up to the lower bridge, then they have to walk. I remember people using cattle in the past to press the snow and make a path. Then we rode a sledge up and down. Now the place is deserted in winter. There used to be elementary schools in Tskeri and nearby villages and parents took their children there. There was also a boarding school in Kvesheti, where kids could continue with their studies and stay there at night without having to walk kilometers in snow every day. Now we do not have schools anymore. Only Kvesheti has a public school. Parents cannot deprive their children of a secondary education, can they?!” So they pack their stuff in August and travel down where they stay until June. Some of them rent a house, others live in a small cabin to give an opportunity to their children to study in a high school. This is why the villages like Tskeri have been deserted.

I try to make sure in the fall when cars can still drive to this direction to buy enough food and supplies for winter. I have become too old, my legs hurt. I cannot take care of cattle or grow a vegetable garden. I buy everything to make sure I have enough supplies to get me through the winter, because there are no stores here and I will not be able to contact anyone if I need anything. I receive 216 GEL pension and 50 GEL allowance. I can get the pension only in the villages located down the mountain. As I cannot get there myself, I ask the people that live in those villages to take the pension and save it for me. If someone arrives in Tskeri in a car, I ask for a lift to that village to get my saved up pension.

I remember being all alone in the winter 3 years ago. There was not a soul around for 3 months. I entertained myself by knitting carpets and socks. I used to play the panduri (a three-string instrument) in the evenings to cheer myself up. I did not have a TV then and used to talk to myself to feel that I was alive. I wished I had a kitten then. It would entertain me very much. I would talk to it, tell it about myself, pat it…

I like working with wool very much. I wash wool, heckle it and make yarn. I dye the yarn. I like different colors, they make me happy. I sell the socks knitted in winter to tourists in summer. A lot of tourists come to Tskeri, some of them even do not know Russian and we do not understand each other but I enjoy when they take my photos and like my work. One tourist bought stockings worth 300 GEL from me, probably for his family members. Foreigners like and are more interested in knitted woolen items. Who cares about woolen socks today when there are so many modern clothes available!

As a permanent resident of the mountain I have a free gas supply in winter. I pay gas bills only from May to October. But I do not have a running water in the house so I have to get it across the road by buckets. You will find that funny but I have one wish, I pray to God not to take me in winter. I do not want to bother people and make them walk to the top of the mountain in snow.“