Guli Khurtsilava, 74, Kobuleti

“I was in the seventh grade of school when I fell in love. We didn’t even know each other, we would communicate our feelings through songs. When I went to his village, I would hear him singing and I sang back. Once, at the village feast, we met each other in a playground and he proposed. I begged him to let me first finish school and enroll in a music school. He agreed. After I finished school he came to Kobuleti to see me, but didn’t dare to keep my word. I was a little scared. He waited for me for one whole week, and then he left, but he promised to come back for me. That night we had strange visitors, they talked to my father. My father told me to get dressed because we were invited somewhere. On the way I learned that in one village a man was in love with the woman he could not marry. His family had been looking for a young wife for him to prevent him marrying that woman. They had picked me and the matter was to be quickly settled. I tried to run away a few times, but they caught me and brought back. I didn’t even know his name! They threatened to ruin my reputation if my parents refused to my marriage. My father was forced give his permission. Nobody bothered to ask me anything. I was cheerful, childish and they said I would get over it soon. I have not been happy a single day of my married life. My husband’s family even changed my name. They called me Leila after my husband’s sister. But I liked Guli better. My husband did not stop seeing that woman. Often, he would return home in a foul mood and threatened me, blamed me for taking away his happiness. I couldn’t go back home because my parents had begged me not to dishonor them. So I stayed, all alone in my sadness and sorrow. Once my lover arrived, I heard him singing. My heart sank, but I did not answer. I was a married woman and a mother of four.

Only after my parents passed away, did I dare and leave. I was 39 and started afresh all by myself. I abandoned the name Leila and went back to being Guli again. However, I could not follow my childhood dreams. I wanted to sing, to study in a music school… It did not work out. I put down my dreams in my diary. I have two thick notebooks filled with my poems, my sorrow, my woes and memories. If I went back in time, I would follow that boy that very day he came to take me with him.”