Lili Seturidze, 70 years old, Gudauri

It was the year 1988. I lived in Pasanauri together with my husband and kids. One evening an avalanche struck and caught us up. I was 40 back then. Half dead, I was rescued though. My husband died, so as my 4-year-old son – my future breadwinner. So, I found myself alone with my two little girls to raise. Seeing my dead son, then officials burst into tears: „Woe betide your mother!”.

From then on, three women, we had to carry our burdensome life all by ourselves.

Some five years later, they built us with some jerry-built house in Aragvispiri, which took them five years to finish. I, together with my girls, refurbished the house to make it a bit livable. On the first floor, there was a pigsty not worth of living. We managed to renovate only the second floor, but the very next year, gales ripped off the roof and crashed it right against the neighbour’s door. The house was so badly built only walls remained. So, I went complaining and government provided me with building materials. I somehow managed to roof the house, but then again, heavy rains washed it all away. Now I doubt I’ll be able ever to repair it again while alive.

After being left alone together with my girls, I had to somehow earn a living. So, in 1986, I started hawking wares together with other women up here on Gudauri mountain. Back then, this place was inhabited only by jackals and wolves. We, womenfolk, brought tables here and started selling some products and wares, such as hand-knit hats and socks which we knitted ourselves. We hawked outdoors, in the snow and wind. The wind often struck and scattered our goods, and we had to collect them throughout the mountains. No government has ever restricted street-vending here, who would? I come from these mountains, I was born and raised here – Seturidze is my surname and I’ve spent my youth among The Seturs. Who would have touched me? The previous government even constructed booth for us, women, not to sit in the open air. Since then, we’ve been handling our goods inside these booths. Instead of selling nuts and sunflower seeds like before, I’ve expanded my business. So, I buy goods from distributors now. I even bought a cash register. These days, many tourists come here, so my business lets me earn a living from season to season and I don’t have to beg for my daily bread anymore.

I speak to tourists in three languages – Russian, German and English. It was the other day I was telling fellow women about my youth recalling how I used to get high marks in foreign languages as a student, and now, at my age, all languages came in useful. Every morning, I come up this mountain and stay here to the evening till cable cars station closes. Sometimes I stay in Gudauri with my brother, and sometimes I go to Aragvispiri – I hitch a lift from passing cars all the time from here to there, from there to here.

When I was fit and healthy, I bought goods from Lilo market in the summertime and peddling them here in Gudauri and Aragvispiri. I am strong but still a woman, so carrying heavy things damaged my health and I quit that business.

It’s not a piece of cake working in the mountains, but I still keep my end up. but still, a woman without a man is like a fish without water.

Author: Maiko Chitaia
Photo credit: Nino Baidauri