Maia Gochashvili, 45, Tskhinvali/Tserovani

“I was part of the “first wave” of internally displaced persons. I fled my hometown Tskhinvali in 1991 and have never returned there since. My mother is from the Akhalgori region, so I lost my favorite place there too. Since 2008, I’ve lived in Tserovani settlement for IDPs together with my mother.

I was born and raised in Tskhinvali. I went to school there. I went to the Tskhinvali Institute for two years and, after that horrible conflict, moved to Tbilisi to live with my aunt for a few years. I had to take various jobs and in 1995, when the situation in the country worsened, and there was nothing enjoyable and special going on in my life, I joined a movement called “Belief and Light” by chance. This movement is spread in almost every country of the world, uniting people with intellectual disabilities, their family members and the friends who volunteer. There are two such associations in Tbilisi and, I am happy to say, there is one in the Tserovani settlement for IDPs. When I first went to the meeting, I was determined to teach and help the people with intellectual disabilities. At the very first meeting, I realized that it was a place where I would learn a lot myself. People with intellectual disabilities, despite their limitations, have many talents! Still, their major talent is the ability to accept you the way you are, to love you the way you are, and ask nothing in return. They just want to be friends with you and want you to become part of their life. I saw it in a different light, I realized the beauty of these people and I am happy to be around them and be friends with them for the past 20 years!

Our association holds meetings every month and we spend quality time together – we share opinions on different topics with one another, sing, dance, stage performances, celebrate each other’s birthdays, have cakes and tea… Our relationship is limited to meetings only, we often visit one another, go for walks, attend various cultural events…

Once a year, we arrange a camp – we pick an interesting place to stay at for a few days, and live together like one big family. We cook together, tidy the place, go on picnics and have fun for these five or six days. I used to think: “I am doing this for the movement”, but after a certain time, you realize that this movement is for you, it is actually helping you! To be honest, “Belief and Light” helped me tremendously in the 90s. It made my life more enjoyable, more peaceful and gave me many friends not only from Georgia, but from abroad too. Today, these people are my closest friends.

Since 2008, my grandmother, who was from Akhalgori, was given a house in Tserovani. She was very sick so my mother and I moved to live with her. Then my father became ill… my grandmother and my father both died soon… I stayed at home, apathetic… it was the darkest period of my life. One day, I heard from Nana (Nana Chkareuli) that there was a project allowing women to learn making cloisonné enamel. I was skeptical at first because I thought you needed a special talent for painting; you had to be a painter to create beautiful items of silver. They explained I did not need such a talent at all. Honestly, I was quite surprised. When I took the tools in my hands for the first time, it seemed impossible, but after making three items, I realized that I was getting somewhere. In short, I loved the learning process and after the project was over, I was asked to stay at the workshop. I have worked here for three years.

I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say it is the best job anyone can have. For one thing, I don’t have a strict schedule. However, I still go to work and leave work at the same time – at 11 p. m. or even 12 a. m. This is how much I enjoy doing what I do. I really love this job and time passes so fast that I can hardly keep track of it.
We sell our works. Besides, we organize workshops that are especially popular with foreigners. We create various jewelry together. We teach them to make these beautiful items with their own hands. The life we are leading is truly interesting. We sell our works here, in the workshop and via a shop located at 53 Leselidze Street in Tbilisi. We also have a Facebook page Ikorta where we take orders.”