Mariam Khangoshvili, 78 years old, Pankisi Gorge

I’m from Duisi. I didn’t get the chance to meet my father. I was only 8 months old when he was killed in action. My mother remarried here, in Jokolo. She brought me with her and raised me. I didn’t have any siblings from my father’s side but from my mother’s side, we were seven sisters and a brother. Everybody worked hard in our family – my mother was a janitor at the school and her husband worked hard too, but it was just enough to keep the wolf from the door.

Back in the day, women were not allowed to get an education, but in my time that custom was significantly declined. Therefore, my family was not against my education. First I studied at the university in Grozno. Back then the Chechens didn’t allow women to study. So the dean of the Grozno University came to Pankisi and brought us there, both girls and boys, to study. Something went wrong, we had to leave and we moved to Tbilisi to continue studying. I lived in one room with my cousins and sister-in-law. I graduated from an elementary education faculty in 1965 and returned to Pankisi. I got married the same year and started working at the Jokolo public school. I worked at the school for 47 years as an elementary school teacher.

I and my husband didn’t get to live together for more than ten years. I was 35 years old when he died. He built us the house and left us all alone… I raised three sons alone. My kids were studying well, but I didn’t have the means to pay for their education. All of them were drafted, then they got married and did manual labor. That’s how we have created our lives…

Men are often against women’s education, work or involvement in any fields, but if I didn’t work, how would I have raised three boys? My relatives were not rich either to help me and my children. It was hard to handle that alone. I woke up at 7 o’clock every morning, prepared breakfast, and took care of the cattle. Back from work, I took care of the vegetable garden and then worked in the cornfield.
I think women and men should have equal rights in everything. I and my husband didn’t live together for more than ten years, but I suppose a man and a woman should take care of the family together. A woman shouldn’t have different rights than a man. Women are excluded from politics and those who don’t have an education are especially against women influencing the government. One of my grandchildren, Luiza Mutoshvili, ran for the local office. Of course, we supported her and we really wanted her to win. But there were some ”deviations” from the region and she was 12 or 13 votes short, or she would have been elected.

I didn’t always think like that. I remember, when one of my grandchildren, Leila was born, I was so scared that I cried. Now Leila tells me sometimes- “Grandma, do you remember crying when I was born?!” That’s the way women are… I always wanted to have a boy and I was scared my daughter would have more girls. Now I think differently of course. For example, why should be there any difference between a girl and a boy?! I don’t have any brothers from my father’s side but does it mean that I’m not a human being? Shouldn’t I have gotten at least a part from my Father’s house and land? I didn’t get anything, even though my father didn’t have any other kids. If I were a boy, of course, I would’ve gotten everything. I have often thought about that and my heart’s broken. That’s why I think women often get the wrong end of the stick. Isn’t the daughter a child too?! Neither did I even ask to get anything, because I was a woman…”

Author: Ida Bakhturidze
Photograph: Sopo Aptsiauri 
Translation: Mariam Kajrishvili