Mzia Chanturia, 60, Gagra

“In 1992, my husband passed away. Abkhazia was already in turmoil. In only forty days after my husband’s death I had to flee Gagra with my two young children – the girl was nine years old and the boy was only seven. You know the cruise ships… that’s what we left on. We had to stand in a long line to get on board. It took us all night to reach Batumi. We were scared that we might be attacked, but we made it safely. My house in Gagra has been burnt to the ground.

I did not arrive in Tbilisi with the intention to stay. I had a cousin here who told me to bring the kids. We arrived on October 1 and on the following day, October 2, Gagra was captured. We were left without any means. My only belonging was the satin dress I was wearing. The children had taken schoolbooks with them. This was all we had when we came to Tbilisi. I stayed with my cousin for one month and then the government settled us in a student dormitory – a tiny little room with the area 25 square meters. There were twelve of us living in that room. We have lived here since 1992. The building is terrible; it is shaking and is long past its useful life. Mice live here alongside humans. This building is not fit for living at all.

I’ve struggled a lot, worked in a kiosk, sometimes I took children there to study. I have been robbed once or twice, even when the kids were with me. Raising two kids has been extremely difficult. I have been through a lot of suffering. I am unemployed now and live on the IDP allowance and pension.

I cannot compare my life there and my life here. I would rather be a beggar there, than stay here. Here, we are nobody. No matter what you are like, you are called a refugee and you are not seen as a human being. 24 years have passed since and I am still dreaming of going back to Gagra. If I’m told tomorrow that I can return, I would go without a second thought”.