Natia Berdzenishvili, 36 years old, Gurjaani

(Natia and her husband are currently living in a family-type house, established by organization “Hand to Hand”).

My childhood
I have very fond memories of my parents, my brothers and my sisters… This is where my ability to love comes from..
I was born in Kutaisi and when my grandmother died, parents left me in an orphanage. Yes, because of these legs.. I was 4 years old back then. I haven’t had any contact with my family since then. I have 6 siblings and I’d very much love to find at least them.

When I turned 16 years old they took me to Terjola where I met my husband in 2004..

I spent 12 years in Terjola and I had my first child there – Mariam…
I had a C-section. When I woke up and asked for my child, they told me she had been taken to Zestaponi. They took my child away from me without letting me feed her or see her once. No one asked me anything, I didn’t even sign any documents. Imagine, every mother in the hospital was holding their child. And I had no one.

I smashed everything around. I got out of bed and fell on the floor… I had a seizure on top of my depression and they gave me tranquilizers and put me to sleep. They didn’t understand my devastation. They think that we don’t feel things the way other mothers or parents do. They didn’t understand that I too wanted my child to grow up by my side. I remember once I told the nurse, please, you are a mother too and you know how this feels, let me see my newborn child at least once. She swore on her children, and I do believe her, that she didn’t know anything about my girl. Then I asked for the doctor who did the C-section. She apologized, she told me that my child wasn’t there anymore, but what good would the apology do?! I told them: I’m going to find my daughter once you check me out, and I trust that God will judge you fairly.

After they checked me out of the hospital and brought me back to Terjola, I asked for my child there, too. Nannies told me that there were no children, only grown-ups. I smashed the windows, cut my hands and demanded to see my child. They asked me, as if surprised, why I was searching for my child. I had to explain that I was a mother too who wants to have her child by her side.

After I demanded in that manner, they took me to Mariam. My child was in Zestaponi, in a priest’s house, where they housed children of different ages. The priest was bewildered to see me, asking why they brought the mother here. I told him, if you believe in God, why would you stand in the way of a mother who wants to see her child? One person helped me, I wrote to the ministry. I didn’t have any other choice. I had to fight for my child. People from the ministry came to Terjola. I demanded to be questioned alone, because if the rest of them heard what I had to tell to the ministry, they would punish me. No one liked to hear the truth there and they used to punish us, to beat us with sticks on our heads if we said anything. I told them everything anyway. There were a lot problems in that institution. No food.. No clothes. When I first got to Terjola, I gave all my clothes away to everyone and I didn’t have anything left for myself. I told them about my child, that I wanted to see her. The representatives of the ministry ordered the director not to keep me from seeing my daughter, to let me see her whenever I wanted to. They rented a car just for me and I used to go to Zestaponi and see my child.

Conditions in that house were really good, but they still should have told me where they were taking her, right?! I knitted a lot – I was saving money, leaving some of it for my child on every visit so that she would have everything. I found a woman there whom I trusted and I used to leave her the money. I knitted really fast to save a lot of money and give my child everything she needed.

One day I went to Zestaponi and she wasn’t there anymore. They took her to Javakheti without even asking me. The priest did it, so that I wouldn’t visit her anymore. After that I couldn’t see Mariam for 5 years…

After Terjola, I lived for year and a half in Dusheti with my husband and there I had a boy – Nikoloz…
The same happened there, the second he was born, they took him away, they didn’t even let me see him… I don’t even remember if I broke anything this time. I don’t remember what I did. I was so depressed.

After a lot of fighting they took me where my child lived. It was a family, but I didn’t like the conditions in which Nikoloz was growing up at all. The house was so narrow, I couldn’t even squeeze in. I could see that she was feeding her own children very well but my son was only given garlic milk porridge. I told her: the boy is already two years old, he should be needing other food, too. I fought a lot and made them transfer my son to Kakheti, in the same family where my older child lives.

I wanted with all my heart for my children to be with me. I think about it all the time. The ministry told me that my kids can’t be with me. I was amazed. Like everyone else, I want my children to grow up with me, to feel my care and love.

Life in Gurjaani
It has been five years since I lived in Gurjaani with my husband…

I was feeling very ill before moving to Gurjaani, I had frequent seizures, I didn’t eat because of the stress and I was constantly asleep, because they used to give me shots instead of my medicine. They wanted me to be constantly in bed so that I wouldn’t see the guests and talk to them. I figured that out later and didn’t allow them to give me the injections any more.

They reassured me when I came to Gurjaani – they told me that they would help me find my children. In fact, they did. The children now live together near Gurjaani in a village in a very good family. The kids are remarkable… whenever they see me, they go crazy. Nikoloz runs to me from the gate calling me “mom”.

Mariam is already ten years old but she can’t go to school because she sits in a wheelchair and is therefore homeschooled. Nokoloz is 4 years old and goes to kindergarten. We visit them frequently and they visit us too. We celebrate birthdays together with presents and cakes.

This is why I feel much better here than I felt in the previous houses, I swear. I have nothing to hide, here I embraced family life and I learned how to do a lot of things. I prepare different meals, I’ve learnt how to bake, I take care of the chicken… I feel very happy. My life is the way I always wanted it to be…

The Main Dream
I have not spent a day with my kids, they took them away as fast as they could…

My main dream is for my children to be with me, this is why I created a family. I ask only one thing from the government, to allow me to live with my children and to help me unite my family. My children need it too. I will not give up and I will fight till the end.

Now I’m saving money to buy a house and create good living conditions for my children. I want them to feel my love and and my care, they were deprived of it from the very beginning… I will buy a house in Gurjaani because here I have good relations with my neighbours and because I feel very well.”

Author: Ida Bakhturidze
Photo: Salome Tsopurashvili
Translation: Elene Kaikhosroshvili