Svetlana Ninikelashvili, 70 years old, Telavi
(Women from Georgia’s respondent – Natia Ninikelashvili’s Mother)
I was 38 years old when I decided to have Natia. As a woman in love, who could afford to live independently, I made the decision to raise my daughter alone without a father with full awareness of the responsibility. I announced my decision to my cousin. She had an unmarried sister-in-law, who had failed to go against her parents’ will: she broke up with a loved one and did not dare to have a child. That’s why she decided to bury her regret in her solidarity with me and stand beside me.
Together they both went to my father to tell him the news. At the time, along with my parents, I had two brothers. They all decided that they did not even want my name mentioned in the house. It took my father 12 years to forgive me for having a child. It’s a strange thing, women are criticized for not having children, and they are criticized for having them… Nowadays being a single mother does not seem to be the subject of as much criticism, people have adopted a more tolerant attitude. But in those days it was a very bold move.
I moved to Tbilisi to live with my cousin. I had built up some savings to cover the hospitalization expenses myself. My heart ached when I saw visitors of the other women at the maternity hospital. Only two women visited me. Those were sorrowful days”.
Downfall of love
Natia’s father refused to give the child his surname. This was his way of declaring that he didn’t acknowledge her as his daughter. After Natia’s birth, I managed to recover and forget about my love in a few months. I mean, not only the love that I felt for him but I buried the feeling of love in general. I didn’t want this feeling to hurt me anymore. It was hard for me to endure this pain”.
12 years of Solitude
It took my father 12 years to forgive me for giving birth to a child. By that time I had received a one-room apartment in Telavi from my employers. A few months after I was discharged from the maternity hospital my father wrote a letter: “she can return to Telavi. Nobody can prevent her from returning to her apartment, but she cannot return to us.” For 12 years I raised Natia alone. Every now and then my mother would help us in secret. However, I never felt parental care and forgiveness. Then, I thought about it and told myself that by all means, I would prove to everyone that since I took this step, since I took full responsibility for it and since they did not forgive me for this decision, I would be strong, I would raise a decent person and they would accept me as a much stronger person than I was before Natia’s birth. Years passed and slowly my father forgot his resentment. He even used to come by and take Natia out for a walk. This happened after 12 years, but before that I was all alone, living my life by myself.”
“Natia’s teenage years coincided with politically complicated processes. I always stood on my own feet, I worked as a chief engineer at a sewing factory in Telavi, I was financially strong and independent. The instability of the 90s brought unemployment. Natia needed a lot of things – education, outfit, nutrition, entertainment. It was difficult to leave a top management position, but I had to do it for my daughter. I made a promise to myself to give my child a good education. That’s why I agreed to the first job that came by. I put a postman’s bag over my shoulder and started delivering letters in Telavi. I remember when Natia became a student and moved to Tbilisi I used to ask Marshrutka drivers to deliver 5-7 Laris to her so that she could support herself in the capital. I carried the postman’s bag for 10 years. I couldn’t do it anymore”.
Natia grew up a fighter like me. The energy and the will to fight that I put in her was not lost. She achieved everything on her own and became the founder of one of the most renowned websites – Soplidan.ge. She is successfully running her business. Time heals all wounds. Now I teach three subjects about my specialty at a Telavi vocational school. I am an active member of the self-government. Telavi is the only city where all the members of the council are male. So with other women I try to actively keep track of the city budget and to direct spending in the right direction. Currently I am the chairman of the residential block partnership. This year we managed to make them create co-financing funds in the city budget and renovated the entrances of 7 blocks. In general, nepotism is widespread in Georgia and in order to able to better control spending we are planning to establish an association of chairmen of partnerships which would monitor the city budget. Yes, I have thought about running for office, but I cannot become affiliated with a party because I think it is difficult for everyone to talk in one voice. On the other hand, an independent candidate needs financial resources. Therefore, I will remain an active citizen and will do my job from this position”.
Author: Maiko Chitaia
Photo by Nino Baidauri
Translation: Khatuna Gvelesiani