Tsiala Tsadzikidze, 59, Italy
“By March, I will have been a migrant for 13 years. Initially I thought that I would not stay here for more than 5 years – I thought of this term as going to prison. When I arrived in Italy some women said that they had been in the country for already two or three years. I used to be so jealous of them! They had been there for a long time, had learnt the language, had got used to a new environment… I couldn’t wait for that adaptation period to end. And now it is already thirteenth years I have been in the country… People seem to get used to and put up with anything. Initially I could not imagine living in Italy but now when I come back to Georgia I feel somehow alienated as if I cannot find my place any more. I feel more needed here because I have a job and somebody is waiting for me. My kids have grown up; they do not need me any more. They are busy doing their own things and I feel useless. I am very happy every time to visit Georgia and it is really difficult not to come to the country once a year. You come and think that something has improved – something has been built, something has been done… But unfortunately I cannot see any real progress. When I come from Italy to Georgia, everything seems so dismal around, it breaks my heart!
When I first left Georgia I felt like I left my heart there. I was not alone. 45 women travelled together by bus. Everybody looked so downhearted. We tried to keep up our spirits. Even though this was our first time abroad and we should have been interested in everything, nothing made us happy. Feeling sad and brokenhearted, we didn’t care much about anything.
What did I find most difficult? Leaving my children and my family, of course. I had never left them before and I was not sure what was going to happen. I was most concerned about my youngest child, who was only 12 years old when I left. I want to thank my children for doing so well and not causing me problems. Hearing good news from them helped me go on. I have had to go through many hardships since I arrived here. For example, I was not able to come to Georgia when my husband died. But I have had things to be happy about either – I have helped my children to get education and find their way in life! What else do we have here to be happy about?! We are actually prisoners! Yes, you are not able to freely go anywhere. I have been out for two hours now and run back like crazy. This lady would start calling me even if I were one minute late. We have a great responsibility. These two hours belong to me and I can go out. Even though I will not be responsible if anything happens during that period, this is a big stress anyway–what if she falls down or something else happens to her?! The most difficult thing is that we live with the lives of the elderly we take care of – we have to do whatever pleases them. Very often you want to open a window and let some air in but you may not because she is cold; you want to switch on TV when you like to watch it but you may not because she is bothered and does not like that. You feel restricted in everything because you are not in your home! I have lived in other people’s homes and have not had my own life for thirteen years. Moreover, it is rather difficult emotionally when a person you look after dies. I have had several such cases and those people have taken a piece of my heart away. This was the person you used to take care of. So when I see their belongings in the house after their death I feel horrified. This job is difficult morally rather than physically.
When I observe the relationships between women and men here, I see that men help their wives more and show more respect towards them. For example, when the son of the lady I take care of visits her, he is often in a hurry because he has to do laundry or cook. When I see that and compare the environment with that of Georgia I understand that women in Georgia have really had a miserable life. I think this is the reason why many women do not want to return there.
I am also afraid of getting old. I won’t be able to live on the pension that is provided in Georgia, will I?! Here the elderly are happy because they can hire a caregiver and buy their medicine themselves, so their children do not have to spend even one euro on them. This is why recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the old age…
Most of all I am afraid that I will not be able to find a job at this age when I come to Georgia. I think all the time what a women of my age should do when she arrives in Georgia! Should I count on getting financial support from my children? I do not want to come back to a poor life but there is nothing to make me sure that this will not happen. I already got used to living here, I also got used to being far from my children. After all I am not that old, I can still work, so I will continue working here!”