Zhuzhuna Gabaidze, 59, Kobuleti

„I was in the third month of pregnancy when I was widowed. I was too young when my son was born. They family helped me in bringing up the child but I used to work a lot: I worked in a greenhouse. After working hours I went to the Road Department and cleaned 12 rooms until late night. As a result of this work, I was given a 2-room apartment in Kobuleti. I was a mother and I thought I had to sacrifice my life to my son. I never got married again. I even did not dye my hair. Once my son told me that I was not supposed to fancy up because I was a widow. I tried to listen to him. They teach us, women, to give the best to our children. But my efforts were not appreciated…

When my son grew up he ran into debts. I had to sell my apartment to repay his debts. We bought a smaller apartment and moved there. Maybe nobody would have taken me to court because of the debts but I could not ignore those people he had taken loans from. He continued taking loans and I continued paying his debts. I remember there was a period when I used to take food from garbage to repay the loans with the money I had. Then I had to sell the second apartment and found myself in the street. As I had not been able to repay all the loans, the creditor sued my son and he was taken to jail. He was sentenced to 6 years and 9 months. Three years have passed since. I promised, I threatened him that I would not visit him. And I have never visited him in jail. But I miss him so much I cry all the time. My mother stopped talking to me because I had done so much for my son without having any rewards. But he is my son, how could I leave him. I had a cousin, who was also in prison, but we never turned our back on him. Eventually he turned into a respectable person. I believe that my son may mend his ways if I give him another chance.

The land, where my cabin is located, was bought by an investor, who transferred temporal ownership of some part of the land to me. I brought some boards and with the help of my neighbor, who is an artisan, fixed 4 boards together and roofed it. This is my house today, I am trying to make it look better to create a welcoming space for my son when he returns. I made a toilet behind the house. I did not have sufficient number of boards so I made a curtain from canvas instead of the door. When it rains my house is flooded. During that time I cannot get off my bed and I have to wait until the water level reduces and the place becomes dry.

I applied to the Cleaning Service and asked for a street cleaning job. My acquaintance provided references. Now I sweep the neighborhood. My salary is 280 GEL. This is the only fun I have in my life. I leave the house at 5 a.m. and sweep the street. Kind people have given me a calf. It is already one year and 4 months old and will also give me some relief pretty soon. I have hens, which I sell. I also sell nuts and send money to my son, about 100-150 GEL a month, so he has something to eat. Moreover, he needs winter and summer clothes all the time and I also save money for that. They stopped giving me social allowance, they told me that I am not eligible anymore because I have a salary.

I have rather serious health problems. I feel dizzy and weak. I have to lie down whenever I feel this way. I cannot call an ambulance, so I go to the gasoline station to ask the girls there to help me. I do not know why I cannot call the ambulance, maybe because I am ashamed to bring them into this room. There is hardly enough space here for them; how are they supposed to find this place, when I do not even have an address?! I go to the dining hall for poor people to bring some food. Sometimes I cannot go there because I do not feel well. I say that I live in the 19th century. Sometimes I want to cry out loud ‘what a life I had before and where I am now!’ I want to be strong to be able to welcome my son, I know that he will need me again. I have forced myself to stand on my feet.

This is the story of my life, my dear girl, but I thank God that I am alive. I am rather afraid to look back, I do not have anything good to remember. I have worked so hard but have ended up in this cabin!“