How coronavirus changed the lives of 6 women in Georgia's Marneuli
Marneuli is a small town in Kvemo Kartli, a region mostly inhabited by of Azerbaijanis in Georgia.
Locals’ lives were difficult even before the quarantine measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but now they face increased difficulty following school and shop closures and longer periods of restrictive measures.
But it’s not just a lack of money that is the problem. JAMnews correspondent Shalala Amirjanova recorded the stories of 6 women from Marneuli.
Dilafruz, 74 years old
I’m from Dmanisi, about 50 kilometers from Marneuli. I came here to get married. Since then, I’ve been selling at the local market. My work day starts at 6 am. I buy produce from the villagers, all in a row, which is cheap – fruits, vegetables, herbs. And then I spend the rest of the day trying to sell it. Whatever I don’t sell, I bring home. I use whatever I earn to buy more produce the next morning.
In Marneuli, I live with my daughter and grandchildren. We don’t pay rent. The landlord is rich, and lives in a big house. And my daughter cleans for him in exchange for rent.
I have two grandsons. They work at weddings, collecting the money that the guests throw into the air for the bride. Sometimes they get 15-20 lari [around $5-6], which is put towards their school expenses.
Now life has become very difficult for us. The market is closed because of the virus. But what can we do – we comply with the quarantine rules and hope that everything will soon be over.
Fidani, 30 years old
I’m raising two children on my own. My husband left a long time ago to earn money abroad, but he can’t find any good work. He can’t help us. But my children have never gone hungry.
I work as a janitor at a school. My salary is 200 lari [around $70]. I go to rich families and clean their houses. They’ve known me for a long time and they trust me, so I have enough clients – I’m working all weekend. It’s tough, of course, but the salary from the school alone is not enough to live on.
But because of the virus, there’s no work. It was the only thing giving this single mother a little help.
The kids now study online, remotely – thanks to our neighbor for helping out. I noticed that our expenses have increased. The children are at home all the time, and since there’s nothing to do, they think more about food.
Khuraman, 51 years old
I’m a little uncomfortable saying it, but I’ve been resting during the quarantine. I haven’t had the chance to spend a day with the children since they started going to school. I’m constantly working, selling things at the Marneuli market. Now the market is closed.
Yesterday, it was cold. I cooked khingal (pieces of boiled dough with fried onions and yoghurt with garlic). This is exactly the kind of weather you’re supposed to eat them in. Usually guests are invited. But how can we have guests during the quarantine? Only family came. And then they put on the samovar and drank tea.
Azerbaijani feasts end with strong black tea. And so the whole family usually drinks tea in the garden during the day.
In the evening, we gather round the table to eat sunflower seeds and discuss family matters.
We’re a hardworking people; we’re working 24 hours a day. That’s how we managed to save up some money. Without it, this would be a very difficult time for us. The quarantine crippled many Marneulians who live off of a daily wage.
Leyla, 35 years old
There are seven of us in the family – my husband and I, his parents, and our three kids – two boys and a girl. Before, the men and my mother-in-law would go to work at the market, the kids would go to school, and I would do housework until the evening. In the afternoon, I might get half an hour to lie down and rest. Now I’ve lost that time to myself. Everything is happening at home, and all the responsibility is on me. I cook three times a day, set the table, clean the house. According to Azerbaijani traditions, it’s the daughter-in-law’s duty to do all of this.
When people don’t have anything else to do, they think about food. So it is with us. They want khingal, then they want handpies. My daughter and never leave the kitchen. My mother-in-law gives me commands. She is the main one doing this, and we cannot refuse her. By evening, we are like corpses, we have no strength left.
Khanum, 32 years old
I don’t know what to do. I broke up with my husband a week ago. He beat me, and I couldn’t stand it any longer. Now I’m living with my mother and my brother’s family. I’m eating their food. I feel like a burden.
My husband had a daily wage. Now everything is shut down because of the quarantine. He was anxious because he was left without work. I sat at home with the kids and waited for him to bring food home. But he came home drunk. And you can imagine what happened next. We had a terrible fight, and I left.
Gulzade, 64 years old
I live with my husband. I’ve been fighting cancer for the last three years. I recovered, but then the disease came back.
We have never had enough money. And now, the situation is worse because all of the prices have risen due to the quarantine. My husband works on a garbage truck. He has a low salary. We save up to pay for my treatments and medicines. We’re both in the high-risk group. There is absolutely no way I can leave the house. It’s frightening – if I catch any virus in my condition, it will kill me.
** First published: 19.05.2020
This project is funded through the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program, U.S. Embassy Tbilisi. The contents of this publication are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of State.