Project Description

The war bet­ween Geor­gia and Rus­sia in 2008 forced many fami­lies to leave their home, espe­cially the ones from the fron­tiers Abkha­zia and South Osse­tia. — Once only known because of a titu­lar song „Tsint­s­karo” sung by Ham­let Gonash­vili, often refer­red to as „the voice of Geor­gia”, the vil­lage Tsint­s­karo is now get­ting atten­tion on its own. Situa­ted in the pro­vince Kvemo Kartli in sou­thern Geor­gia, Tsint­s­karo (appro­xi­mately 120 km/75 miles south of Georgia’s capi­tal Tbi­lisi), was known as one the lar­gest set­t­le­ments of the coun­try in the 17th cen­tury, and is the new home for the dis­pla­ces people.

This docu­men­tary is focus­sing on the three IDP women Nora Gur­chiani, Neli Ansiani and Tsi­uri Dev­da­riani, who are sharing their story. They are giving us infor­ma­ti­ons about their lives before the war and the way the war chan­ged their lives. More­o­ver the women are sharing sto­ries and thoughts about their cur­rent life in their new home Tsint­s­karo, as well as their hopes for the future.

His­tory of Popu­la­tion

When the Greeks arri­ved (fle­eing from Tur­kish repri­sals in 1913), the vil­lage was mostly empty and from that time on, the home­land of the refu­gees. Cer­tainly, almost 80 years later, after the dis­so­lu­tion of USSR in 1991, Geor­gia was ent­an­g­led in civil wars and eco­no­mic cri­ses, and most of the Greeks retur­ned to their home coun­try, and the num­ber of inha­bi­tants with greek ori­gin shrunk rapidly. — But the Greeks have left their marks in the town­scape; one look at the style of the hou­ses, gates and colors of the walls is enough to know: „the Greeks lived here“.
After the Greeks left, Azer­bai­jani people popu­la­ted the vil­lage and many fami­lies sett­led down, before the govern­ment sett­led IDP’s (inter­nally dis­pla­ced per­sons) and eco-migrants (people migra­ting because of eco­no­mi­cal or eco­lo­gi­cal rea­sons) from Adjara and Sva­neti to Tsint­s­karo in 2005. — Adjara (offi­ci­ally known as the Auto­no­mous Repu­blic of Adjara) is a his­to­ri­cal, geo­gra­phic and politi­cal-admi­nis­tra­tive region, loca­ted in the sou­thwes­tern cor­ner of Geor­gia, on the coast of the Black Sea, bor­de­ring Tur­key; Sva­neti is a his­to­ric pro­vince in the nor­thwes­tern part of the coun­try.

Vil­la­gers of Tsint­s­karo.

IDP’s need to be dif­fe­ren­ced from war refu­gees, as they are still able to live in their home coun­try. They are not war refu­gees, who had to flee to other coun­tries, like many people from Syria or other coun­ties are cur­rently doing it, because of the cru­cial situa­tion in their coun­try. But still they are refu­gees; refu­gees who had to leave their home behind and find shel­ter somew­here else in Geor­gia, which is Tsint­s­karo.

As for today, the vil­lage is quite multi­cul­tu­ral and mul­ti­eth­nic, with one half of the vil­lage popu­la­ted by Azer­bai­jani fami­lies and the other half by the above men­tio­ned eco-migrants and IDP fami­lies from Zemo Abkha­zia (= Upper Abkha­zia). In num­bers, there are about 250 IDP’s living in Tsint­s­karo. — Apart from that, only a hand full of Greek fami­lies are still living here today.

Ways of Sub­sis­tence

In their home vil­la­ges, most of the IDP people could life from the agri­cul­tu­ral pro­ducts they pro­du­ced on their pro­per­ties; they basi­cally lived from sub­sis­tence far­ming, as well as sel­ling their com­mo­di­ties, mate­ri­als and pro­ducts. „Every year I had over seven to eight tons of app­les, I collec­ted about 20 bags of wal­nuts. We worked! We grew plants, we had ani­mals: pigs, chi­ckens, cows, ever­y­thing“, Neli Ansiani explains, but she had to leave ever­y­thing she worked for behind. „You lose ever­y­thing that you have attai­ned in your whole life — a house, your ever­y­thing and you flee, and the fact, that you don’t know what to expect, is the most hor­ri­ble thing“, Nora adds. — It was a jour­ney into the unk­nown for the fami­lies, which made ever­y­thing worse, because there was no known desti­na­tion, no finis­hing spot for them, ever­y­thing was uncer­tain.
When the fami­lies sett­led down, in what was sup­po­sed to be their new home, they star­ted fac­ing nume­rous pro­blems and nume­rous chal­len­ges. There were no suf­fi­ci­ent water sup­ply or electri­cal con­nec­tions. „Not­hing was func­tio­n­ing in the vil­lage, there was abso­lu­tely not­hing“, says the 63 year old Neli Ansiani. There were „no bank, no phar­macy and not even any medi­cal ser­vices“, she explains fur­ther­more.

Because of the insuf­fi­ci­ent irri­ga­tion sys­tem in Tsint­s­karo, the vil­la­gers could not take pro­per care of their fields now. The har­vest is almost only suf­fi­ci­ent enough to pro­vide for them­sel­ves, but mostly not enough for sel­ling their pro­ducts to pro­vide their whole sub­sis­tence.
Still, Tsint­s­karo is mostly cha­rac­te­ri­zed by far­ming and stock­bree­ding. Most of the vil­la­gers are living from these occupa­ti­ons. Each family has their own small piece of land, where they grow vege­ta­bles, grain and other agri­cul­tu­ral pro­ducts. — Some­ti­mes, when the har­vest is good enough, some pro­duct are sold at mar­kets in the Kvemo Kartli pro­vince and big­ger cities like Tbi­lisi.

Apart from the agri­cul­tu­ral work, there are other occupa­ti­ons, as well. Some vil­la­gers work as teachers at the local school, some are tailors or hair­dres­sers at some of the vil­la­ges small busi­nes­ses and besi­des that, there are people owning little shops, where gro­ce­ries, bever­a­ges or tobacco and other com­mo­di­ties can be bought.

Fields and field workers in Tsint­s­karo.

Little shops in Tsint­s­karo.


The Town­scape of Tsint­s­karo con­sists of an in-bet­ween of inha­bi­ted and unoc­cu­p­ied hou­ses, some­ti­mes uncer­tain if there are people living in a spe­ci­fic house you are wal­king by, or if there is no one inside. Most of the hou­ses are pretty run-down, with plas­ter com­ing of the walls, bro­ken stair­ca­ses to the upper floor, and roofs fal­ling apart. But still, most of the inha­bi­ted hou­ses can be reco­gni­zed by small indi­ca­tors, like the laundry han­ging on clo­thes lines, shoes in front of the doors, or watch­dogs pro­tec­ting the homes.

The main rea­son for the the fami­lies living in hou­ses in state of dis­re­pair is, that the fami­lies don’t (or more spe­ci­fi­cally didn’t) own the hou­ses, even though they are living there since several years now. This is why (in many cases) the fami­lies have only reno­va­ted the ground/first floor, while the second floor is still empty. The govern­ment basi­cally just let the people live there for an unde­ter­mi­ned period of time, so that there was always the sus­pense of not kno­wing if the fami­lies could live in Tsint­s­karo fore­ver, or not. This is why the IDP people did not finish the reno­va­ti­ons of the inside of the hou­ses or the exte­rior faca­des, because it wouldn’t only be a huge amount of time spend for all the works, but also a finan­cial aspect. — If the fami­lies would lose these hou­ses again, it wouldn’t just be ano­ther emo­tio­nal loss, but also a huge finan­cial dis­as­ter.

Luckily this uncer­tainty has recently ended for some of the fami­lies, as their hou­ses were signed over to them. This was one of the most import­ant achie­ve­ments for the fami­lies to be finally able to feel more secure about having a new home in Tsint­s­karo, and being able to look for­ward to a bet­ter and safer future with their own pro­per­ties.

Water Sup­ply and Irri­ga­tion Sys­tem

As men­tio­ned before, a suf­fi­ci­ent water sup­ply and irri­ga­tion sys­tem was a huge pro­blem, ever since the fami­lies star­ted living in Tsint­s­karo. When the fami­lies (back in the day) star­ted to clean and reno­vate the hou­ses, all the water had to be brought into the vil­lage by cars, from springs around the area, which was really labo­rious and time-con­su­ming. — „From one spring, we brought drin­king water, and from the other spring we brought water for works“, Neli Ansiani reports.

Today, most of the water that is nee­ded inside the hou­ses, still has to be brought inside before by hand, even thought water pipe­lines have been instal­led in the vil­lage, to make the access easier. The water from the pipe­lines is usually acces­si­ble for a cou­ple of hours a day, so that the huge tanks out­s­ide of the hou­ses can be fil­led up with the water nee­ded for daily usage. — A full tank can last for a few days, depen­ding on the sea­sons and espe­cially the amount of water nee­ded to wate­ring the fields. In the hou­ses, there are usually metal-bins above the sinks, that need to be con­stantly refil­led with water, as they only con­tain a few liters. — As Neli Ansiani explains, the pro­blem with water sup­ply is the worst in August and Sep­tem­ber, due to the heat and the (in gene­ral) dryer cli­mate in the area, whe­reas in Abkha­zia, the cli­mate is more humid. — In case of Nora’s house, the bathroom-buil­ding next to it, luckily has a suf­fi­ci­ent water sup­ply, so the water there comes directly from the tap and doesn’t need to be brought inside by hand; just the toi­let needs to be flus­hed by hand with water buckets.

Road of Sheep

One of the many issues the vil­la­gers were fac­ing, was the so cal­led „road for sheep“. Twice a year, for two to three months, the vil­lage ser­ved as the door­way towards pas­tu­res (gra­zing land) for thou­sands of sheep from stock­bree­ders from the nearby vil­lage Tetrits­karo. The nar­row geta­way through the vil­lage didn’t pro­vide enough space for the herds and trans­por­ta­tion, as it is the main road to get into the vil­lage and the ones behind. So the resi­dents and people tra­ve­ling to other cities had to wait for hours, before the road was clear and they were able to drive through the vil­lage again. — Even when the roads were clear again, the people had to deal with dirt, dung and dust; some people were even bit­ten by the sheep.

This is why the com­mu­nity foun­da­tion Kodori 2013, con­sis­ting of women and youth groups, deci­ded to take mat­ters in their own hands. They sub­mit­ted several app­li­ca­ti­ons to the Tetrits­karo Muni­ci­pa­lity (district of Geor­gia with Tetrits­karo being ther­ein town), as well as the Minis­try of Regio­nal Deve­lop­ment and Infra­struc­ture, with the request to build an alter­na­tive route for the herds.
The vil­la­gers didn’t back down until they got help from the Tetrits­karo Muni­ci­pa­lity and the non-govern­men­tal orga­niza­t­ion Mercy Corps. Mercy Crops is one of the lea­ding glo­bal orga­niza­t­i­ons that helps people in more than 40 coun­tries around the world, to put solu­ti­ons into actions, hel­ping people through hardship by buil­ding a stron­ger com­mu­nity. — The end result was a herd-free road throughout then whole year; addi­tio­nally to that, the road was repai­red and the drai­nage chan­nels were clea­ned.