After midnight, around 2 o'clock a.m. near the “Samgori” subway station, an unusual crowd can be noticed. In one corner of an empty street people start to gather. They arrive by cars and mini buses, as no public transportation is working at such a late. If one gets closer, one can notice lots of flowers. Flowers are all around: in cars, on car roofs, and in rows of the trade counters. Numerous flowers for sale. It is the Flower Bazaar.
At the entrance I meet a grey haired old man, who leads me to his place through bazaar, as he hears my wish to shoot the Flowers’ Bazaar and find out more about this place.
Valodia Kalandia, in his 70s, is a refugee from Abkhazia. Since the early 1990s, he has been settled in Tbilisi with his wife. His work in the flower business has spanned over the course of 19 years since he arrived. At first he worked at the Dezertiri Bazaar, but after it was closed, he moved to Samgori. Here he works together with his wife to buy flowers from villagers in and around Tbilisi and then sell them to different clients and owners of flower shops in the city. Sometimes buyers come as far as other cities of Georgia to him. Usually, Kalandia stays in the bazaar with his wife – Mzia to save money on transportation. They rent a small room next to their trade counter. Once a week they go home but mainly they spend time here. Valodia’s shift starts at 2 o'clock a.m. and lasts until 10 a.m. Later, while Mzia sells flowers to retail buyers, Valodia goes to sleep. He has to be ready for the next night’s Wholesale Trade.
Next to Valodia’s place, Bagrat has a small shop for all kind of packing materials for the flowers. At first, it was hard to break nights but now he has gotten used to it, though Bagrat sleeps on average 2-3 hours per day. He says it’s enough as long as his TV is switched on all the time, Bagrat doesn’t listen to it, but someone has to talk to him from the box. Bagrat says this market is seasonal. In the summer, clients are fewer, therefore some vendors even close their shops until the autumn. The job is quite difficult to Bagrat, but he says that he has no other choice. Without this job, he would probably go abroad to find another one.
Unlike Bagrat, Valodia has no expectations. It is very difficult for him to break nights in the hot summer, and even harder in the freezing winter, but he has nowhere else to go. The only place he would go to without thinking is his home in Abkhazia. He says if there was a chance, he would even walk back to Sokhumi, as he walked from there more than 20 years ago.
Aside from Valodia and Bagrat, tens of other people break their nights in the summers and winters for a very low income. Here I found elderly and middle aged people, men and women, even children helping their parents. Every night they are selling flowers in the darkness.