Before the pandemic, 65-year-old Elmira Mirzayeva also tried to earn a living by selling her handicrafts in parks, near subway stations and in the Old City. Now the empty streets and closed subways have deprived her of this only source of income.
“It's a quarantine regime now, I see people suffering, but it's actually a life I've been used to for 20 years. I have been living in quarantine for 20 years,” she notes.
Elmira remembers her past and another transition period that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“We had a normal life, but after my husband--who was involved in trading--went bankrupt, we had to sell our house to pay off our debts. After that, I was forced to do this work in order to pay the rent,” she says.
“This is not a transition, this is a warning period. It is a warning sent by God to people who have lost touch with each other and have forgotten to hold hands,” she said.
Akram Mammadov, 65, who currently works as a security guard in a public parking lot, compares the post-Soviet period with life during the Soviet Union, when he also worked as a driver. He says that during the Soviet era there was no unemployment, the state created a balance. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the whole balance was upset.
“Now we live in an abyss between the cemetery and survival, there is nothing in between. For example, if I get sick, I can't do anything if something happens to me.”
During the transition period that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he had no expectations. Akram adds that those who had hope were disappointed when neither the privatization vouchers nor the promises worked. The transition period was marked with feelings of despair.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed, I knew that life for the poor was over once and for all. I did not join those rallies, nor did I want the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
Akram, whose family lives in Sheki, in northwestern Azerbaijan, has been living alone in Baku for 10 years to earn a living. He sends some of what he earns to his family in the region.
“I would describe a normal life when you have a normal job, when I live with my family and hope for the future. I do not have any of those things right now. I can't even cook properly, I just manage to get by somehow.”
The pandemic has made his job even more difficult, and he has not been able to see his family for almost six months due to strict quarantine rules. “They're there, I'm here, we can only talk on the phone.”