Illustrations by Mananiko Kobakhidze
When Teona Kasareli, 47, left Georgia 13 years ago, she had a single goal: earn money.
She did not plan on making Italy her home and she certainly did not plan on her children integrating into Italian culture.
Teona, like many women in Georgia, left her family and sought work in Europe. It was supposed to be a temporary solution, one more effort by her and her husband to create a better life.
"We had financial problems. I tried many things. Coming here was not a planned decision: My friend said 'Try this,too'. I tried just this option and it worked," she says.
Teona is part of a growing group of Georgians, particularly women, who head to Europe for work. In Italy alone, there are an estimated 10,000 Georgian migrants, mostly economic migrants and mainly women. For the most part, they work in the service sector, assisting private families as a babysitter and/or a caregiver for the elderly.
Italy became a popular choice for Georgian women seeking work abroad about 12 years ago, according to Marc Hulst, the coordinator of the International Organization for Migration in Georgia.
“There is an active migration in Italy due to the demand. Mostly they need women who will take care of the elderly, that’s why we have more immigrant women than men," he says, noting women started traveling to Italy after the financial crisis hit Greece.
Sociologist Katie Sartania has studied the migration from Georgia and has found Italy is particularly popular due to the strong network of Georgians living there.
"Those who went long ago help other women go to Italy. Facebook has also contributed to the dissemination of information – they have groups where they write about situations and employment possibilities," she notes.
But the women face myriad difficulties once they are there, from legal obstacles to emotional stress.
"In some cases they have been away from their families for a long time and the only thing that connects them is the money they send home. This alienation is particularly noticeable in the case of wife and husband or mother and children, when they lose a common language. The more time passes, it’s more difficult to perceive them as a single family," she says.