Regardless that the new bright red roof was just a few kilometers from where she was born, Maia Gochashvili entered her new house in the village of Tserovani in 2008 and felt like a stranger.
The 47-year-old former teacher had fled from the war on her doorstep twice. In 1991 when South Ossetia’s claim for independence from Georgia ended in armed conflict she left her native Tskhinvali and moved to her mother’s in Akhalgori, a city in the same region mainly inhabited by ethnic Georgians. In 2008 she fled again as Russia and Georgia clashed over control of South Ossetia. Settling into Tserovani, the purposely-built village for thousands of Georgians displaced from South Ossetia, was not easy.
“[When I] arrived there were only birds sitting on the roof and scratching it, the sound was awful. It was very difficult”.
It was a brand new house, but it was not her home. It was not only the hardship of no water, gas, or electricity: what Gochashvili needed was a sense of purpose. A window of hope opened when she joined Ikorta, a local cooperative making minankari, the Georgian cloisonne enamel. Gradually, she gained the confidence and energy to help others.
Since 1995 she had been working as a volunteer for the Georgian office of Faith and Light, an organization founded in France in the 1950s to support people with intellectual disabilities and help them in their complex relationship with the wider society. When she arrived in Tserovani, she realised that she could be of help there too. Gochashvili spends as much time as she can with a group of people with special needs: she walks with them, visits them at home, writes and teaches them songs that they then stage together.
“When a House is Not a Home” follows Gochashvili in her day-to-day life as she clings onto her childhood memories but looks forward as she provides a ray of light to those in need in Tserovani.
October, 2018 The Peace-Builders