“Our closest neighbors are thedead people,” says Rusudan Pridonashvili - the Dampalo cemetery has become a shelter and home for her and her three young daughters.
“Imagine, that a human can get used to everything,” continues Rusudan. “Hearses and funeral processions are our routine. I taught my children not to overreact and go about their business: do their homework, play, read. They often go to work with me, watch me clean the graves, sometimes help. Fear has probably gone. Here they know every path and every inscription on tombstones. Their childhood passes here."
While you are coming to senses after that shock, trying to collect your thoughts, we want to tell you that it was not Rusudan who has chosen to live such a life. A widow with three children with no home, with no help of relatives had no other way out. If not for the help of strangers, everything would have been even more deplorable.
The Chernovetskyi Fund once held a fundraising campaign for this family and continues to keep an eye on their life. The situation with housing has not changed in any way. The Pridonashvili family keeps living in a house made of planks, which shakes from any gust of wind.
- Rusudan, could you please tell us your story. What caused all the misfortunes? When your life started to get derailed?
Rusudan: I'll start from afar... My husband lost his job, and he was looking for something to do. He tried get involved in trading, but one needs an aptitude for this. And his friend suddenly popped up with a proposal - to invest in his business and 500 GEL monthly.” He himself was successful in doing business - he ran a shop and a confectionery. He offered us to mortgage our house, since we had no other property. We were thinking about that for quite long, but finally we agreed. We had to live on something - but at that point we couldn't even afford tea bags.
We mortgaged our house and invested money in his business. And adieu! This person just disappeared. Then we learned that he fled to Ukraine. We tried to get our money back, but all in vain. Soon we were forced to vacate our home in the Signaghi region. So, we found ourselves in Tbilisi.
We lived in my parents' house, but my relationship with my sister-in-law did not go smooth. We spent the night in our car in the park. Then my husband's friends found this temporary shelter for us. More precisely, then we hoped that everything was temporary, and we would be able to get on our feet.
Due to being nervous my husband got an ischemic stroke. One day (it was October 9, I remember that) in the morning he said to me: "Rusiko, I can't feel the left side of my body, at all." He was able to walk, but completely lost the sensitivity. He was refusing to visit doctor. I managed to persuade him to go to the hospital, and also made sure that they financed his CT scan. The neuropathologist warned us: part of his brain was not functioning, and his condition was critical. Doctor also said that if he will hold out in the spring, we can consider him saved.
Spring 2014 is the hardest in my life. My mom suffered a heart attack and fell into a coma. While I was next to her (just for few hours), my husband suffered a second fatal stroke. I was killed by this news. I immediately rushed to him. I followed the ambulance to the hospital, where they took him. I will never forget his eyes when I entered his ward. His eyes were full of tears. And one could read the reproach in them: "Why did you leave me?" Sorry, I can't restrain myself... (Wipes away her tears, pauses.)
It was the end, he knew that. His consciousness was fading away. My Gela stopped eating and talking. He just mumbled. He needed diapers. It was impossible to recognize in him that cheerful person we all knew. His birthday coincided with his memorial service. He was only 42 years old...
-These memories fill my heart with sadness. But you could not fall into despair, because you were responsible for two children and one unborn baby - alone now.
Rusudan: I don't even know how I got through that period. I was in a fog. I had Natalie, Nina in my arms, and Nanuka was still in my stomach. I did not allow myself to go into negative thoughts and reminded myself that we had no one to hope for. I had to hold on, despite all the horror.
Most of the time I was starving. But the children had bread, and I took matsoni in the store for little Nina. Of course, a stressful pregnancy could not do without consequences. Little Nanuka was often sick. I was shocked by the doctor who I used to visit. He meant business and offered me to sell my baby. He offered me a three-room apartment in any district of my choice for my seven-month-old Nanuka. “Just agree and point your finger on what you want." I tried to get a baby for his childless niece. A person in need sometimes has to listen to such terrible things! I quited visiting him. I wince every time I remember it.
Then the doctors suspected my youngest daughter to have leukemia. She had a bone marrow examination, and I almost went insane while waiting for its results. I had the picture before my eyes: a child without hair, with a bald skull. No problem with that, though. God saved us! She was diagnosed with leishmaniasis. This disease has similar symptoms with leukemia. However, for one more year we were visiting doctor to check her condition and the hemoglobin level.
I thank the Lord, that my children are healthy. At least we have no problems with that.
- And what about your health condition?
Rusudan: I have problems with my heart. When I visited doctor, and he prescribed me seven different medications. He says I have hypoxia. I need to take pills to control blood pressure, and I also have to lose weight. But I cannot afford the medications. One of them costs 200 GEL!Sometimes my kidneys ache when I overwork.
- Where do you work, Rusudan?
Rusudan: I cannot work full-time - I have no one to leave my children with. While my mom was alive, I used to work for a construction company. I clean the graves now and sometimes I have to carry bags with earth, and stone crumbs - sometimes 35-40 bags a day. Unfortunately, sometimes it is so difficult to get your money from your employer. Some of them cheat, they don't pay. They think that since you are a woman, and you have no one to protect you, they can act dishonestly. Usually, men are involved in this business, and I am like a black sheep there. My Gela should have seen, how we live now. How I struggle alone against a need and numerous problems. (Sighs.)
- How did you imagine your life in your girlish dreams?
Rusudan: I saw myself as the mistress of a beautiful house. I thought I would live a calm, happy life. I had a wonderful, kind husband. We were friends for many years before we got married. I worked in a store, Gela - at a gas station. We could always just have a friendly chat. I was not even surprised when he called one day and offered to meet. But after this meeting, he began to call regularly and did not leave me alone.
Maybe it will surprise you, but he never said "I love you" to me. Only once I heard by chance how he said to my mom: "I love her very much.” He preferred actions over words.
He was very fond of guests - the doors of our house were open to everyone. He was open-hearted. He was a little bit jealous of me, but just a bit. He wanted me to spend most of my time at home.
- Are you upset that today you are all alone? That those who were with you in joy are not in sorrow and need?
Rusudan: My relatives always used to keep aloof, I never saw warmth and care from them. And the time is difficult now for everyone. They filmed a lot of stories about us, but my relatives did not pop up. Maybe they are embarrassed to come to visit us empty-handed. It's easier for me to work hard, than to beg. Everything that you see in our room was donated by strangers. Honestly, strangers are more concerned about us - they sincerely worry about us, support us. They are not rich people, not businessmen or parliamentarians - such people never come here. They are state employees, people living on a salary. Perhaps, they have not even enough for themselves, but they still want to share. They bring clothes and food. You see, we have a washing machine. The Chernovetskyi Fund brought it to us – they bought it with donations. Before that, for four years, I carried water then washed laundry with hand in cold water. TV "Objective" recently filmed a story about us. There was such a feedback, so many calls, so many people came to visit us... I don't know how we would have survived without people’s help.
- What is your monthly income?
Rusudan: It is not a secret. 300 GEL - orphan pensions; plus social allowance and food coupons. 690 GEL total. I had to pay 600 GEL for a visit to a cardiologist, examination, and medications. This month we try to spend money even more frugally than usual. Hopefully, the cemetery will finally pay me off my salary arrears. It’s not a big money, but it would help us a lot.
We were left without benefits for utilities in the winter, which affected all citizens of Georgia. I have to pay 106 GEL.
- How has it happened so? Did you consume more than 200 kw-hr of electricity?
Rusudan: Not at all. This area is owned by the City Hall. So I am not considered to be an ordinary consumer. Nobody bothers me with the demand to move out from here, but I can’t either register my ownership for this house made of planks. It is considered to be the property of the City Hall. I made so many efforts to get it handed over to me for a symbolic payment - one lari. “You case is pending,” - that is their response. Gamgebeli (chairman of the board) of this area is aware of our case. After the “Objective” storyline, Kaladze’s PR manager had come. She just hung around but did not tell me anything.
We have no gas. We had no electricity and water before. There is one room here and a tiny spot with toilet and shower. In a windy weather it blows here as well. The wooden stove does not help even if I fill all the slots with a sponge. Of course, I try to embellish everything, I drape the planks with fabric. But when the wind blows, then everything trembles, and the planks clunk.
- Being so close to the cemetery surely affects you emotionally? You have only gravestones around. This is creepy!
Rusudan: Oh, dear... Nine years have passed since I settled here. You get used to everything during this time. I know that it is not normal to raise children in such conditions. I try to present everything to them from a different point of view so that they do not grow up gloomy, depressive. And I managed to succeed so far. My girls are much more serious than other kids. But in general, they do not differ from other children. Sometimes I have very hard days, but don't show them my mood. I just go to some grave, cry and come back home. When I come home and close the door behind me, I leave all sorrows outside. I don't want them to worry. Wait a little, I’ll call my daughters from the yard.
(The dog rushes to us, greeting children.)
Natalie (10-year-old): Mom, do we have guests? Hello ma’am! I'm Natalie. Did you like our Caucasian shepherd dog?
- Hello, baby! Yes, I liked it, though it looks formidable.
Natalie: We are no longer afraid to sleep, the weirdo stopped coming to us at night. Sheepdog protects us.
- Rusudan, please explain what is she talking about?
Rusudan: Anything can happen when you live in such conditions. We have our personal nightmare. For several years now we have been pursued by an unknown man - sick, crazy, or maniac. I don’t know, call him as you wish. In the middle of the night, he knocks on the door or whispered on the window. When I ask: "Who are you, what do you need?!" - he never answers. And it can last for a week or so. I already got stressed from this knocking, my children wake up, trembling with fear. I called the police seven times, they come, but they can't catch him. They advised me to install a video detector. Is not it funny? Our wooden door with the video detector. So, one day I could not stand it, and after knocking I went out into the darkness with a lantern. And I hear from the side: "What a woman!" What a horror! The decedents do not bother us.
There is a driving school next to us. The guys from there took pity on us and gave us a Caucasian shepherd dog. They feed it themselves. The intruder has not appeared so far.
- Let's change the topic and talk about something good. Recently it was Mother's Day. Girls, how did you congratulate your mom?
Nina (7-year-old): Natalie broke a piggy bank and bought coffee cups. It is written “Love” on them. I will show you!
- What beautiful cups! Well done, girls! What else do you save money for?
Nina: We want an inflatable pool. We dream of splashing in it in the summer. But it will take a very long time to save up enough money. Maybe a few years.
Natalie: We also saved up for McDonald's. There are such yummies there, French fries! But we were lucky: one lady invited all of us to her birthday. And once another lady took us to a restaurant. And we brought khinkalis and kebabs to our mom.
- It's great that you take care of your mom!
Natalie: I decided to become a dentist to make beautiful teeth to my mom.
Nina: And I will be a heart doctor. I don't want my mom to have heart problems.
Nanuka (6 years old): And I will treat the animals then.
- It’s an excellent choice. Mom will be happy if you get your way. But you have to study well. Which one of you is the best student?
Nina and Nanuka: Natalie! (laugh).
Nina: But I am the best at drawing.
Nanuka: Mom, what do I do better than them? (she is about to get offended.)
Rusudan: Nanuka is so good at assembling blocks and construction sets, nobody else can do that.
- What can you assemble, dear?
Nanuka: A nice house.
Rusudan: Our home is our pain.
- Our readers can really help you. What do you need for your home improvement? What's missing in your house?
Rusudan: We would like to have new front doors, linoleum. We have no computer. We will be grateful for any help.
Rusudan’s story makes us sympathize with her. She does not give up. Leaving aside thoughts about her own health and beauty, she takes on the hardest work. Only for her kids not to starve. Let’s support this wonderful and selfless mom, let’s make her feel that she is not alone.
You can come to visit Rususdan and her daughters at the Dampalo cemetery, (it is not hard to find their dwelling).
Please repost our publication. Let your friends know about the grief of this family! It’s extremely important!
God gives us chances to take care of people who are unable to take care of themselves. Do not pass by someone else's trouble! Those poor people are sent to us by heaven so that we could prove not by words, but in deeds that we trust in God!
Friends, there is one more request: if you know about the misfortune of a neighbor or friend do a godly deed, drop us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Fund’s accounts are:
(purpose: The Pridonashvili family).
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It is also possible to transfer money from Nova Technology, TBCpay and ExpressPay terminals. Find our Fund under "Charity" section (You can read more about rights and responsibilities of the Fund following the link https://goo.gl/GY2Gus).
We have already helped many disadvantaged people! Let’s support this family too, as no one is immune to bad luck! And who knows, maybe someday we ourselves will need help of strangers!
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