“We sold hair to buy food.”
“Ma’am, look. I used to have very long hair. Down to here,” - says 10-year-old Sofiko and points to her back. - "But I cut it off."
"Why?" - I ask her.
“We had no food. My parents had no money. And then I decided to help all of us - I sold my hair. It will grow back. But we bought food,” - explains Sofiko.
I became speechless. I had a lot of questions in my head: should the little girls think about what family needs at such a young age? Why should children starve?
There are three of them in the Tsetskhladze family: Irakli 12 years old, Sofiko 10 years old, and Salome 8 years old. The kids admit that they don’t remember when they ate even the simplest delicacies. They are short of money, so they have to deprive themselves of meat and dairy products... And they have long forgotten about sweets and desserts. Mother, 32-year-old Shorena, with tears in her eyes, says that they almost have no money to buy food or clothes. A poor woman has no idea how to raise children in such conditions.
A large family lives on the outskirts of Batumi in a cramped, dilapidated, and damp house. The small shack barely accommodates a family of five. There is only one room in the hut: this is a bedroom, a kitchen, a living room, and everything else ...
– Shorena, how do you live in such conditions?
Shorena: I don’t know how we manage to bear with that. Each gust of wind not only blows away the roof, but even makes the walls sway, and takes the wooden floor from under our feet. When it rains, it drips on us from above, it’s cold at home all the time - the children and I are freezing, even though we heat the room with a stove. There was such a wind yesterday - the children and I did not sleep, we thought that the house was going to collapse on us, we spent the whole night in fear. There are huge holes in the floorboards and snakes crawl into the house. Once I opened a chest of drawers and found a huge curled-up snake laying there. If not for my husband, who promptly came to help me, it would have bitten me... It's even scary when I recall it!
- Shorena, how did you meet your husband?
Shorena: I was friends with his sister-in-law - his brother's wife. I used to visit her quite often. Once Zauri came to visit them. He looked at me, and we sensed a spark between us. Zauri romanced me for about six months. Then he asked for my hand in marriage. So, we got married. I have a wonderful husband, he is very caring, he adores the children, is never lazy to work. But, alas, there is no work...
- What do you live on now?
Shorena: We get a social allowance - 300 GEL and food coupons for children - 90 GEL. We can also go to the social canteen. The canteen did not work during the quarantine, so they sometimes sent us foodstuffs: cereals, pasta... It helped us to survive.
- Is that money enough for you?
Shorena: It’s absolutely not enough! I often have to make a choice between buying food and clothes. How to distribute this money? I don’t know.
- Does anybody help you?
Shorena: Yes, our relatives and neighbors help as much as they can. If not for them, I don't even know how we would have survived!
Sometimes they bring us clothes, sometimes food - I am immensely grateful to everyone!
- Did you address the local authorities for help?
Shorena: Yes, many times. They give us a social allowance - that’s it. Apparently, they suppose that we don’t need any other support.
- What help do you need first of all? Maybe you need anything for your home?
Shorena: We need lots of things. Just look at what terrible conditions we live in! Five persons huddling at 14 square meters. We soon will have a new baby in the house - a baby will be born in a couple of months. How will we live then?
We don’t have enough beds. I have two small sofas on which my children sleep: my son lies with his legs bent - his sofa is too short for him, and on the second one the girls sleep, sometimes they fall down from there at night because they cannot fit there together.
My husband and I sleep on the floor - we lay a mattress and blankets. I am pregnant. How can I sleep on the floor?
We really need wardrobes and dressers - there is no place to store clothes. We need a refrigerator too. We have one at home, but it is old and does not work. I have no place to store food, so it often goes bad and we have to throw it away...
I’d also like to have a gas stove. We have one in our room, but it does not work and I use it as a table. You know, one can endure all the hardships when there is enough food. I have to permanently think about what to cook for children and with what. I'm tired of living like this!
– What is your everyday diet? What do you usually eat?
Shorena: Pasta, cereals, soups. I make liquid food. I have already forgotten when we had meat, chicken, or dairy products. It’s a luxury for us. My children are not picky, they eat everything I cook. But they miss a lot of things. For instance, they see how other children, their peers, live. They tell me that other children buy chocolates. I try to explain to them that soon they will be able to buy sweets for themselves, they just need to wait a little bit... I try to distract them that way... But my heart hurts.
- Shorena, soon you will give birth to a baby again. Have you already decided how to name him?
Shorena: Doctors said I will have a daughter. So we decided to name her Cecilia. Actually, my daughters decided to name their future sister Cecilia. They are so happy!
- Beautiful name for a beautiful girl! And why Cecilia?
Salome: I have a classmate named Cecilia, we are friends with her. I really like this name. Then my older sister and I told my mother that if a girl is born we should name her Cecilia. The names of all three sisters will start with “s” Sofiko, Salome, and Cecilia. Isn't it interesting, ma’am?
- You thought up well, well-done! Come on, tell me: what do you think your little sister will be like?
Salome: She will be beautiful as my mom and Sofiko. (laughs.)
- What are you dreaming about, dear?
Salome: I dream of becoming a dentist someday because my mother wanted to be a dentist, but she didn't manage to. I will be a good dentist. And I also dream of having my own room. It will be beautiful and pink...
Irakli: You will have your own room and a whole house! I’ll grow up and build a big house for us. But the most important thing is that I will buy a lot of food so that we all will have enough!
- Have you already decided what you want to be?
Irakli: Yes, of course! I want to become a farmer. I dream to have my own big farm, breeding different animals, selling them both in Georgia and in other countries. They recently gave me rabbits, I take care of them... They are very beautiful!!
- Dear Sofiko, who do you want to be?
Sofiko (10-year-old): I want to be a singer. I love singing, music is my life. I can’t live without songs and music. I like to sing all the songs, just any songs.
- And what is your biggest dream?
Sofiko: So that we have our own good home and that we will be a happy family. And I also want a cake. I haven’t eaten sweets for so long, that I already forgot how they taste. But I remember that they are very delicious.
- Shorena, and what are you dreaming about?
Shorena: So that everything is good for my children! So that they do not starve! What else could a mother dream of? Only about the well-being of her children!
- What do you believe in?
Shorena: I believe in God, I believe in my good compatriots because strangers have always helped me in my life. I believe that they will not leave us now as well. In the meantime, we still live in eternal troubles that have no end!
Friends, the Tsetskhladze family really needs our help and support. They went through many problems, pain, and experiences. The family lives in dire need and we have no right to pass by their misfortunes!
Poor people need any help. They need foodstuffs, clothes, footwear, a refrigerator, gas stove and beds.
Friends, please don’t stay indifferent! Let’s help them, let’s show them our mercy, let’s give their children a chance to live normally! You can visit the Tsetskhladze family in person and provide them help. Their address is: Batumi, 36 Goderdzi Chokheli Str.
Friends, Chernovetskyi Charity Fund starts charity campaign to help the Tsetskhladze family.
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