Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Georgia's Forgotten People

In pictures: Georgia's forgotten people

  • 19 September 2016
  • From the sectionMagazine

Marium Gabisonia, aged seven-years-old, looks out the second story window of the room she shares with her sisterImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Twenty-five years after the fall of the USSR, many people struggling to find a home and a job in the former Soviet republic of Georgia have made their home in abandoned buildings.
Some are refugees from Abkhazia, a Georgian region which fought a war of secession in 1992-93. A quarter of a million people were internally displaced in the conflict. Others became homeless after simply falling on hard times.
Approximately 400 are living in harsh conditions in an abandoned Soviet-era military hospital in the capital, Tbilisi. Photographer Jacob Borden captured what life is like for these people living on the margins of society.

Maia Daiauri, aged 45, begins to prepare a former hospital room into a liveable environmentImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Maia Daiauri, aged 45, works to turn one of the rooms in the former hospital into a liveable space. All of the occupied rooms have windows, and almost all of the residents have a small gas canister and burner to cook on. Most rooms have small wood-burning stoves, used as heaters in the winter. Those who do not have access to heating or plumbing share with their neighbours. There is a strong sense of community. As one resident says: "We don't have much, all we have is each other."

A view of the building and courtyard as seen from an adjacent buildingImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

The derelict hospital is unsafe, and utilities such as electricity are diverted through a patchwork of wires and pipes, while raw sewage often trickles down walls because of broken plumbing. In 2015, a young boy died in a fire caused by faulty wiring.

Nikoloz Beriashuili, aged two-years-old, sleeps in the one room he shares with his mother, father and sisterImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

About 80 children live in the building and the majority are under six years old, like Nikoloz Beriashuili, aged two, who sleeps in the same room as his mother, father and sister. Some of the children who live in the building skip school, saying they do not find it useful. Older children who have also dropped out of school often take care of their younger siblings.

Residents walk through the first floor hallway at duskImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Most of the residents rely on state benefits. They prefer to spend the 300 Lari (£97.99) they receive each month on food, rather than use it to rent poor-quality housing, and they avoid taking official jobs for fear of losing this cash lifeline.

A lone Soviet era car sits in a parking lot outside the buildingImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

A Soviet-era car sits in a parking lot outside the building. Some older residents remember the communist era with nostalgia, as they say they had homes, jobs and stability then. Most are embittered and feel they have been left behind by Georgia's shift to a market economy.

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, stands in her two room unit. She lives alone while her two teenage children attend seminary schoolImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, stands in her two-room unit. She lives alone while her two teenage children attend a seminary. In the building there are many women who live by themselves or with children, some have been widowed and subsequently left homeless.

A conch shell provides shelter for the lone minnow in a fish tank in a bedroomImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN
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A pet dog is kept chained in the kitchen of one of the unitsImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

The residents do their best to improve the building and make the rooms they live in comfortable. Wallpaper and flooring scavenged from the neighbourhood are used to transform the concrete rooms into a home. A large conch shell provides shelter for a solitary minnow in the fish tank of one bedroom.

Marium Gabisonia, aged seven-years-old, pauses during a game of tag with her siblingsImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

There are approximately 150 families living in the building. Marium Gabisonia, aged seven, shares a room with her sister and plays childhood games like tag in the corridors of the former hospital.

Ia Ochiauri, 42, a mother of two lives with her husband and his brother . They do odd jobs when they canImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Ia Ochiauri, 42, a mother of two, lives with her husband and his brother, doing odd jobs to get by.

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, says: “I do not feel like I am a part of [Georgian] society"Image copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, says: "I do not feel like I am a part of [Georgian] society." Many residents feel they have been overlooked by modern society, and watch while the echoes of Georgia's past crumble before their eyes.
All photographs by Jacob Borden. Additional reporting by Tbel Abuseridze.


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