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Greek Woman from Tslaka

A small group of Greeks was settled by Erekle II (King of Kartli and Kakheti in the 18th century) back in 1763 in Kvemo Kartli. They worked in Akhtala copper, lead, silver and gold mines and were highly skilled in this business. The next resettlement took place in 1806-1807, and the following in 1829-1830. Turkish-speaking Greeks as well as Greeks speaking the Pontus dialect were resettled to Georgia. The study of archive materials tells us that the biggest stream of Greek migrants entered Georgia during the aforementioned period and their majority settled in Tsalka and Tetritskaro areas.

Ivetta grew up and studied in Tbilisi, graduated from a cooperative institute and worked in the Central Union of Consumer Cooperatives of Georgia that was part of a large association across the entire USSR. She recalls those times with warm feelings. She says that she was the only Greek amongst a large staff and that her coworkers were gracious with her. Ivetta had Russian education and could speak conversational Georgian.

During the first years following the breakup of the USSR, however, Ivetta’s family suffered all of the difficulties related to the subsequent wars, the instability and the lack of money which this all brought. At first, Ivetta, like the majority of the women of her time, relied on her husband to bring in income and tended to the family and her young children. Her husband then started a job in Tsalka and, after several years, the family moved there with him. The children, who had started schooling at a Georgian school in Tbilisi, faced difficulties in Tsalka where there was no Georgian school and so they had to learn Russian. As soon as the Georgian school opened, however, they moved there. Her son is now 27 and her daughter is 25. They have higher education and belong to both cultures; Georgian from their father’s side and Greek from their mother’s side.

Ivetta started working again as soon as her children grew up. Another contributing factor was the change in governmental language policy that envisaged the keeping of official documents in the State language that caused big shortage of Georgian-speaking staff in Tsalka. Although Ivetta’s Georgian was not perfect, she studied it intensively and she found herself in demand with the need for translation from Russian into Georgian and vice versa . She was not just a good interpreter but also had her own ideas about how to improve things in the work and as a result, she was offered administrative positions such as at the district hospital and the social security department where she took the position of deputy and from where she then moved to her position as Head of Administration in the Executive Office in Tsalka.

Ivetta is originally from the village of Beshtasheni. The village is not far from Tsalka, and she knows and understands the life and conditions in the region. When remembering the past when the Greek community was quite large, Ivetta talks about the old ways of life. There used to be several factories in Tsalka that employed local residents. Men also went to other regions of Georgia and in Russia for seasonal work and women would do the family’s household farming, selling excess crops and upplementing household budgets. They lived well and could provide educations for their children not only in Tbilisi but in Moscow as well. “The Greeks had money!” — Ivetta says and that is why they went back to their historical homeland as soon as opportunity emerged. Migration was spurred by opened borders and the destabilization in Georgia during the 1990’s In addition, the Greek community which did not speak Georgian did not feel comfortable about the change of language policy which made Georgia the official language rather than Russian.

According to some estimates, 90-92 percent of the original Greek residents have left Georgia. There were over twenty-two thousand at one time and, now, there are only one thousand two hundred Greeks left (the current population of Tsalka is about twenty three thousand). The elite, those people with qualifications and money, have left. Many of them, however, did not want to cut ties with Georgia completely and left their houses behind. People wanted to be able to go back to the graves of their ancestors and to pray in Orthodox churches. It was also not advantageous to them to sell their houses because prices in the region, due to the out-migration, were too low.

At the same time internal migration to Tsalka from Ajara and Svaneti was gaining momentum with ecomigration due landslides and avalanches and the search of more suitable conditions for farming. Governmental programmes were also aimed at regulating internal migration, one of them providing assistance to eco-migrants. The government gave subsidies to the dwellers of mountainous areas who had suffered from avalanches, who could then use these resources to buy houses, sometimes supplementing the funding with some of their own money. Several hundred  houses in Tsalka were purchased under this scheme. In the majority of the cases, however, the new settlement was performed in an ad hoc manner. Greek leaving Tsalka left the keys their houses with neighbours and gave them permission to let people who were honest and trustworthy live in their homes. This was mutually beneficial as empty houses would only deteriorate without anyone living in them and land attached to them become unworkable if left uncultivated.

Agreements were mainly informal and conflict is fairly infrequent as the system has benefited all parties. However there is no long term stability for the new dwellers who cannot invest in long term strategies based on property and land they do not own. Most temporary owners, aspire to having their own houses by buying the houses in which they are living or purchasing another. However, the original owners, perhaps influenced by European prices are asking high prices of about 15,000 Euro for the houses which the local temporary residents simply cannot afford.

Ivetta herself has been here for 17 years and over this period she has moved between five different houses. She currently lives in a spacious two-storey house that is owned by a Greek family. Although she works hard and holds a leading position, her family still does not have enough money to buy their own house.

We asked about the rest of the Greek families living here and Ivetta explained that the majority of them fare quite well thanks exclusively to cattle farming with many, since the global financial crisis, providing support to relatives who have gone to Greece. It is clear that the remaining families are facing serious questions related to the future. If they have children, their future will depend upon language which means that they either have to master Georgian or emigrate. Fewer and fewer students now enrol in the Russian school.

We tried to understand how the life of a Greek woman in the region differs from that of other women. Apparently, the main difference is the presence of a ‘window to Europe’. Effectively, every family has relatives there which gives them pride and the opportunity for exposure to life in Europe.

Another difference is the issue of their own houses, Ivetta does not own her own home. A Greek family owns her house. Otherwise, Greek women keep the same way of life other women do and make their living through hard work. There is not even a single independent businesswoman in Tsalka outside the field of farming.

Greek women tend to remain isolated from women of other ethnicities and are not inclined to cooperate with them this might be due to the perception that migrants have lower levels of culture than them and occasional conflicts related to houses. Ivetta, as a public sector worker sees these problems clearly. The isolation of sections of the population due to ethnicity is one of the main problems. Overcoming this problem requires time and it is necessary to have a dynamic, intelligent and people-friendly programme which reaches remote villagers and that would employ real enthusiasts of whom Ivetta is obviously one.

OTHER NEWS
16/02/2021
Georgian Honey Export Expands

Nena a honey export company has been exporting since 2019. Chestnut and Jara honey have been sold in twenty shops in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey from January, 2021. Nena honey was also exported Jara honey to Japan. And by the end of February, Bio Jara honey, a new product will be exported to the USA. Canada is a promising market and has repeated its order for the fourth time.

05/02/2021
Jara Beekeeping a National Treasure

Producing honey in Jara hives has officially been granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia. The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) applied to the Agency back in 2020.

Jara is traditional wild beekeeping, a practice which almost died out but which has since 2014 begun a slow revival with the facilitation of the ALCP. The ancient tradition with strong roots in traditional agriculture, culture represents a unique way of life. The status recognizes Jara’s need to be preserved for future generations earning a place amongst other honourable Georgian traditions, including, Qvevri wine-making and Georgian song and dances. This status and will contribute to its further preservation and promotion.

It also brings hope and feeling of pride to those beekeepers who are continuing or are now taking Jara beekeeping up.

Jara has been on a fascinating journey since 2014. This journey includes The first commercial harvesting, registering the Jara honey mark, being promoted at the international exhibitionsfirst Bio certification, being taught at the VET college and reaching export markets in the US and Canada. And we can be sure, more things are on their way.  

21/01/2021
Power of Christmas Spirit Shown by Municipal Women’s Rooms

Christmas is a magical time awakening the holiday spirit in us. They say, Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting.

Before Christmas this year, the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Kakheti, who like everyone else have adapted themselves to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, established an online Christmas Charity Auction on Facebook to help families in need affected by the pandemic. The managers selected seven families in need for help. Their stories are heartbreaking; of a single mother, a victim of domestic violence, raising her children by herself, grandparents raising orphans, a child with disabilities and families with many children living in extreme poverty. Up to five hundred people joined in the auction donating or buying things in the auction with the money raised going for donation. The auction raised more than two thousand Gel over two weeks and besides money, the families received sweets, books, gifts; and special food for a girl with Celiac Disease.

The Christmas of the seven families was changed for the better. The Christmas Charity Auction finished on the 7th of January, though the online group on Facebook remains active, as the Women’s Rooms are planning to continue sharing the act of kindness with families in need and are open to anyone willing to contribute to any future auctions.

There are twenty-eight Women's Rooms in twenty-seven municipalities of four regions of Georgia. Find more about Women’s Rooms here.

30/12/2020
Woman Entrepreneur on Overcoming Challenges during the Pandemic

An article Challenges Emerge for Women Entrepreneurs as a Result of the Covid-19 Pandemic  has been published on Civil Society Portal in Georgia as part of an essay competition. The woman entrepreneur-Zeinab in the article is the Director of the dairy enterprise Tsintskaro+Ltd in Tetritskaro, Georgia. The Alliances Programme, an SDC and ADA project implemented by Mercy Corps Georgia, has been facilitating this dairy since 2016. Zeinab wrote this article by herself and won the Civil Society Portal essay competition. The article comes at the right time. We all need this kind of encouraging information during the pandemic period.

You might be interested in information on how businesses in Georgia are dealing with challenges caused by COVID-19 and can check our report COVID-19 Effects on the ALCP Clients Businesses.

14/12/2020
Jara Honey Bio Production Grabs Newly Appointed Minister’s Interest

The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) hosted the new Minister of Agriculture of Ajara Autonomous Republic. One Bio certified Jara beekeeper invited the Minister to Namonastrevi village in Keda to watch the Jara harvest. He also visited the Agro-Keda factory where KTW produce the Nena honey brandto see the Bio honey production and packaging process following strict Bio standards. The JBA together with its members talked about their work, education materials they have disseminated among their members, results and planned activities.

‘Jara honey is an amazing product it’s tradition and now Bio certification. It has great export potential. Even though, the pandemic has significantly limited our budget, we will support the JBA to help ensure the sustainability of the Jara honey production and Bio certification.’ – Giorgi Surmanidze, Minister of Agriculture of Ajara.

In a country first, there are now twenty four Bio certified Jara beekeepers, including the Jara apiary in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden. The Agro-Keda Factorythe only company commercially harvesting Jara honey, received Bio certification in October 2020, thus the company is eligible to sell the Bio certified Jara honey crop with a Bio label soon available in the supermarket chains throughout Georgia.

The JBA is due to start selling the honey of its members under its own label from December this year. The Agroservice Center of the Ministry has already allocated a room in Keda municipality center for the JBA for the compliant packaging and labeling of its products.

More details on Jara honey to be found on www.jarahoney.com.

Photo source: The Ministry of Agriculture of Ajara Autonomous Republic

17/11/2020
Georgian Milk Mark in Ministry Magazine

Our Village, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) magazine with a circulation of 10,000 copies a month is publishing an article about the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) in its October issue. The article provides comprehensive information about the GMM, a list of the GMM dairies and their products. Rural farmers across Georgia will receive the magazine through fifty-four MEPA Information Consultation Centers (ICCs) for free.

Currently, sixty-seven types of GMM dairy products from eighteen GMM  dairy companies are being sold  in Madagoni, Spar, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Foodmart, Carrefour, Goodwill, Willmart, Libre, Deili, Bilion supermarket chains. Details on www.georgianmilk.ge.


LATEST NEWS
Georgian Honey Export Expands
16/02/2021
Nena a honey export company has been exporting since 2019. Chestnut and Jara honey have been sold in twenty shops in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey from January, 2021. Nena honey was also exported Jara honey to Japan. And by the end of February, Bio Jara honey, a new product will be exported to the USA. Canada is a promising market and has repeated its order for the fourth time.
Jara Beekeeping a National Treasure
05/02/2021
Producing honey in Jara hives has officially been granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia. The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) applied to the Agency back in 2020. Jara is traditional wild beekeeping, a practice which almost died out but which has since 2014 begun a slow revival with the facilitation of the ALCP. The ancient tradition with strong roots in traditional agriculture, culture represents a unique way of life. The status recognizes Jara’s need to be preserved for future generations earning a place amongst other honourable Georgian traditions, including, Qvevri wine-making and Georgian song and dances. This status and will contribute to its further preservation and promotion. It also brings hope and feeling of pride to those beekeepers who are continuing or are now taking Jara beekeeping up. Jara has been on a fascinating journey since 2014. This journey includes The first commercial harvesting, registering the Jara honey mark, being promoted at the international exhibitions, first Bio certification, being taught at the VET college and reaching export markets in the US and Canada. And we can be sure, more things are on their way.  
Power of Christmas Spirit Shown by Municipal Women’s Rooms
21/01/2021
Christmas is a magical time awakening the holiday spirit in us. They say, Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. Before Christmas this year, the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Kakheti, who like everyone else have adapted themselves to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, established an online Christmas Charity Auction on Facebook to help families in need affected by the pandemic. The managers selected seven families in need for help. Their stories are heartbreaking; of a single mother, a victim of domestic violence, raising her children by herself, grandparents raising orphans, a child with disabilities and families with many children living in extreme poverty. Up to five hundred people joined in the auction donating or buying things in the auction with the money raised going for donation. The auction raised more than two thousand Gel over two weeks and besides money, the families received sweets, books, gifts; and special food for a girl with Celiac Disease. The Christmas of the seven families was changed for the better. The Christmas Charity Auction finished on the 7th of January, though the online group on Facebook remains active, as the Women’s Rooms are planning to continue sharing the act of kindness with families in need and are open to anyone willing to contribute to any future auctions. There are twenty-eight Women's Rooms in twenty-seven municipalities of four regions of Georgia. Find more about Women’s Rooms here.
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