HOME > ALCP News
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
24/06/2022
Switzerland and Austria Celebrating jointly their 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Georgia

   

On June 22ndOn the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Switzerland and Georgia, as well as Austria with Georgia, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, H. E. Heidi Grau and Ambassador of Austria to Georgia, H. E. Thomas Muehlmann planted a tree in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden. The Minister of Agriculture of Ajara AR, Zaza Shavadze and the Deputy Mayor of Khulo, Nadim Vasadze joined the event. The Goderdzi Alpine Garden is an important tourist destination in mountainous Ajara and a testimony of biodiversity and cultural richness of the region.

Both ambassadors picked up on the theme of needing to balance development with sustainability and care for nature and that the garden is an excellent example of this. While the Director of Batumi Botanical Garden, Irakli Archaia emphasized the importance of the garden and initiated the idea of copying the model of the garden in other municipalities. The minister of Agriculture of Ajara, Zaza Shavadze stated thatcreating and supporting new opportunities for rural development is the key goal of the strategic framework of relations of Switzerland and Austria with Ajara region.

H.E. Heidi Grau noted the excellent results achieved by ALCP in creating job and income opportunities for the rural population, including by supporting the production of Jara honey, and was pleased to announce that

Switzerland is engaging in a new phase of the ALCP project, together with Austria and joined by Sweden, until 2026, with a total budget of USD 6.5 million. This will allow to further facilitate production in beekeeping, dairy and meat, wild botanicals and silk, as well as support the development of the Goderdzi Botanical Garden, for the benefit of women and men living in mountainous regions,’ Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, H. E. Heidi Grau said.

The delegation visited Wool House in Klde Village, Samtskhe-Javakheti, the Georgian Milk Mark dairy enterprise, Natural Produktsia Ltd in Dioknisi Village, Khulo and honey processing factory, Agro Keda Ltd.

The Austrian Ambassador H.E. Thomas Muehlmann underlined, that support in further development of the wool sector, as well as support in uniting the voices of beekeepers through support to their professional union created new opportunities for development for the rural population.

‘Support to rural and local development is a key aim of the new framework strategy of Austria with Georgia. We believe, that with joint efforts European countries will bring more experience and novelties to Georgia, which will trigger further development of the country,’ Austrian Ambassador H.E. Thomas Muehlmann said.

16/06/2022
Local TV launched in Tsalka

On June 16th the Journalism Resource Centre celebrated the opening of the first local TV media TOK TV in Tsalka municipality. Three local journalists attended journalism courses on reporting for one month. As Tsalka is a multiethnic municipality the journalists represent Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian communities.

‘We will report on the issues that are important in increasing transparency and accountability among the general population and local officials. Reports related to agricultural issues will be one of the main topics for our work. Local people will be engaged in the decision-making around ongoing local development. Especially, this is important after the newly opened tourist attraction in Dashbashi Canyon.’ - Local Journalist Nazi Meshveliani said.

04/05/2022
Georgian Milk Mark Dairies on Show

The Cheese and Tea Exhibition showcasing Georgian traditional, as well as foreign produce was held at Mtatsminda Park on May 1st, 2022. Ten dairies with the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) - Milkeni, Tsintskaro +, Meskhuri Gemo, Bebo’s Kveli, Suamta, Leanka, Alpuri Javakheti, Dertseli’s Nobati, Naturaluri Rdzis Gemo, Tsezari presented their products at the event organized by Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze, the Head of the Cheese Producers Guild. Visitors tasted cheese and got to know about the GMM. Butter with spices, a new product by Milkeni, was their favourite.

‘The GMM contributed a lot to make this event happen. I am thankful to them for giving me an opportunity to discover amazing products, like butter with spices. I am glad that the GMM promotes raw milk production’ - Event founder Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze praised the development of the GMM in her Facebook posts.

Created in 2019, the GMM has twenty dairies currently using the mark. The GMM products are available in Madagoni, Spar, Tserti, Magniti, Smart, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Carrefour, Goodwill, Daily, Billion and Willmart supermarket chains.

A comprehensive online portal www.georgianmilk.ge provides a profile per enterprise allowing consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique registration number printed on the label.

        

15/04/2022
Cooperation Solidifies Between Georgian and Armenian Women’s Rooms

For three days from 11-14 April, the Women’s Rooms Union of Georgia NGO hosted an Armenian delegation of the Mayors of Alaverdi, Tumanyan and Tashir municipalities of Armenia, their three Women’s Rooms managers, representatives of Lori Region Governor’s office and the Association of Lawyers Community NGO.  These three municipalities in Armenia have now all instituted Women’s Rooms and were in Georgia to learn more about their operation and potential and to strengthen links in the region.

They met the mayors and deputy mayors of Akhmeta and Telavi municipalities, and a representative of Kakheti Governor’s office and visited the rooms. The Women’s Room managers of both municipalities did presentations on their work.

‘It was a very interesting and useful visit. We have just established the Women’s Room service in our municipality and, as we’ve copied the Georgian model, it was necessary for us to see how this it works here,’ – Suren Tumanyan, the mayor of Tumanyan municipality said.

‘After this visit we clearly see how to use our Women’s Rooms and make sure that our women and girls are involved in local decision making through the Women’s Room as it was done in Georgia,’ – Edgar Arshakyan, the mayor of Tashir municipality said.

One of the main goals of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Georgia is to support women’s entrepreneurship by helping them write business proposals, connect with other women entrepreneurs and access the trainings and information. Participants visited social enterprise Skhivi, where women are making traditional enamel jewelry and accessories, the shop of entrepreneur Tamar Mikeladze, who is making handmade soaps and candles under the brand name Kumpa, and a local female beekeeper.

‘We are impressed with the results of Georgian Women’s Rooms regarding women’s economic empowerment. The managers here had business plan writing and fundraising trainings to help local women to start their own businesses. We are looking forward to doing the same in Armenia,’ – Sasun Khechumyan, the mayor of Alaverdi said.

‘In Lori region there are five municipalities in total, out of which three municipalities have already opened the Women’s Rooms. We are ready to support the opening of this service in the other two municipalities as well,’ – Alik Sahakyan, the representative of Lori Governor’s office said.

This study tour has laid the foundation for future cooperation between Georgian and Armenian municipalities. Alaverdi and Akhmeta municipalities have decided to become twin towns and the Women’s Rooms Union is going to continue cooperation with these Armenia municipalities.

Background information: From 2011 to date the SDC and ADA funded Mercy Corps implemented Alliances Caucasus Programme has been facilitating the establishment and scaling up the municipal Women’s Rooms in Georgia and Armenia. 32 Women’s Rooms in Georgia and three Women’s Rooms in Armenia have been opened so far. The Women’s Rooms are owned by local governments and are used to facilitate access to public decision making, goods and economic opportunities. The Women’s Rooms Union was formed in 2021 to represent the rooms and facilitate their interests.

The information about the visit was posted on a Facebook pages of Telavi and Akhmeta City Halls.

Local TV Tanamgzavri made two news items about the visit. Please, follow the links below:

Meeting at Telavi City Hall  *  Visiting Local Women Entrepreneurs

Follow the link to watch The Women’s Rooms Promo Video

12/04/2022
New Jara Textbook Introduced for VET

Georgian Traditional Beekeeping: Jara Honey Production is a new textbook now available for VET colleges who include a Jara component in their beekeeping courses. It is part of making the Jara beekeeping course material an accredited component in its own right from September this year.

The author Aleko Papava, who is a competent, reliable and respected beekeeper teacher and Head of the Georgian Beekeepers Union, wrote the book together with education specialists on behalf of the Georgian Beekeepers Union and Jara Beekeepers Association.

The Scientific Research Centre of Agriculture of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture reviewed and acknowledged the book positively.  

‘The book is written in a highly professional manner, materials meet the demand of the beekeeping sector in terms of bio honey production and provide comprehensive information about all the topics for studying Jara Honey Production’ – says the Centre in their letter sent to the GBU.

In June 2021, thirteen VET college representatives from seven regions of Georgia attended a Training of Trainers in Jara Honey Production and later received jara equipment. Now eight of them are integrating aspects of Jara beekeeping into different subjects of the beekeeping programmes to 106 students. Five more colleges will start soon. This textbook means that Jara Beekeeping will be taught as a separate accredited component of these courses. The newly established Vocational Skills Agency, National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement and sectoral skills organization Agro Duo are all supporting Jara teaching integration in the VET colleges.

Linked resources: Jara Honey Production Handbook; Bio Certification Guidelines for Beekeepers; www.honeyofgeorgia.com; Discover Georgia: The Land of the Oldest Honey.

03/02/2022
The ‘Secrets’ of Georgian Honey Revealed in the New Article

The Many Secrets of Georgian Honey, an article dedicated to the exceptional Georgian honey making, was published in the online journal Plantings by the World Sensorium Conservancy. The journal covers topics relevant to conservation and the intrinsic values of nature. The article was penned by Braden Bjella, an American culture journalist based in Eastern Europe, who takes readers to Georgian beekeeping journey with the help of the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) and the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA). As he says, “the question of Georgian honey quality is settled; now, it’s only up to the world to discover it". 

         

LATEST NEWS
Local TV launched in Tsalka
16/06/2022
On June 16th the Journalism Resource Centre celebrated the opening of the first local TV media TOK TV in Tsalka municipality. Three local journalists attended journalism courses on reporting for one month. As Tsalka is a multiethnic municipality the journalists represent Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian communities. ‘We will report on the issues that are important in increasing transparency and accountability among the general population and local officials. Reports related to agricultural issues will be one of the main topics for our work. Local people will be engaged in the decision-making around ongoing local development. Especially, this is important after the newly opened tourist attraction in Dashbashi Canyon.’ - Local Journalist Nazi Meshveliani said.
Switzerland and Austria Celebrating jointly their 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Georgia
24/06/2022
    On June 22nd, On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Switzerland and Georgia, as well as Austria with Georgia, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, H. E. Heidi Grau and Ambassador of Austria to Georgia, H. E. Thomas Muehlmann planted a tree in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden. The Minister of Agriculture of Ajara AR, Zaza Shavadze and the Deputy Mayor of Khulo, Nadim Vasadze joined the event. The Goderdzi Alpine Garden is an important tourist destination in mountainous Ajara and a testimony of biodiversity and cultural richness of the region. Both ambassadors picked up on the theme of needing to balance development with sustainability and care for nature and that the garden is an excellent example of this. While the Director of Batumi Botanical Garden, Irakli Archaia emphasized the importance of the garden and initiated the idea of copying the model of the garden in other municipalities. The minister of Agriculture of Ajara, Zaza Shavadze stated thatcreating and supporting new opportunities for rural development is the key goal of the strategic framework of relations of Switzerland and Austria with Ajara region. H.E. Heidi Grau noted the excellent results achieved by ALCP in creating job and income opportunities for the rural population, including by supporting the production of Jara honey, and was pleased to announce that ‘Switzerland is engaging in a new phase of the ALCP project, together with Austria and joined by Sweden, until 2026, with a total budget of USD 6.5 million. This will allow to further facilitate production in beekeeping, dairy and meat, wild botanicals and silk, as well as support the development of the Goderdzi Botanical Garden, for the benefit of women and men living in mountainous regions,’ Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, H. E. Heidi Grau said. The delegation visited Wool House in Klde Village, Samtskhe-Javakheti, the Georgian Milk Mark dairy enterprise, Natural Produktsia Ltd in Dioknisi Village, Khulo and honey processing factory, Agro Keda Ltd. The Austrian Ambassador H.E. Thomas Muehlmann underlined, that support in further development of the wool sector, as well as support in uniting the voices of beekeepers through support to their professional union created new opportunities for development for the rural population. ‘Support to rural and local development is a key aim of the new framework strategy of Austria with Georgia. We believe, that with joint efforts European countries will bring more experience and novelties to Georgia, which will trigger further development of the country,’ Austrian Ambassador H.E. Thomas Muehlmann said.
Georgian Milk Mark Dairies on Show
04/05/2022
The Cheese and Tea Exhibition showcasing Georgian traditional, as well as foreign produce was held at Mtatsminda Park on May 1st, 2022. Ten dairies with the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) - Milkeni, Tsintskaro +, Meskhuri Gemo, Bebo’s Kveli, Suamta, Leanka, Alpuri Javakheti, Dertseli’s Nobati, Naturaluri Rdzis Gemo, Tsezari presented their products at the event organized by Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze, the Head of the Cheese Producers Guild. Visitors tasted cheese and got to know about the GMM. Butter with spices, a new product by Milkeni, was their favourite. ‘The GMM contributed a lot to make this event happen. I am thankful to them for giving me an opportunity to discover amazing products, like butter with spices. I am glad that the GMM promotes raw milk production’ - Event founder Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze praised the development of the GMM in her Facebook posts. Created in 2019, the GMM has twenty dairies currently using the mark. The GMM products are available in Madagoni, Spar, Tserti, Magniti, Smart, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Carrefour, Goodwill, Daily, Billion and Willmart supermarket chains. A comprehensive online portal www.georgianmilk.ge provides a profile per enterprise allowing consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique registration number printed on the label.         
LATEST PUBLICATIONS
Sheep Dipping Guidelines
Georgian Traditional Beekeeping: Jara Honey Production GEO
The book will allow all VET colleges with beekeeping programmes to teach Jara as a subject from September 2022.
Bi Annual Report April 2021 to September 2021