A Home Visit in Georgia Provides a Graphic Picture of Human Needs

Zhanna Veyts

I still feel shaken, though it's been hours since I've left the Gazashvilis’ house.

Perched on a steep hill pockmarked by wooden shacks with small private plots, the Gazashvilis share two-and-a-half rooms filled with little more than a bed, some chairs, and a gas stove. This is the home of Naza and her grandson, Irakli.

With both her son and daughter-in-law in and out of mental institutions, Naza has taken full responsibility for the boy's well-being. She walks him an hour and a half each way to school, washes his clothes in a tub behind their hut, and makes sure he eats what their meager garden and handful of chickens provide.

We brought them a JDC food package containing whatever else they will have for the month: some oil, cereal, sugar, tea, grain, macaroni, and rice.

When we walk in, the floor rattles beneath us. The house has no foundation and is in very bad shape, with peeling paper revealing shadows of mold on the walls and cardboard covering parts of the ceiling. But Naza and Irakli’s spirits are high as they thank the Hesed worker for the package and for bringing a visitor to hear their story. They thank us for helping pay their utilities (I glance at the sole light bulb hanging overhead), and for being there for them, because there is no one else…. I know that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union makes the assistance they’re getting possible.

Naza explains that she ended up here after selling her previous home eight years ago to pay for her son's exorbitant medical expenses. Her husband passed away 25 years ago and she continued to work until an on-the-job injury forced her to retire. That's when she took over the care of her young grandson, and she's been his sole provider ever since.

It is clear that there is little light in this family’s day, especially when the weather is so menacing and there are storm clouds brewing overhead. But Naza surprised us, saying that she is excited about the start of this school year at the Jewish House (a two-hour walk from their home). Irakli is excited to be going to music and drawing lessons, and Naza will begin Hebrew classes—then she'll be able to give her grandson a foundation in his tradition.

"I want him to know his roots. I want him to marry Jewish, to visit Israel. I want him to know the Jewish people who help us survive," she explains.

Just then rain begins to fall unexpectedly, echoing through the tiny house and reminding us to leave before the dirt roads become impassable. We wish there was more we could do for the two of them, but there simply isn't. Instead, we take Naza’s sincere words of gratitude with us as we head off for our next visit.

To learn more about JDC's programs in Georgia,visit http://www.jdc.org/where-we-work/former-soviet-union/central-asian-republics-caucasus-region.html

Based in New York, Zhanna Veyts is part of JDC’s Global Marketing and Communications Team and recently returned from two weeks chronicling Jewish life in Georgia and Ukraine.



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