At first, I met Nino. Nino is my Georgian neighbor, in downtown Athens. Actually, “Nino” is a very common name in Georgia. I eventually met more Georgian women; i started photographing them, while I was hanging out with them and while our children were playing together.
Soon I realized that the Georgian community is considered to be one of the largest migrant communities in Greece. Also, the trend of migration from Georgia to Greece is a predominantly female phenomenon; Georgian women come to Greece to work mainly as domestic workers (cleaning, childcare, taking care of the old or sick) and often they face stigmatization, financial exploitation and illegalization.
I photographed some Georgian women in Athens, at their homes, on their days off, as they hang-out or celebrate. Finally, I got more and more familiar with their lifestyle, their ways of surviving and their practices of mutual support and empowerment in their new home country.
The aim of this project is to challenge stereotypes and racial prejudices against Georgian women. Documenting a part of their lives is a small contribution to that cause.
Little Georgia is about an invisible migrant woman’s world.
It is very common for Georgian women who work as live-in domestic workers to share an apartment and stay there on their days off. That home is like no other. Usually, for six days it is totally empty and quiet, without someone living in. It gets alive only on Sundays. It is a weekly meeting point, a place of their own to stay and relax. It is a Sunday home.
Natela worked as a live-in domestic worker for five years in Greece. She took care of old and sick people, infants, children and dogs in middle-class and upper-class Greek families. Natela, as many other Georgian “invisible” women lived and worked in Greece without documents because she had never managed to have Greek social security cover. She will never get a pension for those five years in Greece.
Natela’s mother disagreed with her daughter’s decision to come and work in Greece. Natela was in her thirties and still wasn’t married. But Natela insisted. She had been unemployed for many years, since the war in 2008. She had hoped she could come in Greece and make here a family and an affordable living. Soon she realized that that was very difficult to happen. With the money she earned in Greece she instead managed to buy a small modern apartment in Georgia. She then went back to Georgia and finally she got married. In that sense, her story was a success story, at least a success story that is allowed to women.
Usually older women or very young women or women whose children live in Georgia, work inside the employer’s house, as live-in domestic workers. Lali, as well as Manana, came to Greece with their family and need to seek out a domestic services job that allow them to take care of their family too. At first, Lali applied for asylum. She had to renew her asylum application in a “terrible place”, every six months. Only after five years in Greece she managed to get a residency permit.
From time to time, Georgian women organize a collective night out to Georgian restaurants. Especially on holidays. It is very important for them to all get together and to share their latest news, to update their network. Usually, there aren’t any men among them and the restaurants get crowded only by women who laugh, dance, drink.
Many Georgian mums spend their afternoons at Saint Paul’s yard, sitting on benches. Some of them are so sick of Saint Paul’s yard. “Saint Paul again, all the time Saint Paul!” But what can they do since “the children love it there”.