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“I Know I Have Right to Life”

22.03.2007
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“I am Chichiko Davituliani. Soon I will be eighty-three and get older with one more year. Yes, it is true; I live in a wine-press. Consequently I have neither electricity nor gas. Of course I prefer to live in at least one-room flat and have meal at a table. However, it is not for me…Anyway I am grateful to God, because I was born as a human being to live in this world,” grandfather Chichiko introduced himself to me like that.

I have wanted to visit the old man for more than a month. I was a bit conscious to meet him-I knew that he would not answer my questions indifferently and I avoided inconvenient situation…I wondered what a person could have sinned to be doomed to spend his last nights in the wine-press.

Pushkin Street # 26 in Kutaisi is an address of a house in the yard of which a wine-press has been placed for more than a century. Very few of local people know that a person lives in the wine-press.

Chichiko Davituliani is an old lonely man. Ten years ago heavy snow destroyed his house and had nowhere to go to live in. He started to think of people whom he could apply for help.

“I could not think of anything. I had only one relative in the world. It was too difficult for me to apply to him for help. I decided to do it because I had no more choice. I spent little time in their house. Then the family decided to rent out the flat and I remained in the street once more. I had hidden 350 GEL in the boot under the bed of that family’s garage. The money was collected by the employees of the chemistry-I needed that money for the operation on my eye. The money had disappeared and I guessed I was odd person for the family. So I left them.”

Sleepless nights started for him; he collected bottles in the street and bought only bread and drops for his eye with the money he earned from bottles. He remembers several nights when he had enough money to buy sausages and matsoni too. Now he is grateful to God for those happy nights.

You cannot find a person in Kutaisi who has seen grandfather Chichiko begging in the street.
He does not like beggars and children-tramps who very often rob his wine-press. “I have warned those nasty children several times: Come to my wine-press and I will serve you with everything I have. If you do not have a shelter I will let you stay with me at night. However, they prefer to rob me. Very often I could not find my bread when I returned to my place. They come to my wine-press and stole my things. They have stolen my boots and blanket; my neighbor had given them to me.”

Chichiko Davituliani’s “flat” is so narrow that it is enough to stretch only the blanket on it and there is also a corner for the old man’s ‘wardrobe”.

Ten years ago, having remained homeless, the old man walked round the whole town and finally he decided to stay in the wine-press in the Pushkin Street. He asked the owner to let him arrange a temporary flat in it.

He worried about the fact that he has lost eyesight in one of his eye. However he does not lose hope. “I know I have right to live and so I want to go on struggling. I can endure the hunger. I will never beg a man to give me food even if I have been hungry for twenty days. If somebody lends me some money, I will accept the offer. I receive a pension and American people also pay me some money. But this year they told me I do not deserve that money anymore. Those thirty lari was good for me.”
The Human Rights Center’s Kutaisi office found out that the thirty lari was an allowance granted within the Poverty Reduction Program. Thousands of people receive that allowance in Kutaisi. Grandfather Chihciko is a beneficiary of the program too and Khatuna Gogiberidze, specialist-in-chief of the Kutaisi Department within the Agency for Social Aid and Employment, officially confirmed the fact. She added that the old man should be granted with free medical policy. The policy envisages free dispensary treatment as well as emergency operations. However, it is not a great relief for Chichiko, because ophthalmologic clinic have not recruited the Poverty Reduction Program yet. 

Chichiko Davituliani knows that he would still receive “American” allowance and somebody had tried to cheat him in vain. The old man worked at the Kutaisi Construction Office for fifty years. He always dreamt about his own family and home. He regrets that he wasted time.

Despite all that, Chichiko Davituliani wakes up with the hope. He is particularly happy with the spring to come. He said that he would walk in his own yard in Safichkhia and spend the whole day there. Then he would return to the wine-press and sleep in it.

Shorena Kakabadze, Kutaisi

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