“In the past 40 years, nothing has changed in Chiatura. Just like human beings die when they are old, also the infrastructure of our city is dying. We need a lot of money to change the system – but only the government can provide it. In autumn, our city will start a complete rehabilitation and repair of the whole system.“
– Malkhazi Mikhelidze, director of the water company of Chiatura
Along the street, which leads to the market, the houses attract attention with their broken fronts. They are like the mirror of the people of the city; grey, weak, old. Many houses are deserted and run-down. The streets are destroyed. The people are shattered. Nobody feels responsible. The city is neglected. The young are leaving – the old are staying. Time is running. Tic. Tac. Tic. Tac. Time to wake up.
The earth is shaking. The excavator bites forcefully into the rock of the huge pit for mining manganese. A man, who is in the pit, makes arbitrary-seeming gestures in the direction of the excavator driver. Small and insignificant is his appearance compared to the gigantic mine, which seems to destroy every individual. Words. Gestures. Loud, but not loud enough; Big, but not big enough. The small man has no chance against the bellowing of the machines.
The sun is at its zenith. The engines fall silent. The teeth of the excavator pause in the rock. Lunch break. The men leave the machines, climb out of the pit and sit down in the shade. The ground is hot, dusty. “We just have to carry tons of manganese to the loading station“, explains the old man, who seemed to be small and lost in the pit. Sweat trickles from his forehead. He drips a little bit of water out of the plastic bottle in his hands and cleans them. Bloody cracks, scars and blisters are part of his hands. “It’s a tough job. We don’t earn a lot of money. The people are ungrateful. Destructive is the mine. Soon the next building will collapse because of the implication of the mining. Destructive is the mine. We are collapsing, too. Physically, mentally. We are only a shadow of our former self. Seven days a week. Day for day. Year for year. The city is living on mining. It’s living on destruction. It’s living on dying.“
The men get back to work. A few go to the machines in the pit. The others load sacks of manganese on their backs. Puffing, stumbling and gasping for breath, they set off. The heat is overwhelming. The tired bodies only move forward slowly. The old workers are a miserable sight. Step left. Step right. A tired, hopeless routine in a daily life, a life, which once was full of hope. Step left. Step right. Uphill. Downhill.
How will the future look like? It’s in the hands of the next generation. They have to take over the reins of the mine. Thinking. Planning. Acting. The city must live. It has to live to exist; And it must not live to die.
Step left. Step right.
The metal under the feet vibrates. The cabin crawls up along the cable. Higher and higher. A warm wind strokes the face of the passenger. The cable car gains height with ease. Higher and higher. Under the bottom of the cabin, Chiatura becomes smaller; The people on the street move like ants. The hectic city gets more pleasant the more it loses size; the more the harassed people lose importance.
The time seems to stand still. The noise of the streets falls silent. Except for the soothing rattling of the cog which carries the cable car along, it is silent; comfortably silent.
The city becomes smaller. And smaller. Man gets bigger and bigger. Removed from concrete and dirt, in harmony with nature. Not weak anymore; not insignificant anymore. Side by side with freedom he is looking at the city which seemed to be so important. Independent, powerful, free.
The cable car stops, the journey of thoughts is over. The feet leave the ground of metal. High up. The gaze wanders over the valley, over the city. For a moment he is free like a bird. For a moment, until the cabin takes him back into the tristesse of his own existence.
Free like a bird.
A drop, a second, a third. With luck it’s enough to fill the small tub of plastic. Too much water has been consumed for the day; only tomorrow new water will come out of the tap. A drop. And another. In Chiatura priorities have to be set. Take a shower or flush? A question, which belongs to the daily life of the people of the city.
The little saleswoman, an old lady, grabs for a wooden stool and goes outside. The skin is pallid – marked by time. Her eyes are deep in their sockets. She looks at us. Sadness and hopelessness in her eyes. “You know“, she starts, picking the pieces of fluff out of her flower skirt with her shaking hands.
“Actually we don’t have to live like that. If there would be more young people here, who would take care about the water supply, everybody in Chiatura could take a substantial bath. Even simultaneously! But the city is old. The people are old. Old and tired.“ She wipes the sweat off her forehead and strokes her grey, strawy hair behind the ear. She takes her stool into the shade. A weak, frail body. Like a butterfly with a slow beat of its wings, which sets out on one’s final journey.
On the side of the road the ground is broken. Damaged pipes are popping up and the water is dripping constantly out on the dirty, dusty road. The city is full of such open water pipes. The river Qwirila flows through the heart of Chiatura; vivid and powerful. A pretence, an illusion, a paradox of this wretched, perishing city.
A drop, a second, a third. It’s a matter of time, – four, five, six, until the water for the city – seven, eight, nine, is gone for today.
Ten, eleven, — .
Story by Tina Glombik, Christine Simon, Giorgi Getiashvili and Giga Chirgazde.