Tsigani means Gypsy in Russian and this is the name people in Georgia often address to the beggers in the street or those merchants who mostly sell things at the territory of Tbilisi central railway station. Actually the last one is from Moldova and the other doesn’t know its roots. These are the people of different nationality united under the same name by the strange circumstance. These are the two worlds of Tbilisi Tsigani’s.
Bella is 16. She lives with her large family including parents, siblings, aunt and cousins. She lives in Tbilisi, suburb called Africa but she came here from western Georgia, Batumi. “I don’t know from where my family comes. I know nothing about my ancestors and grandparents. They lived before me, so how can I know them” says Bella but she knows that local people identify her and her family as Tsigani or Gypsy.
Everybody in the suburb Africa can show the way to the Gypsy community, saying that they are not dangerous people at all. Bella and other Tsigani live in tiny huts without electricity. The shelters aren’t furnished. “It is very difficult to live here in winter”, Bella says. Dressed in shabby clothes, she and other kids from her family beg in the city center. “We are given mostly money, sometimes clothes as well”, she says. Men of the family mostly get money by collecting metal things and selling them.
Neither Bella nor her family members have any ID cards. They don’t have any certain religion and the kids even don’t know their second names. Some of them speak Georgian, some – don’t. The older members of the family speak Azerbaijani language as they used to live there. Also they understand a little Russian. The children can read and write Georgian, learnt during the short-time classes.
Vakho is 12, he is Bella’s cousin. He has 8 sisters and one brother. “The people treated me during the begging. Now I don’t beg. When I grow up, I don’t want to ask money standing in the street,” he says.
Bella has her wish as well. She wants to work. “I’d love to be a shop assistant or something like this but I know nobody will give me this position”. She just smiled and didn’t explain the reason she thinks like that.
Unlike Bella, Ella Lupashko, 20, is more comfortable in the society and labor market. She is called Tsigani but she is from Moldova. Her husband and family lives in Lotkini suburb and they all work at the bazaar near the central railway station. “I live here with the people of my nationality, but I’d rather live somewhere calmer place then this community”, she says.
Ella doesn’t remember any case of wrong attitude towards her nationality but her mother in law, Tamara Cheremushina , 60 – does. “I live here all my life. My family is here, my daughter is buried in Georgia, I feel like home, but I remember the lime when we might even be taken to the police if we said we were Tsigani. I don’t know why. We aren't doing anything bad”.
In Lotkini, there are some mixed Georgian-Moldovian families as well. This is not strange for them as both are orthodox Christians.
Nona Jalabadze, 21, says that her family and friends were at first against her marriage with a Tsigani man but now that have no problems with it. Her husband is a merchant as well and they live in a sell cozy house.
Both group of Tsigani people live in the same city. They know about each other's existence but they strongly point out that they are not the same group of people, though still none of them can answer why and when they were given this common name.