What Is Women’s Work Like in Emigration – Experiences

Natalia Avaliani/April Media

When talking about emigration, you will often hear the opinion that in the dark times of the 90’s, many families were saved from starvation by emigrant women. Their work has a great impact even today, not only on specific families, but on the state as a whole. Aprili Media talked to women who emigrated at different times and for different reasons. They told us about their experiences, work, emotions, and the environment where they live. All of them have different stories.

“I Was Walking Up and Down the Walls Missing My Child”

Ligia Mushkudiani left Georgia in the 90’s. She worked in the field of art, but they could not pay her. The family had no money for food. She thought that she would stay in Greece for 1-2 years, buy a car and a video camera and work with her profession.

“When my mother took off her engagement ring to sell it and buy food for us, I decided that I had to leave for 1-2 years, as all immigrants say. If I had only cared about myself and my family, I would have left very soon, but I saved 6-7 families from starvation. I still couldn’t buy a car, not even a bicycle, but I don’t regret anything. I thank God that I have the strength and energy to keep everyone well. That’s how I stayed and stayed, and I’ve been here for 25 years. This country opened its arms and hugged us, the immigrants”.

During the first 6-7 years, she could not come to Georgia due to lack of documents, but now she can do that once a year.

“Back then, there was neither the internet nor the telephone. We received one letter a month from the family and we lived on this letter from month to month. We caressed this letter, this letter had the smell of mother. Then, when technologies came, it became more bearable for us to be here”.

She arrived in Greece without knowing the language at all. She tells us that he learned from TV in 6 months. Sometimes the people she worked with also taught him. She has worked as a caregiver, nanny, and cleaner.

My child suffered a lot. When I went back, he used to sleep with me, and after leaving, he wouldn’t let my mother wash my sheets, said it smelled like his mother. This is irreversible, for which I can never forgive myself and my emigration.

“When I arrived, I was sent to work from one of the offices to take care of two elderly people. I was told that both could move independently. I arrived at night and in the morning I found that one of them had been bedridden for 17 years. I couldn’t complain about the company or quit my job, I had given them my passport, I couldn’t defend myself. It’s like a person gets used to everything and I got used to it too. That’s how I stayed in that family for several years”, Ligia tells us.

She says that there are often cases when immigrant women are not paid for their work and are threatened with reporting their illegal immigration to the police. As Ligia says, when you have documents, you are more protected and you can sue unscrupulous employers, but the services of a lawyer are so expensive, that sometimes it is not worth it.

“I used to work with a billionaire who had bone disease and stress on top of it, because of which he was cursing everyone. I worked for 3 years in this family, I was hanging by a thread, it made me sick. I had no other job, and I was ashamed of the person who let me go there. I had to communicate with him for only 5 minutes, I had to bring him orange juice, but even those 5 minutes were so depressing that I saw him in my dreams at night and cried. He fought, shouted, he told me every bad word in the Greek language. Finally, he said something very bad and I realized that if I stayed there, I would do a lot of damage to myself. His wife offered to double my salary and change my working hours so that I wouldn’t have to communicate with the man, but I refused, it was so stressful. When I left that house, I kissed the ground. Really. No one was stopping me, I just couldn’t get over my own conscience. I was ashamed of his wife, I was ashamed of the family that let me go there, and I suffered like this for 3 years”.

As she says, she never held back from working, but she could not imagine that she would be able to do so much.

My child was basically raised on Skype.

“I became a very strong woman who is no longer afraid of anything in this world, I can move mountains. I was very timid, I was very used to being with my mother, not used to living independently. This place taught me to fight with life, the value of time, work, relationships”.

Lygia’s son was born in Greece. In the first years, her mother came from Georgia and helped her in his upbringing. Then he suggested that she took the child to Georgia, to “raise him in a  Georgian way”.

“It was very difficult for me. I was walking up and down the walls missing my child. The internet has given us a great benefit. My son was basically raised on Skype. On each return, going back was like a road to Calvary. My child suffered a lot. When I went back, he used to sleep with me, and after leaving, he wouldn’t let my mother wash my sheets, said it smelled like his mother. This is irreversible, for which I can never forgive myself and my emigration,” Ligia tells us.

Now she takes care of two people and lives with them at home. She works from 14:00 to 08:00.

“I want to go back every year, but I see the situation in Georgia and I’m afraid. I have an old mother and a student son, I am focused on them”.

“The Feeling of Losing Freedom in the Land of Freedom”

Ekaterine Mikeladze left Georgia last November. Now she lives in New Jersey, USA. Works in a family where she is responsible for making sure that the sick person receives services available to them in a timely and quality manner, be it a caregiver, a nurse, a physiotherapist or others.

“I live where I work. It is ideal for newcomers, because it is very stressful to immigrate anyway, a new country comes into your life, with its rules, its requirements, and before you figure it all out, it is very good if you get into an American family, because it becomes easier to adapt. You don’t pay the housing tax, you don’t buy food, you don’t have to pay for utilities and so on.”


She says that the reason for leaving Georgia was nihilism, although she is afraid to admit it. She gives time as the second reason – in America she can do in 2-3 years what takes 10 years in Georgia. In addition, she wants her son to be able to study abroad, including in America, and by being there, she wants to prepare the ground for that.

You arrive and you are nobody, you have no name and last name, until you get your first document.

“Admitting that nihilism was the reason for leaving seems to mean that you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities. But the environment in Georgia is such that you arrive step by step to this nihilism. It’s not like you’re going to wake up one day and say there’s nothing going to happen here. Things happen every day that you slowly come to the decision that there is no point in doing anything in your country. I always had a job in Georgia and the opportunity to live, in different ways, but I didn’t run off because of financial difficulties”.

Although the main reason for her departure was not finances, and her family members are less financially dependent on her, she says that it is easier to take responsibilities on herself from America to ease the family.

“The price of food in Georgia is so high that most of my acquaintances have to think about what to feed their children, and about the rest of the things that the family needs, many people give up,” says Kato.

She made the decision to leave thoughtfully, she thought about it for about a year. She tried not to have special expectations, but she says that despite this, reality and expectations are still radically different.

Periodically you will be reminded that you are very far away. You go to work, but you don’t come home tired, because it’s not your home. The feeling of loss of freedom is the first — the feeling of loss of freedom in the land of freedom, because you know that you can’t come back after that.

“Perhaps, the stress of being away from the family, leaving the child, the house also adds up to it. The first period is as if you are in a dream. Then you have to get your first documents very quickly, bank card, insurance card, driver’s license, get your first document here, and it takes time. There are different rules, you cannot go directly to the bank and get a card. You arrive and you are nobody, you have no name and last name, until you get your first document, even an insurance card, where your name and last name are written. To prove that you are a human being, with your past and your history, you need to take some steps and this first stage is very difficult”.

She also says that no matter what goal you set, no matter what you strive for, being in a foreign country is sometimes very difficult.

“Emigration is a sacrifice in any case. You cannot communicate with the people you love. Besides, I’m a physical person, I have to physically touch what I love. But here there is no other solution. Heroes for me are those women who emigrated when there was no Internet, you couldn’t visually see your child, parent, husband, friend, relative. If I didn’t have the opportunity to know where my child is and what he’s doing, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

“10 Women Lived in About 12 Square Meters”

Ketevan Khidasheli left Georgia in February 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. Before that, she managed a non-governmental organization in one of the regions and worked on various projects. She says that since 2018, the work environment has changed dramatically – self-governments did not cooperate with her, the implementation of projects was at risk, and because of this she could not even dare to write a new project, at the same time, the income from the family business was not what they expected.

“I faced serious financial problems. At that time, I had two student children, and they lived in a rented apartment in Tbilisi. These expenses became a lot and I took out loans. When I realized that I could not easily repay these loans, I decided to emigrate”.


She made the decision very soon and went to Italy. Before leaving, she learned 400 words, and then started doing YouTube lessons— she studied for an hour a day. First, she went to a friend who has been living there for many years, but her expectations were not met:

“When I thought I was going to a friend’s place in a quiet, peaceful environment, it turned out that the beds were rent out and there were 10 women in a 12-square-meter room. These women were unemployed and it was winter. The owner was turning off the hot water, and if we wanted to have coffee, we had to wait for him to leave. We didn’t even have money to change the apartment. I know that this is not a rare case and so that they do not pay the expenses, they have women in these kinds of situations. How can you turn hot water off for women in winter? Many had problems due to showering with cold water. Even if I have to stay on the streets, I won’t go there again.”

There was a period when she even thought about going back because she thought he couldn’t handle it. But she stayed. During this period, she changed 3-4 jobs. She says that one of them damaged her health, a family member also became sick, and as a result, she had a heart attack.

“After that, I choose my job very carefully. If the person is not quiet, if I don’t have a chance to sleep, if I can’t eat normally, I don’t go to such a family. Salaries in the south are almost half of those in the north. They follow the law more here. There, they had me working at night, I was made to work on weekends, I had only one day off a week, for two hours, and I had to get up 3-4 times a night. Since I left, I’ve rested a little. Here you are paid extra for overtime, and your work is valued more. Now I work for a grandmother, she has very good children, they respect me in every way. The woman has dementia and if she overdoes something, they talk to her to avoid me doing a lot of things. I am calm and I don’t have so much to do that I get very tired. What we women do at home normally, it is about that amount. I have two free hours during the day, and this time is the whole day for me, so I rest,” Ketevan tells us.

I have been to Georgia twice and it seems that I cannot find space, as if my place is no longer there, which breaks my heart. My children and husband created conditions for me not to feel this, but I myself had this alienation, as if somehow you no longer fit in the place where you used to live.

She wants to return to Georgia soon, but she cannot give an exact time – at first she was only going to pay off her debts, then when she arranged the documents and had more salary, she thought, “come on, let me do that too”, so she started paying the apartment loan, etc.

“We made the first contribution and I cover the rest, but it will take at least three more years. My family helps me in this so that I don’t have extra expenses and maybe I will pay off this debt soon. My husband is retired, one child works and helps me a lot. It is not easy to pay the bank debt and food money. Our salary is not enough to meet the needs of Georgia. Everything has become way expensive. How to support a family of three from here to there? If they were here, we would have shared this amount more easily than there”, Ketevan tells us, adding that she sets aside about 10% of her salary for herself – for the phone and necessary expenses.

According to Ketevan, before emigrating, everyone should make sure that they have strong mental state, because the emotional load is very strong and internal strength is necessary to withstand it. In addition, she talks about the need for minimal knowledge of the language and certain bureaucratic details.

“According to the contract, we are entitled to 7 euros per day. If we don’t like the food our family is eating, we can ask for money and buy whatever we want. But mostly, these families find it difficult to pay this money and the girls are forced to eat pasta every day, if that’s what they eat at the house. Besides, some people count your food, suggest you not to eat a lot and it is very insulting”.

She tells us that she often regrets leaving. She came to Georgia twice and feels alienated from his family members.

“It seems that I cannot find space, as if my place is no longer there, which breaks my heart. My children and husband created conditions for me not to feel this, but I myself had this alienation, as if somehow you no longer fit in the place where you used to live”.

“I Don’t Have a Sense of Belonging Here”

Elene Duduchava left Georgia a year ago. Her main motivation was that she was interested in living abroad, while being in Georgia has been very stressful for her as a person involved in activism lately. She thought that changes were needed and she went to Berlin through the so-called au pair program.

The concept of this program is as follows — the au pair helps the host family with child care and household chores, and the host family provides them with accommodation, food and pocket money.

Elene is involved in raising two children – 4 and 6 years old. Her family financed her separate living expenses, so she says she’s lucky because living with strangers is an extra stress.

It’s impossible to live with children and say, you know what, these are my resting hours.

“I have a non-standard work schedule and it is quite stressful that I do not have German and arranged working hours. The parents don’t work in an office job, they are freelancers, and I basically have a new schedule every week. But, it is never more than 30 hours, it is actually less sometimes. Generally, it’s to pick them up from kindergarten/school and stay with them for a few hours, then one of the parents replaces me. Also, I sometimes have to work on weekends and in the evening hours, for example, from 8 pm to 1 am”.

She says that labor rights are protected in Germany and everyone avoids overtime employment. Also, the minimum wage is defined, although not everything is perfect. She has heard stories from friends about labor exploitation, especially in care work, where boundaries are often broken.

“For me, that line gets blurred and breaks, when I accompany the family on vacation. Obviously, this is not my vacation and I’m going for work, but I have to work more than the time stated in the contract, because it’s impossible to live with children and say, you know what, these are my resting hours. It’s as if parents try to control it, but I myself have a hard time keeping those boundaries, and I think that all of us who are from Georgia have a hard time controlling it and saying that now are not my working hours,” says Elene.

In her free time, she periodically works in the wardrobe of the bar, “works the door”. She has cleaned a house, and also takes photos. In such cases, they offer the minimum compensation stated by law.

“In my opinion, the minimum pay for the night shift is due to the fact that I work “black” because I do not have the right to work. Eventually, both sides turn a blind eye to things. In other words, migrant women are oppressed, but if we have the right to work at all, we don’t say anything at all,” says Elene.

She tells us that she found it very difficult to migrate and that she is considering returning to Georgia, but only after she receives a visa, so that she can legally leave and work again.

“Besides the fact that I worry a lot about the daily news in Georgia, I don’t have a sense of belonging here. I cannot relate to European people who have no experience of occupation and war. It is very difficult for me to be friends with a person who, in my opinion, has very superficial problems. On the other hand, because I took a break from stress here, I think I should come back and help the country. I am in the same dilemma – should we all go and look after ourselves, or “if I go, then who should I ask to make Georgia better”? I really want to restore the feeling of family and friends and belonging, which I know for sure that I will find in Tbilisi. Also, I want to try and see what I can do that can help Georgia’s progressive future.”

“I Started to Feel Insecure in Georgia and I Left”

Maya Feliashvili worked in the police for 14 years, but in 2021, she left her job and flew to Italy in ten days.

Women fleeing from abusers leave Georgia, go to emigration and continue to be victims here.

“I left after July 5, when journalists and cameramen were treated like they were. It could be seen in the footage that my colleague was standing there and could not do anything. Even now it is increasing. I knew a lot more from the inside and I felt absolutely insecure, I lost hope in myself and I realized that I couldn’t wear that uniform anymore. When I arrived, at first I was emotional, I couldn’t call anyone, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I thought it was the initial effect and it would pass. But two years have gone and it’s still very difficult for me to talk about it,” Maya tells us.

Now she works in different places, sometimes she cleans, sometimes she takes care of children, and so on. She says that the salary is much higher than in Georgia. But as when working in the police, here too most often she has to think about the rights of women.


“Coming here comes with the suffering and torture of the women who come here. Women escaping from abusers leave Georgia and emigrate. When I worked on this for years, I didn’t do it because of the salary and coercion, I wanted to and I did it, and my heart ached for the women who continue to be victims here. Apart from the fact that the economic violence against them from Georgia continues, when a person has the experience of being a victim, they are afraid of everything in other countries, including not being “deported”, so they tolerate everything and become victims of the families for which they work here as well”, says Maya.

She plans to start an organization in Italy to help immigrants get psychological and legal resources. She is not planning to return to Georgia.

“I was born in Georgia, I grew up in Georgia, and I love my parents as much as I love my country, my language, I miss it, but the world is huge and I can live anywhere and be calm, because I have one life to live. During this time, I planted a tree, built a house (it’s true that I don’t live there, but still) and raised children. During the years that I worked, I took part in changing things and played an important role. enough is enough I can devote the second half of my life to myself,” says Maya.

“I Had No Other Solution, My Children Would Starve To Death Here” — A Study

“Paid and Unpaid Labor of Immigrant Women Returning to Georgia” is the title of the study prepared by Mary Chachava with the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The aim of the study was to examine how labor migration experiences affect the unpaid domestic work and paid employment relationships of returning immigrant women, based on an analysis of women’s labor migration and gender roles.

According to the document, based on the research results, it can be said that women’s labor migration is not a free choice, but it is the only strategy for economic survival of the family.

“The women participating in the study value emigration as a sacrifice for the well-being of the family, which is expressed in giving up personal life, career, emotional and physical health,” the document states.

All respondents performed care work with a child or the elderly during their stay in emigration. Before emigrating, doing the same work for their family members was a daily routine for them, although they never saw the possibility of getting paid for this work.

     ⇒ Read also: What Is Home Labor and What Are Women’s Experiences?

“It was also interesting for our research how the performance of domestic work was distributed among women after emigration. The research showed that in seven cases, the responsibilities of caring for the children left behind were handed over to the children’s grandmothers, and in two cases, taking into account their age, the female children did the housework themselves. In the only case, the role of the father as the main caregiver was highlighted, although it is noteworthy that the respondent himself perceived this as “helping” his wife,” the document reads.

I knew every detail about my son, what he ate, what he drank, when he slept. We even prepared for his classes together. A few times when he had to stay home alone, I was with him on Skype. I attended the entire process of her birthday online – an excerpt from the study “Paid and Unpaid Labor of Immigrant Women Returning to Georgia”.

In addition, the survey respondents talk about the specific characteristics of the work they do in emigration. According to the document, it took place in a closed, family environment, which created an emotional connection between the employee and the employer, and it went beyond the framework of the typical labor market. According to the respondents, physically the work was not difficult to perform, but emotionally it was very difficult, as they did not have “their own life” and lived the daily life of the employer.

“They were with the employer 24 hours a day and, in addition to doing care work, they went shopping, dinner and vacations with them, which required a lot of emotional resources. Although the majority of respondents perceived the workplace as home, experts note that the feminization of care work and its performance with similar workloads has a negative impact on women. When performing any kind of work, a person needs to rest and recover their strength in order to be able to reproduce themselves,” the research notes.

According to the document, when talking about return, immigrant women note that it happens very rarely around them, which is primarily caused by the constant economic problems in their homeland. At the same time, families of immigrant women become completely dependent on the money they send them. Over the years, these families grow and their needs increase. Interviews showed that alienation from family members and their non-acceptance of an immigrant woman hinders the return:

My friend was in Greece for 25 years and did everything for her family. At the age of 75, she decided to return and her son told him – you come back when you yourself need to be cared for?! She got up in a few months and went to Greece again – excerpt from the study “Paid and Unpaid Labor of Immigrant Women Returning to Georgia “.

The main reason for the women participating in the study to return to Georgia was the desire to be with their family and children.

If you always want more and more, you can never go back. I worked there for 3000 dollars and now I work for 400 GEL, but this is not a tragedy. Listening to my son’s breathing every night is more important than anything else – excerpt from the study “Paid and Unpaid Labor of Immigrant Women Returning to Georgia”.

When talking about the difficulties after the return, the respondents first highlight relationships with family members.

“People who are not used to living together anymore, try to start relationships from scratch, and this is especially difficult with their children who grew up without their mothers and who in many cases are already parents themselves,” the document reads.

I still saw my son as a child, I wanted to straighten his blanket, caress him, give him advice, but all this was very foreign and already embarrassing for him – excerpt from the study “Paid and Unpaid Labor of Immigrant Women Returning to Georgia”.

► Research methodology: 10 in-depth interviews with returning immigrant women and 3 expert interviews were conducted as part of the research. All interviews were conducted online via Skype. Three of the respondents were from the age group of 30-44 years, and seven were over 50 years of age. Seven of them lived in urban settlements, and three in rural areas. Three of the research participants had higher education, seven had secondary education. Before emigrating, seven of them did not work, and after returning to Georgia, only two had a paid job. Eight participants of the study had adult children, from the age group of 25-35 years, and two had minor children, from the age group of 2-12 years. Five of the respondents had grandchild(ren).


According to the data of the National Statistical Office of Georgia, in 2022, the highest number of people who emigrated from Georgia in the last 10 years was recorded — 125,269 people. 48,162 of them are women.

A 2019 study commissioned by the Government’s Commission on Migration shows that for almost half (46%) of families with at least one member abroad, they were the main breadwinner. And more than half of the surveyed families (57%) systematically receive/received money from a family member abroad.

However, according to the report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which covers the years 2013-2016, women, on average, send more money than men.

Here, when I saw children the same age as my kids on the street, I started to cry. I experienced the same thing for the child I was taking care of, but at the same time I tried very hard not to love them and to perceive this care as just a job, I knew it would be difficult for me to leave later – excerpt from the study ” Paid and Unpaid Labor of Immigrant Women Returning to Georgia “.

► According to methodology of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, any person who meets the following 2 conditions is considered an immigrant:

Has left Georgia in the last 12 months and has been in the territory of another state for at least 183 days (this may be the sum of several exits);

Georgia was the country of permanent residence for them, i.e. Before leaving the country, they had spent at least 183 days (total duration) in Georgia in the previous 12 months.

In the “Migration Profile of Georgia 2021” developed by the Governmental Commission on Migration, we read that the inflow of remittances from abroad into the country is a more stable process than the inflow of direct foreign investments.

“In 2016-2017, direct foreign investments exceeded the annual amount of remittances coming into the country. However, since 2018, the picture has changed, and by 2020, remittances from abroad will be almost three times higher than foreign direct investments made in the same year”, the document notes (in the case of 2020, the Covid pandemic should also be taken into account).