Photo: 2010 Stephanie C. Robert/CARE
Nana recalls the hours she spent in piano class as the "sweetest moments" of her life.
"I can still hear ‘Moonlight Sonata' in my ears," she says.
At just 26 Nana seems too young to be so nostalgic for the past. But when this young mother from the Republic of Georgia shares all that's happened to her since she last sat at a piano, her ache for the past makes perfect sense.
When she was 15 her parents forced her to marry a 28-year-old man. There was no wedding. The marriage began when her new husband came and took Nana by force from a friend's house.
"I was screaming and crying for help. Nobody helped," she says.
Nana was quickly pregnant with her son. She tried to stay in school and continue music lessons, but her husband kept coming to the school and physically dragging her home.
Nana wanted to leave her husband but had nowhere to go. When she returned to her parents' house, he arrived drunk and smashed their windows with rocks. Police refused to get involved, calling it a family matter.
Nana finally freed herself by fleeing to the home of relatives more than 60 miles away. After 3 months away from home her husband gave up and accepted divorce. Nana and her son returned to their home village to start a new life, but their hopes were dashed when a simmering conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia boiled over into an all-out war in 2008.
Many farming families lost their farmland, Nana's among them. Depressed, broke and out of options, Nana suffered silently at home.
"I saw no place for myself in the outside world," she says.
A concerned neighbor told Nana about a women's empowerment program sponsored by CARE and five local partner organizations. The program helps marginalized women in Caucasus post-conflict zones secure their legal rights and take an active role in their life decisions.
Nana never before understood her legal rights or how to stand up for them. Once she did, she started taking more control of her life; first in small ways, then in big ways. She successfully challenged school officials who tried to deny her son the free school books to which he was entitled. And then she took her ex-husband to court and won monthly child support payments.
"I've become stronger," she says. "I would not have been able to do that before."
She still thinks about music, but it's an aspiration instead of nostalgia.
"I would love to teach music classes to the local children here," she says. All she needs is a piano.