Earlier in his life, Avto Berishvili held a responsible post, managed more than 20 people, commanded them, and taught many probationary workers. But now he has become one of those workers that he formerly commanded.
He began his career at age 17. Having left school, Berishvili became a worker in the Tbilisi Electric Locomotive Factory (TELF) and after a short time he took the position of electrician. It was the first step in his career…
Now, at age 53, he has returned to a similar starting point, becoming an ordinary electrician installing water heaters.
Redundant at age 52
"After TELF I was called up to military service," he said. "I was a driver in the rocket troops. It was very terrible for me, a Caucasian, to be in -30 degrees cold. After demobilization, I worked in the scientific-research Institute of Food Industry as an electrician until1978. Then I worked in the Tbilisi Center of Building Materials until 2000.
"In 1974 I entered Tbilisi Technical University, but due to financial problems in my family, I could not graduate after studying nearly four years," Berishvili said.
Although he broke off his university education, in 1985 Berishvili attended qualification courses in Moscow and gained the highest category as a skilled electrician. In 1994, he rose in his career and was the main power energetic specialist in Tbilisi Center of Building Materials, and managed 20 people. But in 2000 the Center was privatized, and as a result, he and 900 other employees were dismissed. Then he began to work in Georgian Energy-Distribution Company as an engineer.
"In 2004, the company did not prolong the contract with me, and I was redundant at age 52. Now I am an ordinary water-heater installer and seller in a shop of domestic electric appliances," Berishvili said.
Water heater installer
"I am an electrician. I have never been a seller before, but now I must do it. But when I find suitable work with my experience I will leave this shop," Berishvili said.
For standing from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, he earns 5 lari (about $2.80) daily as a seller. If there are clients, Berishvili can install two or three water heaters per month. As a rule he earns 24-27 lari ($12.30- $15.10) for installing a water heater. Although he does not have many orders, he always takes his old leather brown gripsack with him. In this gripsack he keeps his electrical tools.
"This is my bread-winner (showing his gripsack). While I am installing a water heater, some clients are looking at me as a wizard," he said with a smile. "But this work cannot compete with my former jobs. When I worked in the scientific-research institute, I had huge responsibility. I had to produce the electrical supply for newly invented devices, and my mistake could cause the failure of all the scientific work. Installing of a water heater is a ’game’ for me," Berishvili said.
Although he does not think he is a pessimist, he says, "I am pragmatic. I do not see any future, indeed. Something new must begin, I guess, maybe a new revolution, maybe fundamental reforms. Without those, I cannot say anything about my future," Berishvili said.
Electricity is dangerous
During his 35 years of service, he was involved in many accidents. But he said most of them happened due to the mistakes of others.
"An electrician often is hit by electric current; this is ordinary situation in our work. Electricity is dangerous if you do not know how to behave with it. I remember an interesting story. Years ago a young man was hit by a high electric current. I believe it was more than 3,000 volts, but fortunately he survived, although he hurt his back and he could not sit for several weeks.
"After the collapse of Soviet Union some people were trying to deal in the business of non-ferrous metals. Several times I heard that some people tried to steal copper cables from the highest voltage line, but they were killed by electric current," Berishvili said.
Berishvili has a daughter in sixth form. His apartment is situated in the suburbs of Tbilisi. His wife Iamze Mumladze works in a kindergarden and earns a monthly salary of 60 lari (about $33.60).
During Soviet times she often went to the cinema and theatre with her husband. "We were in Moscow and Saint Petersburg two times, and every summer we went to the resorts situated on the Black Sea shore, to Sokhumi, to Gagra. Now my daughter and I go to our village on holidays, and as a rule Avto stays in Tbilisi because of his work. Now he does not have a weekend," Berishvili’s wife said.
Berishvili said he does not burn with a desire to rest.
"Maybe my age, maybe my hard life caused this. Now relaxation for me means watching TV after work. In my youth I played football, and I loved to watch Western movies. Now when I am home I am involved in my daughter’s geometry. Geometry is a difficult subject. Therefore can I help her. Sometimes I read books, historical romances."
Berishvili said his daughter has not decided which profession she likes.
"She is only in the sixth form. But I see that she wants to choose a profession among the humanities. I try to save money for her education. Of course like each parent I would like to see her educated abroad. But… the future will show…"
"I would not be a genuine Georgian if I did not relate to wine. But my relation is something different. For many Georgians, wine is a favorite alcoholic drink. I contributed to the wine industry my work," Berishvili said. During his career at the Scientific-Research Institute, Berishvili was involved in the invention of a new device for producing wine. This machine was used at many wine factories across the Soviet Union.
"It is terrible to think that after 35 years, nobody requests my skills. Nobody needs my experience, my skills and my intellect. I taught many students who became engineers and heads of big factories. Now I observe that many young electrical engineers do not have experience. and there are no enterprises where they can gain skills. Of course, many skilled electricians were dismissed. Where can young students gain skills?"