When you head towards the village of Goity, there is virtually no trace of the conflict, a decades-long struggle which officially ended only back in 2017. Good roads, beautiful houses and developing infrastructure create a feeling of a place bustling with life. The village is famous in the region for its beautiful handmade furniture. Said-Ahmed is one of Goity’s carpenters, producing quality furniture and chairs in his own workshop.
Said-Ahmed invites us to his home, where he returned after eight years spent in Germany. A shy man in his early thirties, Said slowly opens up, showing us around the space. Asked about his passion, Ahmed immediately points at his house and the workshop. It is clear that the place means everything to him. It takes a while to encourage him to share his story, with some bits and pieces being filled in by his mother.
“I am not very sociable, I don’t like attention. You come with all your equipment, as if I were a famous person,” he laughs. “I just am a simple guy who lives and works in his village.”
Childhood in Germany
It was in 2001 – Said Ahmed was only 10 at the time – when his parents decided to leave the country due to the ongoing conflict, hoping to restart their lives in Germany. The boy did not fully understand the impact of their decision; at that time, he thought it was very intriguing to go ‘on a holiday,’ as he recalls. In Germany, he finished school and mastered German, he also managed to start a carpentry course.
“I liked it a lot in Germany. But, well, I still wanted to live at home, in my village. It’s only sometimes that I would want to be able to travel, visit my relatives and friends, visit the places of my youth. There were many pleasant things, there were many difficulties, but this is all in the past,” he explains.
The challenges in regulating his legal situation abroad prompted Said Ahmed and his family to apply for voluntary return to Chechnya in 2019. He remembers he was very surprised when, while still in Germany, he learnt he would be eligible for reintegration support. The relocation was not an easy process, as having spent his entire childhood abroad, Said Ahmed was learning about life in rural Chechenya from scratch. The Sintem NGO, Caritas’ local partner in Northern Caucasus, provided him with psychological support and assisted him in thinking about a business plan. It was clear from the start that his carpentry experience would be a great starting point for the new context.
A new life in Chechnya
Said Ahmed recalls that before deciding to go for his own business, he sought a job as a German-Russian interpreter without much success. He has no regrets for not finding a job in the city and enjoys the life in his own village:
“I am my own boss, there is an opportunity to adapt the work schedule, it is important now to put the work at the proper level. This is a job that suits me completely.”
Even though the business is already in full swing, Said Ahmed still wants to improve it the way he’d imagined the premise would look like, with full attention to detail. “The most important thing is that there are walls, a roof, a floor, several machines,” he says, “I still need to insulate and install various technical things. I feel that the more I do in the workshop and the more I improve it, the more I like it. I could have done everything quicker, but it would not have been solid, I want the workshop to endure for a long time, and not to have to repair it later.”
The challenges he faces running his own carpentry shop are related to the fact he is new in the business, starting everything from scratch in a one-person team. But he believes with hard work, he will be able to continue growing it.
Said Ahmed tells us how he loves his family and his village, where everyone knows and supports one another, “Now our region is developing, sports and leisure centers are being built. I like to work and to take care of the house. I love to take care of the garden, too.”
He says he likes to spend time with friends. “I especially like to go to the river in the evenings after work, or to sit under a canopy with my mother or just by myself, looking at the garden, the sky and enjoying the silence, thinking about my plans.”
When we end our conversation, Said-Ahmed says he is satisfied with his life back in Chechnya. “I enjoy living in my own house, where I have freedom for creativity and individual independent work, where my loved ones are next to me, where I live close to the land and enjoy a peace of mind. Thank you for walking with me through the memories of the past though, it was nice.”