By: Ekaterina Anchevskaya

Bleed image: Women are having a break after singing and dancing on a very hot day for a traditional Sufi ceremony, zikr, performed every Friday in Duisi village of Pankisi, Georgia.

GeorgianValley2

Leila Achishvili, 53, the owner of Leila's Guesthouse, hosts tourists from Poland and Belgium for a dinner in Jokolo village of Pankisi, Georgia, July 4, 2019. Barbara Konkolewska (right), who is an old friend of Achishvili, owns a travel company Caucasus X-trek in Poland and brings tourists to Pankisi. She works with guides from Pankisi and is in the process of registering her company locally.

GeorgianValley3

Achishvili and her daughter Mariam Kebadze, 16, prepare traditional Georgian dish, khinkali, for their guests, in Jokolo village of Pankisi, Georgia. Achishvili had two sons who went to study in Austria and escape high unemployment and the dearth of opportunity. The sons started families in Austria, but in time Achishvili could no longer reach them by phone. One day, a friend told her they had been radicalised by Islamic State and killed while fighting in Syria. "When I found out my children were dead, I fell down, I could no longer walk, I just crawled," Achishvili said.

As the landlady of Leila Guesthouse, she has tried to move on. She has grown more independent and was one of the first women to get a driving licence in the valley. She lives with her mother and daughter, Mariam, 16. "I'm happy I'm not married now, I feel free and can do everything by myself. I got a driving license, opened a guesthouse, I want to support my daughter in everything and try to send her to study abroad because there is no development for her in Pankisi."

GeorgianValley4

Achishvili visits the first gym in Pankisi Gorge for both men and women, in Duisi village of Pankisi. Sumaya, a resident of Pankisi, opened the gym, which is one of the few public places where women can meet. She says many are too fearful to attend. Sumaya's husband was killed in Syria. Fearing her four children's prospects could be damaged if their name was associated with the conflict, she declined to be identified by her family name. She wanted to "do something for women and keep herself busy not to think about her husband's death all the time"

GeorgianValley5

Students attend an English class for intermediate level in a school in Jokolo village of Pankisi, Georgia. The school is supported by Roddy Scott foundation started by parents of the British journalist who was killed in Ingushetia covering the Second Chechen war.

GeorgianValley6

Bela Mutoshvili, 55, a music teacher, and guesthouse owner, sits outside her Folk Guesthouse in Jokolo village of Pankisi. "Developing tourism is the only way for the village to survive now, there are no other jobs here," Mutoshvili said.

"I have a group of very talented students but I'm afraid if they get married young they give up music and their dreams. They are very ambitious and want to continue studying in the conservatory, I support them as much as I can."

GeorgianValley7

Mannequins stand outside a traditional Islamic shop in Duisi village of Pankisi.

GeorgianValley8

Girls who are cousins of Mariam Kebadze (not pictured), play in Alazani river in Dzibakhevi village of Pankisi. The three girls live in Grozny, Chechnya. They came to Pankisi for the first time, met Mariam and her mother Leila Achishvili, the owner of Leila's Guesthouse, and are spending summer there.

GeorgianValley9

A woman covers her face during a rally held by residents of the Pankisi Gorge, who protest against the planned construction of a hydropower plant, near the village of Birkiani.

GeorgianValley10

A woman cleans a gravestone in Jokolo village of Pankisi, Georgia.

All photographs courtesy of the author.

Copyright © 2019 Firstpost - All rights reserved