Returned migrant Sadbarg Gazieva looks at pictures in an exhibition on migration at the American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, during discussions on the Global Compact for Migration in the capital Bishkek. Photo: IOM 2017

A Photo Exhibition through a Migrant's Eyes

Bishkek  Sadbarg Gazieva, 38, sees more in the photographs than most of the other 100 or so people at the exhibition in the American University, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

She looks longer, more deeply at the pictures of the shuffling, awkward people caught in time. The faces peering out of train windows, the cold, pinched faces on a building site, the exhausted faces lying on wooden bunks. The police shakedowns. She sees her life.

She went to Moscow, to look after a disabled man, but was ripped off from pillar to post. “The money rarely arrived, it was always ‘it’s coming, it’s coming’ but we rarely got any.”

After two years, this mother of four paid a visit home to Kulyab, Tajikistan. When she tried to get back into Russia she found she was on a blacklist that has prevented hundreds of thousands of migrant workers re-entering the country.

Perhaps it was a mixed blessing.

“I can’t find anything good to say about my two years in Russia. No one ever said anything mean to me but I spent most of the time crying. These pictures [at the exhibition] portray reality. They remind me of fragments of my life”.

Now she has a new ambition. To set up a sewing cooperative with 20 of her friends, with IOM support.

“I’m happy and grateful to be back. My memories are still too vivid.”