three circles around the sea

In Autumn of 2022 I spent one month in Georgia. After landing, the first thing I saw was a cloud, which I mistook for a mountain. I was so excited to see this country that my mind was ready to be tricked and impressed by the smallest thing. Within an hour I saw sign posts for Yerevan and Tehran and a hundred other places I never dreamed of seeing before. I could just drive there, everything seemed possible and everywhere seemed accessible from Georgia.

I had attempted this trip three times already and each attempt was cancelled for different reasons; the weather in the mountains becoming too severe, the pandemic preventing travel and, most heartbreakingly, the war in Ukraine. What was expected to be a normal trip, instead turned into an observation of the tensions between Georgia and Russia. It was everywhere. Tbilisi was covered in graffiti that read “Fuck Putin” or “Fuck Russians”. The day after the conscription was announced in Russia, we witnessed a fist fight between two groups of men about 20 minutes from the Lars Checkpoint border crossing from Russia into the Kazbegi region of Georgia. At a bar in Tbilisi, a 17 year old Georgian pulled a knife on a Russian immigrant over what appeared to be a comment about a dog. Later in the night, someone told us that the 17 year old had recently killed a man.
[2:09 am, 20/10/2022] Eveline: Yeah, russia seemed to be looming over everything and everywhere, the influx of immigrants subsequently increases prices of everything, the incident at the border, every second graffiti being about russia, the girl working in the bar who refused to serve russians, the old sanitariums for rich russians in soviet times, not being able to drive through the occupied areas and basically doing a big detour around it, it was just such a theme.
[2:09 am, 20/10/2022] Eveline: Particularly interesting for a country with such a unique culture and language really

Nearly every Georgian person we spoke to told us about the struggles the Russian immigrants have put on the country, while all the Russian immigrants were happy to have been able to escape, with conversations often veering to visa struggles for other countries in Europe. At the time, Georgia had a policy to allow anyone to stay for a year without a visa.

One Georgian person I met recalled very vividly the Russian invasion of Georgia back in 2008. She spoke of the terror she felt with the sounds of bombs in the distance and how her family fled to the mountains. She felt the pain of Ukraine, which was echoed all over Tbilisi. It was hard not to understand her viewpoint and feelings towards the Russian people coming to her country.
Over the month I also made friends with a number of Russian immigrants, who were extremely welcoming, passionate and hopeful people, always looking to the future and excited for what was to come.

“If you spend your nights like this, then every day will be better and better.”

Since returning home, I’ve thought a lot about Georgia and the people I met there, how the countryside has a sense of unlimited freedom, how the streets of Tbilisi fit together like a complicated jigsaw puzzle that can open up a million possibilities.

As I’m writing this, intense protests are taking place in Tbilisi over the government's backing of a new pro-Russian foreign agents law which could block Georgia’s application to join the European Union and make the Russian presence even stronger.

If the law passes, the looming cloud that has been hanging over Georgia for years could turn into an immovable mountain.

(in progress)