The Czech Diplomat A-Z of Georgian Memories

It’s not uncommon for foreign envoys to leave Georgia with cherished memories, but few have been so enamored with the country as one Czech diplomat who recently completed her term as the Policy Advisor at the Embassy of the Czech Republic to Georgia. For Mrs Veronika Sido, the Georgian adventure doesn’t end here as, for the time being, she will be monitoring Georgian affairs for the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague. Before she goes, she was emphatic to share with us what she thought makes Georgia so special. And she even has her memories lined up in alphabetical order!

You have spent more than three years in Georgia. What opinion have you formed of the country – rhythm, way of life; its people?

I’ve had the privilege to serve in Georgia as a Deputy Head of Mission for four years, which gave me a unique opportunity to get familiar with the country and its people. Of course, for a foreigner it’s always extremely difficult to get “under the surface,” however I’m sure I made the most of the chances I was given! That was possible only due to the willingness of the people I met to share their everyday lives. And it is of course the omnipresent and famous hospitality and friendliness of the Georgian people and their readiness to move forward, to make society and the country they live in a better place.

What memories are you leaving with?

Georgia will forever stay deeply rooted in my heart, as it is not only my first posting abroad (and as we say the first love can be only one), but as I have already mentioned, it is the people who made me cherish my stay here, the beautiful memories of friendship that will last, the countryside I had a chance to tour, the extremely delicious cuisine… I can be singing odes to Georgia for hours, so just to keep it short I tried to summarize the memories I’m leaving with in alphabetical order!

Veronika Sido’s Georgian memories:

I will always remember:

A- Argonauts – a band of heroes representing the ancient history of Georgia and referring to Colchis, Jason and the Golden Fleece;

B- Borjomi – a beautiful city and my favorite mineral water (my God, what will I do without it?)

C- Chavchavadze, Ilia - Georgian hero in memory of whom the street where the Embassy of the Czech Republic can be found which I called “home” for four years;

D- Deda Kartlis – monument in Tbilisi and the symbol of the Georgian character showing me its hospitality all the time;

E- Europe – Georgia as a member of the European family;

F- Fireworks - a popular entertainment of Georgians for various sorts of parties, I will never forget the New Years Eves when the whole of Tbilisi suddenly turned into a “burning carpet”;

G- Georgia - my love (no comment);

H- Havel, Václav – the first president of the Czech Republic, philosopher and dissident in memory of whom a park in Vake district was named, which I am really proud of;

I- Imereti cheese - apart from Sulguni, my favorite one;

J- Jalaurta – the place of my first acquaintance with Georgian regions where I realized how little needs to be done to significantly improve the lives of local children (the CR reconstructed the local kindergarten);

K- Kakheti – Georgia’s premier wine-producing region with beautiful scenery I admired so often over and over again;

L- Lamazi – the best word to describe Georgia;

M- Mama – an easy word in a big challenge of studying Georgian and only the most determined students can get over it;

N- Nino and monastery Nino Bodbe in Sighnagi - my favourite place in Georgia, a sacred one for me where a feeling of total lightness overwhelmed me every time I stepped there;

O- Omalo village - my biggest challenge - the CR is very active in Tusheti region, with various development aid projects trying to preserve the local culture, it remains my personal challenge as it was always a mudslide which prevented me from visiting this beautiful part of Georgia;

P- Prometheus Cave - another place definitely worth a visit. I can’t even remember how many times I visited it, not only to do monitoring of the CZ cave management project. Do you realize how clean the air in those caves is?

Q- Qvevri – I’ll never forget the taste of wine prepared by this unique Georgian technique of vine fermentation in large egg-shaped vessels buried below ground;

R- Ratili – a Czech opera singer and leader of the first Georgian folk choir, Josef Navrátil (1840-1912), known in Georgia as Ratili;

S- Saperavi, I will miss you!

T- Tamar the Great, King of Georgia – in fact a queen addressed only as a king, but above all a strong and intelligent woman associated with the period of political and military successes and cultural achievements;

U- Ushguli - a village in Svaneti, the traditions of which I will never stop being fascinated in. I’ll never forget my Svan friends;

V- Vake Park –a favorite place in Tbilisi where I was enjoying my time playing with my daughter;

W- Water - huge source of energy and enormous potential for Georgia;

X- X-mas in Georgia, beautifully decorated Rustaveli Avenue;

Y- Yezids – one of the many religious communities in Georgia I had the chance to meet while implementing one of the Czech development aid projects and symbolizing the religious tolerance typical of Georgia;

Z- ZOO in Tbilisi which suffered in the tragic flood in the summer of 2015. The CR was one of the first countries to provide help to cope with the disaster.

What were your impressions when you arrived? Any surprises since?

I will not hide the fact that at the beginning of my stay here I was going through a kind of a cultural shock. It was my first posting, even though to a country of my preference, but a very turbulent country from the point of view of internal and external politics. As for surprises – I was first very much surprised how widespread the IT and mobile technologies in Georgia are. I only had difficulties getting used to the fact that FB is in fact a working tool where even my counterparts and Georgian officials are easily accessible. So I was forced to turn my private FB into a working instrument and I find it very useful now.

Tell us about the special hobby we heard you discovered during your stay in Georgia

To be more precise, I found that hobby before I came to Georgia. The hobby we are talking about is doll-making, the making of art dolls- unique collectables made in one exemplary. I was wondering how widespread it was in Georgia and I found out that there is even a Doll Museum in Tbilisi and plenty of talented doll-making masters who were unfortunately quite isolated and scattered. So I took the decision to organize a joint project of Czech-Georgian doll-making called Doll Days, which was a joint exhibition of the Prague Doll-making club and the Tbilisi Doll Museum. Due to this event I managed to meet numerous Georgian doll-makers and decided to help them. I also met a very talented doll master, Keti Dzidziguri, with whom I was taking private lessons in doll-making for almost two years. The Embassy of the Czech Republic later organized two more exhibitions for the Georgian doll masters and facilitated their taking part in the international exhibition in Prague in November 2015. These events somehow united the Georgian doll-makers, so they decided to establish and register an association. The Association is very active now and preparing a huge cultural event – The Tbilisi International Doll Exhibition in which famous doll masters from abroad will take part. That’s something I’m extremely proud of, something I’m leaving here in Georgia with a feeling of great satisfaction. I would like to invite the readers of Georgia Today to that exhibition which will take place in Tbilisi in December this year. And I’m very happy I was invited by the organizers as a participant, too.

How will you be involved in Georgian affairs in your future capacity?

I’m really very lucky as I’ll be dealing again with a bilateral CZ-GE agenda at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, which made my farewell to Georgia much easier, thank God! Otherwise it would be much more difficult to say goodbye to the country and all the friends I met. I will do my best to forward CZ-GE relations even further and deeper and make the most of the know-how I obtained while working with the Georgian agenda on the spot. I strongly believe that sooner or later I will have a chance to visit this beautiful country again.

Vazha Tavberidze

22 August 2016 17:37