Our new regular column “The Expat Lifestyle” sees us out and about meeting expat business owners who have chosen to make a life in Georgia. We’ll be finding out about their lifestyle, hobbies, culture, likes and dislikes about Georgia, and how this life compares with that abroad. For our latest interview, GEORGIA TODAY sat down with judoka Tania Morgenstern, mother-of-two, inspiring cancer survivor and owner of Gymnasia, a space that helps people to be their best.
What brought you to Georgia?
Georgian culture, nature, and the free spirit of Georgian people always amazed me. Since I was a judoka myself, what brought me to Georgia was Georgian judokas and their belief system.
Judokas from Georgia are like bumblebees. Using the laws of physics, it would seem impossible for bumblebees to fly, yet they continue to defy the odds. Similarly, Georgian judokas have overcome many obstacles to achieve success in their sport. Despite the relatively small size of the country and its lack of resources, Georgian judokas have been able to become the leading team on the world stage.
The Georgian judo fighters I’ve encountered were not just brave and skillful, they also had an incredible dedication and winning spirit. This inspired me to believe in myself, and this is actually what brought me here.
Tell us about your business and background in the field.
We all know how difficult it is to reach our maximum physical and mental potential in today’s busy and stressful world. I know this all too well. I used to train regularly, but when my son was born I struggled to balance the demands of training myself and putting time into taking my son to train. This led me to come up with the concept of Gymnasia, where my family and I could train together, enjoy quality time, eat, and socialize, without having to waste time in traffic. Gymnasia provides a supportive environment for members to learn, grow, and reach their goals. Gymnasia provides a much-needed space for people to come together and support each other in reaching their goals. It’s a place where people can come to relax, have fun, and learn how to live healthier lives. I’m proud to have created this space and I’m excited to see what our members can achieve.
Tell us about your family. Are they also thriving here in Georgia?
I’m from Tel Aviv. I have two children, one daughter and a son. My husband works on a TV channel and was born and raised in Tbilisi. My parents also live here, and my children love to spend time after school at Gymnasia. I feel great pride and happiness watching them spend quality time with me in this space.
My son goes to the British Georgian School. Before that, he finished an English kindergarten, followed by German preschool and first grade. Today my 8-year-old son speaks English, German, Georgian and Russian. My son’s friends are all mixed, usually kids who speak at least two languages. I doubt I would be able to provide him with such a language experience if I lived in Israel. I remember when my son was three and said “Я Georgian!” It was so funny but also it was the essence of what he is. A few months ago, I took him to Israel. Although he doesn’t speak Hebrew, he felt at home, as I’m constantly feeding him with Israeli culture as well. I want to take him to summer camp in Israel this year.
What are your main likes here?
I feel like Georgia connects people from all over the world. As Georgians say “Tbilisi is a connection” and I totally agree. I already managed to create deep and different kinds of connections- this is my most important experience here. I love Georgian nature and I love that every corner of Georgia feels like a home to me.
Tell us about your battle with cancer.
When I got diagnosed, the first thing I did was to call my two best friends. They both had some connections in the medical sector, and I quickly found a Georgian surgeon and, after some thought, had surgery here. I actually think it was done very well. For the treatment, though, I was advised to go abroad, not just for technical reasons but also for physiological reasons. I needed to change my environment, and I didn’t want to stay home in case I wasn’t well- I didn’t want my son to see me like that.
If I could change anything about the Georgian healthcare system, I’d ask for a more positive attitude from Georgian doctors. Here, I felt like they pitied me; in the Spanish clinic I went to, one which was suggested by my other friend, I felt really comfortable and felt their positive vibe.
I had great support from the people I met here in Georgia; my friends, my clients, just people who I’d met only a few times; Sami Cohen, who suggested his InsideMyself seminar to me- a seminar with which I started my self-mastery journey, and which gave me the strength to overcome the challenge life gave me; my husband, who supported me endlessly. And then Igor Konunchenko, who came up with the idea to create the project Gymnasia and invited me to do it. He gave me the opportunity to do something that I’d wanted to do for a long time, to manage and create something big. I think the support of all those people saved me, and I can’t be grateful enough.
What would you change about Georgia if you could? Compare it to where you lived previously.
It appears that many people are not looking ahead, taking the necessary steps to protect their environment and create an attractive living space with well-maintained buildings and cities. A stark comparison can be found where I lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, which is working now on the concept of closing its center to cars; to replace them with a city train, scooter, and bicycle infrastructure. Unfortunately, Tbilisi’s infrastructure is not very user-friendly, leading to increased traffic and a complete lack of playgrounds and trees, pathways and quiet places. We must take a more long-term approach to investments and planning, rather than simply focusing on the present moment. Otherwise, our environment will become a mess. Without sustainable planning there can be no sustainable future.
How do you see Georgia a few years from now? Are you here for the long-term, do you think?
In this tumultuous political climate, it’s hard to predict what is to come. With all my being, I wish for Georgia to be blessed with peace, prosperity, and independence. I am creating my life and building my projects here and hope to remain, doing whatever I can to contribute to this process. I will be here for as long as I see being able to do so.