I’m Tatia Jishkariani, 30-years-old. I was born in the “dark times”, in 1991, Kutaisi. My childhood was a very normal one for the 90ies – no water, no electricity or gas. The story of my family’s emigration also starts in the 90ies. My grandmother went to Greece in 1996, and 2 years later, my mom and dad did too.
Generally, I used to be a very calm child. Kind of sad, shy, unnoticeable, reserved and extremely religious. I’m emphasizing my religiosity because the church here made me lose my faith.
I was a very normal pupil, nothing special, just casually going with the flow. When I finished school I came to Tbilisi. I wanted to get away from Kutaisi because I wanted for something to change in my life, so I enrolled in the Business School of Caucasus University. This profession really wasn’t my choice, it was just kind of a trend so here again, I went with the flow. I passed the subjects that I studied during my last year at school and even got a 50% grant.
In university as well, I was just another student with nothing special about me. It was really hard to study at first, I couldn’t get used to new educational methods and make connections with new people, so I cried a lot. But later on, I got some friends. We still are very good friends till today, in fact. Meanwhile I stopped crying and got used to everything, and so it was the year 2013. This was the time for the biggest inner torment, change, the alteration of the worldview and coming face to face with reality for me. On May 17 of 2013 there was the first, biggest rally, which I watched on TV. After this day, I can say that I’m an awakened person, who experienced inner protest so unimaginably destructive. This was the type of destruction that is followed with the building of something better and newer.
This might sound funny, but one-of the main acting characters on May 17, 2013 – the priest with a stool was my priest. After that day I stopped going to the church and praying. I could feel faith, my only pillar at that time, be slowly drained from me. This was one of the worst days in my memory. After this day I became an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, started researching this subject, which I was just doing for myself. After this day I fell in love with every different person, became a member of various queer groups and I saw what kind of warm, loving people were these rejected, humiliated beaten and killed community members. I always shared my opinion on this subject, I kept explaining it to everyone and often had arguments with my own family members. I saw, that every time the aggression grew stronger, and it still is. The more knowledgeable I became in the field of human rights the more I saw just how aggressive the society was. All this lead me to becoming a feminist and a defender of LGBTQ+ human rights, an activist, but this wasn’t a job for me, this was a path for me to becoming a human being.
Then there was the movie – And Then We Danced. I remember how I bought a ticket but because of the rallies I got too scared to go away, so I decided to gift it away. I was worried that someone would take this ticket, go to the premier and attack someone there, so it was a relief when no one gifted the ticket.
At this time, one of the Tbilisi Pride members texted me that they also had tickets and that we should go together. This was my first interaction with the members of the LGBTQ+ community, transgender women. Together with them I went through the jungles of barriers, as we passed the longest cordon barriers of the police. From the first moment of meeting them, I once again realized how good, fun and strong people they are and how unfair and hard it is for them to live, or to just exist in our country.
Nowadays the homophobic sentiments are at their peak and the biggest problem for the LGBTQ+ people is the sense of insecurity, regardless of whether they’re open about they’re identity. The sense of insecurity is present in anyone who has colorful hair or a piercing, is wearing a rainbow shirt, has a colorful pin on their bag, has a tattoo, wants to express themselves, anyone who simply wants freedom. The state has neither the desire nor the means to protect this community. That’s why I ran away from Georgia, that’s why so many young people are running away. It might not be apparent right away, but soon we’ll see the obviously destructive results and the painful reality that will prevail in our country. In the future, Georgia won’t have many young people with colorful and clear minds. Those people that will achieve their goals and with their work will make a permanent mark in the world, are those that have left this country.
It is very unfortunate, but these are all the reasons of why I left Georgia, much of it is for the sense of insecurity. I wasn’t developing as a person, I had lost my freedom, I couldn’t see justice anywhere, so, finally, on July 5, 2021, with the most horrible events going on, I made my final decision – whatever it would take, I had to do anything to leave this country. On July 13 I was already on a plane, saying goodbye to Georgia forever. I don’t want the only way to survival to be escaping. This is my choice and my path, because I can’t deal with this war, struggle and constant fighting, I need peace.
I don’t want to be an example for other people, but if you’re certain about it, that it’s the only way for you, then you should run away. Maybe it didn’t take me a whole 30 years, but I did need about 12 years to make sure that this was the only way for me, as a person, to survive.
I came to America with one small backpack, with which I carried 1 book – the Wall by Jean Paul Sartre, one hoodie with a FRIENDS print on it, and a rainbow pin. These items will always remind me why and how I left Georgia.
I went through an extremely difficult path, I sneaked through the Mexican border and I was detained for 21 days. The first time I felt freedom was the American border, where a guard came up to me and told me: “You did it, you are in the USA now!”
I was already a free person at the airport of Newark. This was the first “step toward freedom”, where there were rainbow flags hung around the place, very proudly. The next most memorable moment for me was seeing a church while taking a walk on the Manhattan, where alongside the American flag, there was an LGBTQ+ flag displayed. The only difference here is in people, citizens, that are aware of their citizenship responsibilities, who are very well aware about the existence between their own and other’s people’s boundaries, as they won’t allow anyone to violate their boundaries and won’t do that to anyone else either.
To the homophobic people I would say – be humane, responsible, and just. Don’t lose your humanity and try to not became a creature like a dinosaur. All species of dinosaurs are extinct, be careful for that to not happen to you too.