Khatuna Shavgulidze – Georgian Poet in London
13 September, 2012
Khatuna Shavgulidze – Georgian Poet in London

There is something perpetually undying in our Georgian way of loving the Motherland and in the way this affection is being expressed by a Georgian man and a woman wherever they move, make home and produce offspring. For a Georgian, sense of vibrant patriotism is an inevitable component of life, allowing survival. A Georgian cannot be devoid of this feeling and attitude. Emotionally, a Georgian has to have a hope deep down that some day he will be back at

home. Otherwise, the life might get totally obliterated of meaning. 

And I witnessed all that in London just about a month ago when I had enjoyed that happy encounter with the Georgian emigration in the United Kingdom. The unreserved immersion in the life of the Georgian community in London taught me the things I thought I had known but I had not, actually. Roots are untouched and always in place, which is what makes a Georgian a Georgian.

I cannot but remember forever the meeting with Khatuna Shavgulidze – a middle-aged Georgian lady, mother of three grown-up men, and . . . poetess! Amazingly, she started writing poetry at a later age. She says the passion in her was triggered by the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war – as unfortunate as this might sound. Widowed at a very early age and bereft with three small boys to bring up, she was remarried, this time to a wonderful Englishman who took Khatuna, her kids and the pains she had suffered right to his heart of hearts, and there they go . . . in London, as a beautiful international family, born as a result of this very fortunate mixed marriage.

Khatuna Shavgulidze is a Georgian lady of value and consequence, Georgian from top to toe, inside and out. She is living a life, totally saturated with the sentiment which was born in the depth of the Georgian culture and was nursed in her all the way from her infancy and salad years right into the maturity of a grownup woman. Khatuna is living, breathing and dreaming Georgia – it is her spiritual food and a source of her impressive patriotic poesy. She has just as well embraced the national culture of her husband, sounding and behaving as a lady of manner and exceptional upbringing, so much in tone with what we are used to call singularly British.

My eyes are unmovingly fastened at a small book, sitting at my desk in a very cute publication, titled “We will return” (an overwhelming dream of a Georgian emigrant anywhere in the world). This is a miniature anthology of poems by Khatuna Shavgulidze, impressing me with its patriotic intensity and painful interpretation of what love for Motherland means. The book is bursting with feelings for the native land, tearing apart both the heart and the mind. These pages are a bundle of nerves, sucking me in and binding me in the subtle network of poetic gossamer. I read through these lines and desperately desire to find a cure to the poet’s wounded heart. Wounded? Yes, but why? What has wounded her so badly? Her poetry is an open laceration, bleeding ceaselessly and helplessly. I am asking Khatuna a question: what do you want to do with your soul while the flesh is so well groomed and taken care of? I don’t hear the answer, and I will never hear it  . . . probably . . . Isn’t this devastating?

That was a day of spiritual triumph... the Georgian community in the Georgian House of London – a temporary venue of Georgian get-togethers for the London-2012 Olympic period. We were standing at the elevated reception table enjoying the togetherness with other members of the community, myself being a guest and them – the hosts. Khatuna read one of her poems into my ear in the noisy reception room, and then I took over passionately, having declaimed the lines with pathos – spontaneous and genuine, not faked and deliberate at all. Khatuna liked the way I had presented one of her pearls. Incidentally, the book carries one stanza of that outstanding verse on the back cover. I have read it for more than hundred times and I still want to keep reading it. It fills me with a hope that some day the entire Georgian community scattered around the world will return home to charge the spirit of Motherland with new power of survival. Listen to this:

Exhausted of wander, we will return,

In wordless humility bending our heads,

Haters of Georgia will sooner be blinded

Than seeing this land

devoid of Georgians.

This is my modest attempt to express in English the poet’s crucially dominant idea of her future although I am not sure if the translation carries the same burning fire of love for the native land and the anguished yearning to be back. I know that Khatuna will forgive me magnanimously. I simply could not help presenting these magically quintessential words to whoever happens to read them some day. It is amazingly breathtaking that being so much sprinkled around the Globe, we still cling together, joined in spiritual unity with the power of our great poetry, faith, language and land! Bless your heart, Khatuna Shavgulidze!

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