SOCIETY
The emotional story of a Rachan, who migrated to the USA 100 years ago
14 July, 2018
I’d like to tell you a story about my great grandmother Olga Chikviladze’s brother: Parten Chikviladze. At the beginning of the twentieth century in 1917, and at the age of 16 he left the region of Racha, with hopes of finding a job. He set off on a ship to the USA and then nobody heard from him everyone thought that somewhere along the line he had died. – according to Nato Mdinaradze, a British-Georgian school teacher.

It was known that
between 1910-1913 Rachan workers arrived in the USA. Many of them ended up working in the field of railway construction.

It is possible that Parten Chikviladze may have worked as a railway construction worker but his family is not able to confirm this.

For several decades after he left Georgia no one heard anything about him However, nearly 40 years later in 1956, a letter arrived in Racha from Parten. He had written a letter to his sister Olga to tell her that he was still alive, and living in the United States. Apparently he had married into a wealthy farming family and had had 10 children.
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Nato Mdinaradze spoke about the story

Unbeknown to Parten, Olga had by this time, passed away. However a reply to Parten’s letter was sent back by members of the Family.

The Family then received further word from Parten saying “I got your letter, I cried a lot. If I don’t die, I’ll try to see you some day.”

When he left Georgia in 1917, many members of the family had not even been born. Although he had promised them that he would meet them some day, unfortunately he passed away a short while after the date of his last letter.
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Racha is one of the most beautiful places in Georgia

In a picture sent by him to his Georgian family he indicated the names of his wife and 10 children – 6 sons and 4 daughters. Most of them had Georgian names such as Rioni, Racha, Nestori and Pelagia.

His youngest son was called Jerry. Jerry fulfilled his father’s wish when he eventually visited Georgia in 1979.

The Family only discovered Jerry had arrived and was looking for his long lost family when they were contacted via the Hotel “Iveria" where Jerry was staying, they said that some American tourists were looking for them.
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Jerry with his friends in Georgia

My mother says that when the Georgian part of the family arrived at the hotel it was a very emotional scene. Although there was a language barrier the communication was not difficult. It turned out that the American side of the family had kept a similar photo of us as we had of them And as Georgians we offered them a memorable hospitality.

Following this initial visit the Americans returned again 2 years later, but this time with other members of the family. Jerry’s wife Barbara and their two children – Natasha and Jeremy came. Jeremy had a photo taken of him wearing a Georgian “Chokha” of which he was very proud. After their departure the Georgian side of the family came under constant surveillance from the “KGB” as they were suspicious of the arrival of the Americans and wanted to know the purpose of their visit.
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Shaori lake, one of the tourist sites in Racha

Both families however, continued to keep in touch with each other exchanging pictures and letters and sometimes telephone calls until the 1990s. After that the Georgian family changed their address and then lost touch with the American side of the family.

When modern technologies and social networks arrived, my mother asked me to search for the Chiglo’s family in the USA. When Parten originally arrived in the USA in 1917 his name had been changed by the immigration authorities to Peter Chiglo.
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The letter sent by Parten to his grandmother in Racha

While searching on social media, the Georgian family found various Chiglos but it was difficult to recognize any familiar faces after so many years. So they stopped searching. Then a cousin decided to continue the search again and was lucky. It seems that the American side of the family had also been looking for their Georgian counterparts. It was the old picture of Jeremy in a “Chokha” (which had been set as their profile picture) which eventually led to the 2 halves of the family being reunited. Unfortunately by this time it was discovered via Jerry’s wife – Barbara - that Jerry had sadly passed away in a car crash.
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Barbara plans to visit Georgia on August 3

In August this year Barbara is again planning to visit the family in Georgia. She will arrive with her children Natasha and Courtney. Barbara remarried after the death of her husband Jerry but nevertheless, does not forget her late husband’s relatives in Georgia.

Barbara says she is happy to have another opportunity to visit Georgia, since Jerry had promised his father that he would keep in touch with his relatives. She says – “Jerry’s father is blessing you from above!”

On her future visit she has expressed a wish to visit the village of Chikvaladzes where Peter grew up. She would also like her grandchildren to see this place. So we look forward to another family reunion this August with our American relatives and hope these continue for generations to come.

On the first photo: Parten Chikviladze, his wife and their 10 children

Author: Lali Patsia

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