Liana Tatishvili, 71 years old, Khashuri

People said I was a musically gifted kid from the beginning. I also remember that when I sang in kindergarten, I never liked accompaniment. That’s because it seems that nature gifted me so much that even at the age of 3, I could understand when somebody didn’t play well. When I finished music school in Khashuri, the director of the school – Nina Paatashvili took me to Nika Miasnikov, who is a great musician. Nika checked me, liked me, and started working with me. In short, when I had my first musical exams for the music school, the commission was led by Sulkhan Tsintsadze. They’re also professional musicians, the then called ‘’ Beaumonde’’. By the way, I played very successfully, I worked a lot on myself and I practiced 10-12 hours a day. The composition faculty was just opened and I was accepted to this faculty where only boys studied; I was the only girl. I was allocated to Shalva Mshvelidze’s class, who was a genius and the founder of epic music in Georgia. By the way, he was also from Khashuri. Unfortunately, today these geniuses no longer teach in high school, we don’t really understand what’s taught, and, in that regard, the outlook of our country is not good.
I graduated from music school successfully. I already had my collection of piano plays and romances as well. During that period, the whole Tbilisi sang my songs and as a composer, I worked with Konstantin Pevzner and Ioseb Tugushi, who were conductors of the Polytechnic University Variety Orchestra. In this Orchestra sang my friend – Jilda Datuashvili, who was an amazing singer and died at the early age of 29 from cancer.
After graduating from high school, I became a little lazy – I became way too confident and, ignoring my spiritual needs, having fun became my first priority. I left everything in Tbilisi and returned to Khashuri when I was 17 years old. I worked as a music teacher in a Russian school. Along with working with children, I started creating choral works. Since then, for 54 years, I’ve been teaching. I worked in almost every school in our region. I went from village to village with my musical tools. Imagine, I made kids in these villages listen to, and taught them, the works of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. My mission became education and I liked this role very much.
I was 20 years old when I became a mother. I gave birth the day before my father’s funeral, which I couldn’t attend. Love is a gift that the Lord doesn’t seem to give to everyone and the father of my child didn’t have that gift either. It turned out that I and my child had to go our own way… Even though I gave birth to a child without marriage in 1971 and it wasn’t reflected well on my reputation, I don’t regret anything. I had a child who meant everything to me. Also, my musical abilities overpowered all objections against me and nobody fought against me. Whatever I said, whatever I needed, everything was fulfilled, in the whole region. I made secretaries of the region drag my instruments from here to there. It also captivated me that I was in charge. Most importantly, my family didn’t judge me and expected the baby impatiently. I remember, when I was pregnant, my father, who became blind in his last years, send my mother to buy a pot for my baby. Back then it was hard to get such a thing. I was always busy with my job and my child was raised up by my mother. I had an extraordinary great mother, who had graduated from St. Nino’s school and knew four languages. The university was newly opened then and after finishing three years of accounting course, she was assigned to work in Khashuri. My mother lived In this house that I live in now for 12 years; she rented this place. That’s the reason I moved into this house.
I created the ensemble ‘’Nine Oaks’’, which is already 25 years old and we’ve been all over Europe with our program. When the roads and country were closed, I would still go with my students. We would collect money together; if I had anything, I paid from my own money, and also, if anyone had money in Khashuri, I’d force them to finance the kids and take them abroad. Well, what else should I have done?! We’ve been like this for 20 years and we have been all over Eastern Europe, Italy, Turkey, etc. Once, because of these trips, I was left with debts and I had nothing to sell. So, I went to Anzor Burjanadze and asked him to give me the bran. He asked me, surprised, for what did I need flour? In short, he gave me 4 tons of bran and 10 bags of flour. Then we stood and sold this bran and flour to pay off the debt. Maybe it’s bad when you don’t think about yourself, but I didn’t bother anyone with my personal requests. I just asked for help to take children abroad. During such trips, normally people get rich and I always came back full of debts.
I went to other people too with similar requests. Once, I think we were going to Bulgaria, so I ran inside Jaba Ioseliani’s office and told him: I’m not afraid of you, Jaba; I have to take the village children to show them things outside the country, so, do something, help me. He thought that I was crazier than him and called someone in front of me, telling them that Liana Tatishvili would come and they had to do everything I asked. They really gave us $1000 and I took the ensemble abroad. I’ve also had some funny stories. With a letter in my hand, addressed to Avtandil Margiani, I finally entered the ‘’Imeli’’ building and stood there to give the letter to him. I wanted to take the kids abroad again and I had no money for that. Suddenly I saw Eduard Shevardnadze walking by, smiling at me. I smiled back and we asked each other how we were doing. At the same time, I was thinking about the letter that I held in my hands, addressed to Margiani, but I wanted to give Shevardnadze this letter – I had more chances to solve this with him. There have been many such moments and I never used the funds for my personal interests. In opposite, I took there everything I could and have sold a lot of things from my own home.
All this was accompanied by a lot of struggle. We were coming back from Syria and it was the time when Mkhedrioni was active, a terrible situation on the roads – Mkhedrioni members, who were high, stood by the road with guns in their hands. I was with 35 children and 10 parents on the bus. In Syria, everything was very cheap and the parents loaded the bus with various products. They stopped us and one of them asked who was the leader there. I answered. He didn’t look at me and announced – ‘’the bus must be emptied, now!’’. No, the bus will not be emptied and you can’t go inside either, there are children with me and I have to return them safely to their parents. I called my son, stood next to him, and told the gunman, in rude language, as they were used to, that if he wanted anything, there I was, side by side with my son, and if he was brave, he could kill me right there and then. He was mad to hear this. In short, he emptied the gun on the tires of our bus. I’m a very strong person, but if you looked at the bus, everyone was overwhelmed and scared. Such things were happening and everyone was wondering how could this little woman do so much. It wasn’t an easy life. Once, I forgot three children in Turkey. We were on the road and I fell asleep on the bus. When the passengers went down from the bus to get something, they didn’t pay attention to the kids and we drove for 500 kilometers without noticing them. This was the period when children were getting abducted and their organs were being sold. Imagine what condition would I be in. We’ve reported the police and looked for them everywhere. As a last hope, I called the embassy and it turned out that children knew where the embassy was and got there themselves.
For me, it wasn’t a surprise to see controversies, quarrels, and envy that existed in the art field. But I had many friends and relatives from this circle, who appreciated me very much. Therefore, I have nothing to regret except that I didn’t graduate from the Conservatory. Even though I was taught by geniuses at the music school, and later I also graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Culture.
I had many chances to leave this city, but I stayed in Khashuri until the end. For example, Nani Bregvadze is my friend and she asked me several times to go and accompany her to sing Russian romances. But there were reasons and I couldn’t go. At the same time, there is a different world and I live elsewhere, but I still read Faulkner, Hemingway, and modern literature as well. I don’t have a bad attitude towards people from Tbilisi, but Georgia isn’t limited to only Tbilisi and it’s not the only cultural center. Khashuri has a 140-year-old People’s Theater, where Veriko Anjaparidze, Vaso Godziashvili, and many others came to act. By the way, my aunts also acted on this stage.
Yes, the cultural life is going on in regions as well. If people like me don’t stay where they’re supposed to be, who will help children here, who will help the city?!
Once, I met my teacher Edgar Davlianidze. He was going to Cairo, where the conservatory was opening and asked me to go with him as a concertmaster. My mother was no longer alive and I had a kid to support financially, and by working there I might have lost him his future, so I refused. Also, my friend, Temur Akhobadze, a pianist working in the United States, who was a Stanway Hall soloist and played at both of Barack Obama’s inaugurations, offered me to go with him to America 20 years ago, where I would be paid $150 an hour. He gave me two months to think about, but I realized that I wouldn’t leave Khashuri for more than a week and I might have died there with nostalgia. Therefore, I never regretted not going.
I still continue my pedagogical activities and now I’m working with an experimental ensemble at a music school. My life hasn’t been meaningless and I’m not unhappy. I had a life full of joy and interesting stories and in the end, I wouldn’t think that my achievements would look so seriously and I didn’t expect to be honored that much.‘’
Author: Ida Bakhturidze
Photographer: Nino Baidauri
Translation: Mariam Kajrishvili