Nutsa Eristavi, 26, Tbilisi
„After graduating from the department of journalism, I went to England to attend a short English language course and to help my aunt out in her Georgian café. All in all, I stayed there for two years, and during that stay, I met my future husband.
Aaron is black and has Jamaican roots. Our relationship was interesting from the very first moment – I am usually quite open in my relationship with other people and I think this is how it should be. Cultural differences seemed fascinating to me. He was open too, which I liked very much. I have never had such a close relationship with anyone from a different country, race and culture and it was all the more interesting as I am a very curious person.
Once my visa expired, I came back to Georgia and my husband followed me. Aaron and I registered our marriage hastily as he was going back to Great Britain and he asked me to go with him. His stay here lasted for 6 months and we wanted to go back together, but I was unable to. I was stuck here. It was a serious stress, I was discouraged because Aaron was involved in many projects there and it turned out that we are stuck here, where he has to start everything from scratch. He had to get to know with our culture, meet people and make friends. We started our life afresh and tried to adapt.
He now leaves from time to time. There’s nothing he can do about it because this country does not offer him the projects or opportunities that he can find there. Aaron is a dancer. He attends contemporary ballet master classes in England. Sometimes they shoot an ad or a film and Aaron, as a dancer or an actor is involved in them. He also offers master classes both in London and in London surroundings. When he arrived here, I put aside everything to give him my full support, introduce him to people, and help him otherwise, because when I arrived in London, I did not have to face such challenges. I could rely on my aunt, my grandmother and my cousins there. I socialized soon enough. Aaron is open to any kind of relationship but he struggled here from the very first day. I realized that and, sometimes, when he went on a meeting, I followed him, like mothers follow their children. I had other worries and concerns and wanted to be beside him during those times. The language barrier was always there even though everyone seems to speak English in this century.
To be honest, I had no idea this problem existed in Georgia – refusal to accept someone different. I had painted Georgia to Aaron as a paradise, I had promised that everyone would support him, he would have a lot of friends, and with a little effort he could introduce his work to my country and earn people’s favor. Once we were here and first excitement faded away, I felt a different kind of attention – an unfavorable one. It was not “you are so cool” or “you are a guest and you are welcomed here” kind of attention. It was a clearly unfriendly attitude, which was for me, as his girlfriend, very difficult, because his expectations of this country were ruined right away. I knew it because soon he asked me directly if there were racists in Georgia.
We face this problem everywhere. A racist does not think twice before attacking you and ruining your mood, as it happened in Smart, where I was assaulted with words “why are you sitting beside this monkey”. There was another incident in McDonalds where Aaron was asked by the security guard to leave “to neutralize the situation” (I was not there with him). He was the victim in that situation but still, he was the one who was made to leave. Such hostile environment affected me greatly but when I complained everyone thought I was exaggerating.
People are so full of stereotypes that they think he plays basketball, and listens to hip-hop. He does not listen to hip-hop at all, he likes rock music. I have to explain that even if Aaron is black, he has received this and this education, he studied and worked here and there, he teaches… I have to wrap him up and build his image so that he is not mistreated. My heart goes out to all the black people who have not lived in London and are alone here without any close person to support them.
Occasionally, Aaron would be disheartened, but I was more frequently upset than him. He thought it all happened due to unawareness and ignorance. He was stressed out and I was disappointed. Sometimes I would not translate hostile remarks to him and keep them to myself. When you cannot share something it affects you very much. I had serious problems. I was reluctant to go out with him late in the evening. I locked myself in. I did not enjoy going out, travelling with him, while in England we felt as full-fledged and complete human beings in any transport, any place and any time. I’m worried every time he goes out for water or to the drugstore. I don’t feel at ease. Even though I am strong, I realize that I can’t let myself stagnate because of such people; I know that I have to move forward, to fight, but it does not seem to work. It is difficult to live like this.
Obviously, Aaron is stressed out, but I think I have a different kind of stress because of being disappointed with my country. I had hoped that I would be most comfortable here. I cannot go to England because visa application process has become very strict and I, as Aaron’s wife, was rejected once because Aaron had not been in Georgia for 6 months and we failed to submit documentary evidence that he could support me for one year (I won’t be allowed to work for the first one year there). Here at least I had hoped that we could make our life more convenient, I would be doing my job and he would be doing his. I have often set aside my work when I’ve felt that he has problems or is gloomy.
After our story was covered in a long post, everyone shared it and TVs were interested too, but the response was mostly negative, “no way”, “you are imagining things”, “you are exaggerating”. If a medical student from Africa complains about problems, nobody will take it seriously. If you don’t have anyone to care for you, you’re gone. When Aaron had an asthma attack he was made to breathe into inhaler sitting down before we called because they thought he was some piece of trash – this is what our country is like.
When I see a racist post, I start talking about it because if you don’t talk, you will have to go into your shell and let the stress bring you down, and I don’t want that to happen. We both work a lot, I need inspiration and positive energy and so does he because he is a dancer. He works with kids, teaches English, is in thousand projects and jobs, and if we stay quiet about it, it won’t do.
I used to receive messages on Facebook like “Didn’t you have anyone to stop you from doing it?!” In the beginning I decided to answer patiently that love transcends color and race but it is extremely difficult to talk with a person who does not understand and does not want to understand. Anyway, I have to talk about it. I certainly cannot dedicate my whole life to it, because we live and work separately and if we allow this to affect us, then we must isolate ourselves, hide under a blanket and say “we cannot leave yet, so we must not put up with it!” That’s why we respond when needed, we write and speak about it when needed, but I think in order to solve this problem, people must first realize that this problem exists!
I want to have a baby with Aaron because our child will be the product of our love, and I don’t care what others think. Why cannot I live comfortably in my country, hold hands with my man and go wherever I want without the fear that I will have to avoid at least ten men’s glances and look elsewhere.“