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No language barrier exists!

November 5, 2021
Medea Pavliashvili

Before the arrival...
It is already two years that we have to coexist with the pandemic that complicates everything. Organizing an international project in such conditions is linked to challenging a set of barriers and following the COVID regulations. Not many people consider it worse to take significant responsibility and bear in mind all specifics of the situation. However, most probably, it depends on the goal.
It is precisely what the Human Rights Center did when it assembled us, the young people from various parts of Georgia in Chisinau, where we met our Abkhazian and Ossetian peers.
Allowing for the pandemic, participating in an international project was unbelievable; moreover, it was not an ordinary international project but the one to meet our Abkhazian and Ossetian youth. It has been an attractive opportunity since its start.
It stands to reason, I had heard a lot about Abkhaz and Ossetian people, though as it turned out, my vision was different from the reality before the project. 
I was happy to learn that I was selected to participate in the training with Abkhaz and Ossetian youth. I envisioned a new chance and experience of meeting them face-to-face that I never had before. I, as other Georgian youth, have heard a lot about them, mostly narrated by the older generation, but I could not acknowledge the extent of importance and sensitivity of restoring the trust of the Abkhaz and Ossetian people as I managed to do during the project.  These people seemed much more remoted before while they are so close…
I became more atwitter as the project scheduled date was approaching. I was not sure of managing the communication with the youth, given that I do not speak Russian. I concentrated on what I should talk about, how to talk, and what to refrain from talking about. All that made me feel nervous and mused.
Loaded with the PCR test results and the COVID passports, we arrived at the hotel directly from the airport, where the rest of the project participants were waiting for us. So, we were in the place, and the Chisinau adventures started from that very day. I participated in the most exciting training, such an interesting one that does not often happen. I learned a lot, though the most important is that I met the unique people I managed to communicate with despite the language barrier.
Unfortunately, I beg to change their names and call on conspiracy when talking about them, as mentioning their names contains a whole set of risks.

Dimitri is one of the young people I met during the project. He is a good person; one can notice his kindness right at first sight. We had problems in communication as I did not speak Russian while Dimitri did not speak English. Is it not that communication is impossible when people speak different languages? I also thought so, but we found the solution. Initially, we both laughed at my attempt to express what I wanted to say. Then I discovered that we both liked film series and we started to use the titles of the films I knew in different languages. Dimitri had seen some of my favorite movies. We named the films’ characters and wagged the heads when we named the characters that we both knew. We even recollected our childhood and talked about the Vampire Dairy and other old film series. One can’t call it a conversation as we mainly named the titles and expressed the attitudes through face mimic, not more until Dimitri switched on the Google Translate. He typed the phrases in Russian and made me listen to the English audio version of it. I did the same - made him listen to the Russian translation. Then we both laughed. It was how we communicated. Later we started to use WhatsApp. Dimitri translated the messages into English and sent me the English version. How could this not be valued? How much time had Dimitri spent communicating with me, and this communication was fascinating? Our contact would not be so interesting should I know the Russian language.

Can you imagine that you do not know the language, do not understand the conversation but react to the humor? Possibly – no. I also could not imagine that until I met Anita – another project participant. I did not speak Russian, did not understand what Anita said, though she had such a strong sense of humor that I understood and loved and continue to love her sense of humor even without the knowledge of the language. The sense of humor means a lot personally for me Moreover, the chance to meet people with an expressed sense of humor is infrequent. Anita is the right person from this point of view. Suffice to meet her once to notice it. We walked in Chisinau streets together, took photos, and laughed. It was an exciting process to watch Anita explain what she wanted to say using some familiar Russian words to me. “Anita, I love your sense of humor” – I used to tell her in Russian.

Nina was simply amazing, just for her smile and her personality. She was very interested in learning about the situation in Tbilisi, the developments, our routine, study, and work. It was apparent that she was astonished that we managed to pass the university admittance exams without support from acquaintances and got our jobs by ourselves. It was a pleasure for us to share all the facts about Georgia with her. I hope that Nina will come to Tbilisi where she is sure to have us as her friends. She will have the chance to learn the routine of our youth, enjoy all the benefits of Tbilisi. What is more important is that she has a desire to visit Tbilisi. 

Misha spent all days with us, participating in training and various interactive activities, but we came to know him at best on the last day before leaving. We walked in Chisinau streets a few hours before his flight. When I, as usual, failed to join the conversations for the language barrier actively, Misha started to talk in Georgian; he tried to do his maximum in the Georgian language for me not to feel isolated. He said he knew a little bit of the Georgian language that his relatives taught him and was studying English as well. It was pretty unexpected and delightful to talk in the Georgian language with him. We discussed many interesting topics in the streets of Chisinau.

Telling stories of concrete people turned out to be not a good idea, but I only realized it when I finished my writing about these four people and still feel that I omitted much more details than I wrote about more people. I had to share much more about them but let me limit myself by that.
What is more important is that the training was conducted in two languages – Russian and English and we used the opportunity of having the interpreter during the training discussions to share more of our thoughts and concerns.
It was hard to leave Chisinau and part with the people after the training (the excellent training!). The flights were scheduled as of locations at different times. Tbilisi was the last flight. Hence we, who were flying to Tbilisi, saw off all the rest participants before our turn to leave came. I even could not imagine how hard it was to part with them.
Dimitri said goodbye in English to me. As I learned later, he asked my friend to teach him how to say goodbye in English for the only reason I understood him. And I understood…

After seeing off each of the participants, I had a feeling that I was parting with someone very dear to me without being sure to have a chance to meet in the future. “What if we will never have a chance to see each other?” – that was the thought that circled in my mind and which I rejected to accept. We started to discuss the opportunities for our future meetings right there in Chisinau. We established contacts in the social networks and continued the communication. 
Of course, it was complicated and risky to organize such an international project in the pandemic; it would be very bad if the pandemic interfered with its implementation. We met with young people for whom personal relations and humanity were much more important than the conflicts that occurred in the past. We realized that nothing could influence sincere relationships. A cordial friendship is possible despite the problematic relationships in the past, and despite that, you have no common language to communicate.