On May 20th American Friends of Georgia took 130 Ukrainian refugees, mostly children, to Nikozi, a village on the border with Russian occupied South Ossetia. Because of the work that Metropolitan Isaia has done there, Nikozi has become for many a symbol that life may flourish even after the unspeakable tragedy of war and even alongside a yet menacing enemy.
We decided it would be special to put these people together—people who left Ukraine (Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kiev) and to take them to Nikozi to the place in 2008 struggling with war and for them it would be healing to meet with Metropolitan Isaia who is a very special figure. It was a very emotional event.
~ Lena Kiladze, AFG executive director-Georgia
It was a wonderful day. The Georgian children of the Art Rehabilitation Center, a project of AFG and Met. Isaia, performed a concert of traditional music and dance in beautiful folk costume, and then the Ukrainian children came to the stage to dance and sing the Ukrainian national anthem. There was a performance of shadow puppets which the Ukrainian children found fascinating and tried to learn from the Nikozi kids. The children were delighted by the climbing wall when they found it and played for hours on it. Topping off the expedition in style, somehow the Ukrainian visitors had discovered that the next day was Metropolitan Isaia’s Saint’s Day and so they brought a cake with them, decorated with the Ukrainian flag, to present to him as a gift.
Among the many moving notes of thanks we received from the Ukrainians was one from a woman who came originally from Sukhumi and was displaced in the early '90s at the age of three when the Russians invaded and occupied Abkhazia. Now she is for a second time a refugee from Kiev.
From left to right: Nikozi children in folk costume performing a traditional dance, a young person tries out the climbing wall, a Ukrainian visitor presents a cake to the Georgian hosts, Ukrainian children learn the art of shadow puppets from Nikozi children.
Our Ukrainian visitors have said that the event in Nikozi was unforgettable and gave them hope. We hope that you will continue to support American Friends of Georgian's work with Ukrainian refugees. Georgians are opening their homes, pockets and hearts for Ukrainians, sharing without reserve, the little that they have themselves.