Since I was a child, I have always considered the EU to be a strong union of developed countries, but I felt like the EU was far from us in Georgia. I lived in the northern part of Georgia, in a region called "South Ossetia". In 2008 I became an IDP (Internally Displaced Person) because of the "August War" between Russia and Georgia. I lost my home, pets, toys, friends, everything my family and I had. It was a hard time as a thirteen-year-old boy, but I remember one bright spark from that period.
European countries took me and other IDP children to resorts in different cities in Europe; I was in Jurmala, Latvia for 15 days. It was the most memorable journey of my life. I experienced my first flight and a warm welcome from the local Latvians. It was the first time I saw the lifestyle of an EU member state - beautiful buildings, clean streets, happy people... I saw the lifestyle that I wanted to have in my country too.
After this amazing trip I returned to Georgia. I was full of positive emotions and, since then, positive things have happened to me. With the help of the EU foundation, my family, as well as thousands of other IDPs, were given shelter; the government gave us new houses and international NGOs and EU Institutions donated money, medicine, food, water, clothes and other important equipment to start a new life from scratch. I distinctly remember the feeling of happiness among my community when we saw cars or people bearing EU flags. We associated this with an improvement in our lives. They brought not only material things but also happiness and hope, the feeling that someone did care about us, that we were not forgotten and Georgia that had good friends in the West.
Another unforgettable experience of my life also relates to the EU. In September 2015 I took part in the "Youth Peace Camp 2015". It took place at the European Youth Centre in Budapest (Hungary). There, I learnt a lot about youth work in Europe and created a new project to help my community in Georgia. I started working in an NGO called "DVV International" and participated in many very interesting projects which were implemented by the EU. I could see the support of Europeans everywhere; there are a lot of opportunities for Georgian youngsters, for example through the “Erasmus+” programme.
I have personal experience with Mobility Youth Worker projects, including "Europe One – Refugees Mission to Survive" (Ukraine), “Collaborative Consumption- Chance for Sharing” (Georgia) and “The Role of Culture in Conflicts" (Armenia). Through these Erasmus+ learning mobility projects I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience about informal and non-formal education. I have also been a Mobility Direct Exchange Student of Erasmus+. I studied at the University of Lodz, Poland for 5 months in 2016 and it was during this time that I fully experienced European values and the European lifestyle. Without the EU, I would not have been able to study and cover my expenses in Poland. Europe has changed my personality. I have become a more motivated, open-minded person, and I realise that the only way I can contribute to developing my country is to support the idea that the EU is the future and the only destination for Georgia.
I have a big desire to see my country as a full member of the EU and the Visa Liberalization programme is the first step to reach this goal. All my friends and I feel optimistic about our futures. We feel that the EU is around us: we are Georgians and therefore we are Europeans.
Author: Giorgi Kakhniashvili
This story is the winning entry for Georgia in the #EUaroundU writing contest organised by the EU Neighbours East project, inviting young people between the ages of 18 and 26 from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to tell their story of how the EU has impacted their personal life or community.
Read the other winning entries:
Azerbaijan – Stronger and together with the EU, by Sara Rajabi
Ukraine – My Europe, by Lilia Ovcharova