One name, one life, one sign
The Last Address.Georgia project is a public initiative aimed at perpetuating the memory of people who became victims of political repression and state arbitrariness during the years of the Soviet regime in Georgia. The result of such an initiative is the placement of many personal memorial plaques on the facades of houses, the addresses of which became the last lifetime addresses of victims of repression throughout the entire existence of the totalitarian regime in the Georgian SSR.
A postcard-sized plaque is quite hard to identify in the street. One can come closer to read a few lines written down on it – born, arrested, executed – that’s it. The plaque is set up on an old fence in a winding alley next to a small shabby house. Few would understand what it means and why it can be found there. But the residents of the house know. They know and remember that their grandfather or great grandfather was arrested in his place at night and never came back. In post-Soviet countries such as Georgia, with a population of just over 3 million people, the percentage of victims of political repression of the Soviet totalitarian regime was one of the highest. Georgians, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis living in the territory of the Georgian SSR fell into the meat grinder of the totalitarian Stalinist regime in 1937-38, from which no one managed to escape alive. And here it is not about military ranks and White Guards only, but about ordinary people of working professions. The team of “Last Address.Georgia” has collected hundreds of stories of families and their tragedies that have never seen the light of day. We would like to tell only a couple of them with the permission of relatives of victims of political repression. Konstantin Kandareli (born in 1902, arrested on May 1, 1937, executed on September 13, 1937). Konstantin did well at the Tiflis Classical Gymnasium. He was a member of Shevardeni, the first gymnastic society in Georgia, created by George Nikoladze in 1918 in Tbilisi. In 1923, Konstantin left for Germany, where he continued his studies at Berlin Technical University. At the insistence of the Soviet government in 1929, Konstantin Kandareli returned to Georgia and became the Head of the industrial section of vocational education at the People's Commissariat of Education. From 1930 until his arrest, Konstantin Kandareli held several important administrative posts. He was the chairman of the department of technical engineers of the Republican Bureau of the Union of Metallurgists of Georgia, chairman of the International Bureau of Mechanical Engineering of Georgia, a member of the Presidium of the Bureau of Technical Engineers of Georgia, editor-in-chief of the journal "Engineering and Labor", lecturer of the Faculty of Engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Georgia. He was also the director of the plant named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze. Konstantin Kandareli was arrested on May 1, 1937, at dawn. The arrest was preceded by a search of the house and confiscation of the property. According to information issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia dated in 2011, Konstantin Kandareli was convicted by the collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR under Articles 58-7 (sabotage), 58-9 (sabotage act) and 58-11 (all kinds of organized actions aimed at preparation and commission of a crime). He was sentenced to capital punishment. The sentence was executed on September 13, 1937. For almost 20 years the family had no information about him. On August 11, 1956, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR reviewed the case of Konstantin Kandareli and quashed the sentence due to lack of evidence. He was rehabilitated posthumously. Zakhary Dzhishkariani (born in 1880, arrested on September 5, 1937, died in the Siblag of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on August 31, 1942). Zakhary Dzhishkariani, an economist by profession, met his future wife Giovanna (an Italian by birth), in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the 20th century. She was a French teacher at the royal court. Zachary made a proposal to Giovanna, but she refused him and left for London, he followed her. And there, in London, Giovanna said to Zakhary: “Yes, I will!” Then they returned together to Petersburg, where in 1911 they had a son, George. 1917, revolution in Russia ... The Dzhishkariani family left for Georgia, the homeland of Zakhary. Then the time came for the Sovietization of Georgia ... But, despite this, they decided to stay in Tbilisi. The year of 1937 came ... On September 5, 1937, Zakhary Dzhishkariani who worked as an economist, was arrested as an enemy of the people. Zakhary’s son, George, worked for the railway company that time. He held a high position, spoke several foreign languages, often visited European countries including Italy. All his family was fraught with fears of his upcoming arrest. His warm clothes were packed into a suitcase kept at the door. Every day, the Dzhishkariani family went to the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) to find out the fate of Zachary, but it was in vain. For all the time, Giovanna Dzhishkariani received only 2 letters from Zakhary, from Magadan. 5 years after the arrest of Zakhary, in 1942, Giovanna died of grief. In the same year, Zakhary Dzhishkariani died in the camp, but this became known much later. Giovanna's brother, Angelo Sacchetti Sassetti, lived and worked in Italy. He was the mayor of a town of Rieti, before and after the Mussolini regime, with a break of 22 years. The Museum of Rieti (Museo Civico di Rieti) has a hall dedicated to Angelo. He had no children and after his death, in 1968, the relatives of Zachary became his heirs. In the same year, the Dzhishkariani family presented the museum with the paintings of the Renaissance period that they had inherited. Every 4 years, Zachary’s relatives come to Rieti, visit the family grave, and meet with the mayor of Rieti.
In Europe, many people know the Stolpersteine project, initiated by the German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992, aimed to commemorate individuals at exactly the last place of residency — or, sometimes, work —before he or she fell victim to Nazi terror, euthanasia, eugenics, deportation to a concentration or extermination camp, or escaped persecution by emigration or suicide. So, Georgia also has such a project named “Last Address. Georgia”. It is an independent non-profit organization that helps relatives of victims of political repressions find information about their relatives, such as the article on which they were arrested when the sentence was put into effect, where they were buried if this information is available. With the help of Last Address.Georgia, relatives set up a plaque with brief information about the victim near the house. And such a small symbolic action has a huge impact on the life of the whole family, relatives from other villages who come to the unveiling ceremony, neighbors, schoolchildren and teachers, the local administration. Passing by is simply impossible. A small postcard-sized plaque represents an entire era of the totalitarian regime, exposing the innocent souls of the victims in these three lines - born, arrested, executed.
The Last Address.Georgia team granted us the right to tell these stories to a wider European community after getting to know about the history of the family members of Effendi Villa (present cultural heritage site of Georgia in the region of Adjara) who were either sentenced to death or sent to concentration camps due to their noble background. On April, 25, 2020 in cooperation with the Last Address.Georgia Effendi Villa team are unveiling the memorial plaque to commemorate the member of Effendi family member whose last address was Effendi Villa. It will be the first public event commemorating the victim of the political repression in the region of Adjara. However, we want to keep raising awareness about victims of the totalitarian regime among local communities in the region. As a follow-up of the public ceremony at Effendi Villa, next autumn – winter time we are planning to hold an interactive exhibition with photos, items that belonged to those people, posters and all other things locals would like to share to tell their family stories. We see this project as a good reminder for politicians and officials about the dark history that must never be repeated again. It is also a good history lesson for young generations who probably do not know much about the political repressions in Soviet Georgia as most people have been keeping their family stories secret so far.
As the commemoration of victims of political repressions is a very personal and dramatic story in many families, talking and sharing it with others gives some relief and creates a sense of unity in the community. The totalitarian regime destroyed lives of people, the whole families regardless of their nationality, education or profession. In such a multicultural region as Adjara in Georgia commemoration of the victims would foster social cohesion in the area and bring up such topics as democracy and human rights to a new level of discussion.
Grant requested: 900 euro PR and promotion: leaflets and posters with the information in regard with the project and exhibition details: 150 euro Photo printing for the exhibition: 250 euro Exhibition production costs (e.g. photo frames): 200 euro Exhibition hall renting: 300 euro