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The last of Berchlianis in Svaneti

Friday, 26 November 2021 20:13 hits 471 times
Lola Berchliani
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Lola Berchliani

She visits two-hundred-year-old machub, looking at Ushba every day. She walks around the decaying house, peeps inside from the nailed-up door, weeps, and returns to her relatives’ house, where she lives now. The last of Berchlianis is 83. Her family name dies with her.

„My father never had a son. He was a good man; I loved him. He started to gift the land we owned to anyone. I said to him, „father, everyone here has a nice house, let’s build our own.” We could afford that; we were helping others around us. He would shrug without saying a word. One day, he responded, „stop insisting, I don’t care if the fire caught this house.“ He was disgruntled by not having a son.“ - Lola Berchliani always carries an old album with her – „Would you like to see a photo of my father?“, - She picks a small photo, smiles at it, and starts crying. 

My father was Samon Berchliani, son of Bekmurza. An older brother of my father, a fearless man, was killed by Kabardians. They used to cross the mountain pass with their cattle and misappropriate our land. One night they killed six men of ours, including my uncle. My father avenged the death of his brother. In response, Kabardians cursed our family. My father was arrested for murder and sentenced to nine years, but amnesty saved him. Our older generations died of illness, typhoid fever. Another brother of my father was six when he drowned in water. My mother was Gurchiani from Etseri. I don’t have many relatives, Gvichianis in Latali, Argvlianis, but nobody in my family name.

I live like the last of the Mohicans. My family name will die with me.

Father used to tell me, though he was not sure that we are descendants of Beradzes from Racha. I don’t know anything else.

That is the photo of me when I was young. I was engaged for six years but did not want to marry. My husband abducted me. They asked me if I wanted to change the surname to my husband’s on our marriage registration, but I refused. Then they asked him, and he said to leave my surname to me. My family was happy; it was rare for a man not to let the bride keep her surname. I have two daughters and a son. Girls are married. I don’t know what my son will decide... He is Kaldani, not Berchliani.

 The last of Berchlianis dreams of saving their double-story machub. The family moved to Tetritskaro, but she still lives in Becho with her relatives from spring to winter.

 „I think I can live a couple of more years If this house stands. If I know, someone will restore it. I cannot describe how much it means to me if this house lives... at least. I will engrave my father’s photo on a stone, leave it here, and our family name will live a little longer.

 Looking at these ruins breaks me from the inside. I was a dancer. Now my feet may fail, but I will still dance to express the joy.

 Should I believe? Should I believe? I must live to see. I want it but cannot ask anyone. Forgive me.

 In December 2020, representatives of „Mtis Ambebi“ met with Nika Antidze, the director of the National agency of heritage preservation of Georgia, asking him to help us rehabilitate the Berchliani machub. On January 22, 2021, we have addressed the agency to acknowledge the machub as a historical heritage and rehabilitate it.

 According to the order N02/13 of the director of the National agency of heritage preservation of Georgia, the machub was acknowledged as the historical heritage, and money was allocated for the rehabilitation.

 On June 1, 2021, the contract was signed with “NGI ltd” to start the restoration. It should end in January 2022. As a result, 64 380 Lari were allocated from the budget. 

 „Mtis Ambebi“ collected 4513 Lari from a campaign for Berchliani machub. This money will be used to arrange a living room for Lola Berchliani in the rehabilitated house.

Lasha Orjonikidze

Multimedia reporter at mtisambebi.ge, a historian by education. Lasha works on topics related to environmental protection, mountainous regions, and social issues. E-mail: lasha_orjonikidze@yahoo.co.uk

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