On Wednesday 21st April members of the NKTA’s sister organisation, the Kutaisi Newport International Association, held a meeting with HE Mark Clayton the British Ambassador to Georgia. The meeting was held at the request of the Ambassador and it was his first meeting with the KNIA since his appointment in 2021.
The meeting was held at Kutaisi’s Ghone Kveknisa Primary school, the school linked with Lodge Hill Primary School, Caerleon. Numbers were kept to a minimum due to current Covid restrictions.
KNIA Chair David Megrelishvili introduced Association members to the Ambassador. He then outlined the history of the Twinning and the contribution it has made to the close friendship and practical co-operation between the two cities and between Georgia and Wales.
The Ambassador was impressed and expressed his readiness to support and strengthen what he described as a truly outstanding example of international civic partnership. He said it was essential that young people from the two cities should be encouraged to get involved and was pleased to hear of the links already formed between Kutaisi and Newport schools and at college and university level.
Manana Djulakidze, the owner of Ghone Kveknisa School, generously provided meals for everyone present and the Ambassador stayed for informal discussions far longer than had been anticipated.
Present: HE Ambassador Mark Clayton, KNIA Chair David Megrelishvili, Professor Dr. Mamuka Mukadze, University Lecturers: Maia Alavidze, Nino Nijaradze & Tamara Kobeshavidze, Director of The Bridge Autism Centre for Young People, Lika Mkhatvari, Director of Kutaisi Vocational College – Tamara Zakarashvili, and host Manana Djulakidze
Please note (NKTA)
As the NKTA is unable to hold face-to-face meetings at present the executive is exploring the possibility of organising online meetings. Members will be kept informed.
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It has been almost one year since my arrival in the UK. It has been a challenging period due to the Covid pandemic, but at the same time we learned how to adjust ourselves to new realities and new type of virtual diplomacy.
As I represent the Georgian government in the UK, amongst other things, my daily work involves achieving key strategic objectives in the UK – to enhance our cooperation in security, defence, trade and economy and strengthen friendship between Georgia and UK.
This year Georgia marks the 30th anniversary since the restoration of independence – a milestone reflecting our challenges and progress. Throughout this period the relations between Georgia and the UK have prospered and today our bonds remain as strong and important as ever.
One of my priorities is to raise Georgia’s profile in the UK. In this light Twinning links continue to play an important role. I am keen to further enhance these ties and as soon as circumstances allow I intend to visit Wales and Newport to celebrate the strong friendship between our twinned cities over the past four decades.
Sophie Katsarava MBE
Comments From Dame Rosemary Butler
I have had the privilege of knowing Sophiko for a number of years and I am very grateful for all the work she has done to help strengthen the Twinning between Kutaisi and Wales when she worked at the British Embassy in Tiblisi.
I recall some very special occasions at the British Embassy, among them a reception in 2014 celebrating the link with Wales when the Embassy was decorated with Welsh flags. Sophiko’s enthusiasm and organising skills were obvious that day when she helped host a reception for young Welsh and Georgian rugby players as well as choirs from the two nations (below).
I met with the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament on several occasions and I was delighted to host him when visited the Senedd . Sophiko played a major role in that visit . When officials from the Welsh Assembly went to the Georgian Parliament to discuss parliamentary procedures her translation skills helped to make the visit extremely worthwhile.
I know that Sophiko will make an excellent Ambassador for Georgia and we look forward to welcoming her when she is free to visit Newport.
Dame Rosemary Butler
Presiding Officer National Assembly for Wales 2013 – 2017
The NKTA is delighted to join our friends in Kutaisi in congratulating Professor Madonna Megrelishvili, the recently retired Chair of the Kutaisi Newport International Association, on being honoured for her outstanding service in the field of philology by the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia.
Madonna’s reputation as a teacher and university administrator is unrivalled in the Caucasus and the award recognises her unique contribution to the teaching of English Language and Literature in Georgia for over fifty years.
The success of the Twinning is due in large part to the input from Madonna and it is widely recognised in Georgia that several of the nation’s present-day leaders have benefitted from the opportunity to study at the University of Wales, Newport (UWN).
This honorary award is proof of the huge contribution to her country by this distinguished teacher, leader and selfless woman who many of us in Newport are proud to call our friend.
In 2019, Caerleon Lodge Primary School was introduced to the fascinating country of Georgia by Caroline McLachlan, the School’s Chair of Governors who is also the Chair of the Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association.
As a result, the School has connected with the Ghone Qveknisa, Primary School in Kutaisi, founded by Manana Karkashadze, using tools such as Google slides and Google docs.
By enabling the children to collaborate in such a way, our students and their young friends in Kutaisi are learning to appreciate each other’s way of life in an authentic and engaging way. The initiative also supports Lodge Hill School as it develops the children’s skills in digital competence while becoming ethical informed citizens who enjoy learning about cultures and communities around the world.
Our pupils were fascinated to watch an interesting video sent by Manana which showed the similarities and disparities between the two schools, The difference in their learning environments captured the children’s attention. In response, our pupils created a collaborative PowerPoint to share such information as the history of Caerleon, Welsh sport and Christmas in Wales. The latter topic proved a valuable source of discussion when our children learnt that Christmas in Georgia is celebrated on January 7th.
The children also carried out independent research at home and brought back to the classroom to be shared. One boy created an informative PowerPoint and gave a talk about aspects of Georgian life based on information gained from family friends who have links to Georgia.
With the prospect of Welsh schools reopening soon, we at Lodge Hill School look forward immensely to continuing our collaborative work with our Kutaisi friends when we are back in the classroom.
Deputy Head Teacher
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A group of Georgian citizens together with Englishman Peter Nasmyth, a strong supporter of the NKTA, has recently established the Georgian National Trust. It has been set up in association with the National Trust of Great Britain’s international branch INTO and follows the successful British model.
Georgia possesses a vast number of historic sites worthy of saving. However the country has no independent national organisation that enables individuals to express their concern and affection for the nation’s heritage. The NTG provides this, together with practical advice for helping with the preservation of buildings and land. The knowledge and experience available to the founders is offered to private owners to show how they can conserve their properties in a way not yet offered by the state. It also provides Georgians with a means of expressing their pride in their nation by joining as NTG members.
The NKTA’s November newsletter contains some examples of Georgia’s traditional architectural heritage that could easily be lost and stretches of its glorious countryside that are in danger of being spoilt by insensitive development.
This is the subject of a presentation Peter has agreed to give to NKTA members as soon as circumstances allow.
This June the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, formally opened a stylish four star hotel in central Kutaisi named the Newport Hotel. One of Kutas main streets in named Newport Street and the naming of the hotel, formerly a courthouse, underlines the importance Georgia gives to the twinning of Newprt and Kutaisi.
The hotel will not be open to the public until the corona virus lockdown in Georgia is lifted but when it opens the owner, Mr Nikolaz Lataria, has invited members of the Kutaisi Newport International Association (KNIA) to attend as his special guests.
We wish the every success with the new venture and mark of our twinning
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NKTA (Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association) members celebrated Georgia’s Orthodox Christmas Day with a `Christmas Dinner` at The Priory Hotel, Caerleon. Support for the event surpassed all expectations and those of us who attended enjoyed it so much we can’t think why we’ve never organised such an event before.
The event was held in The Priory’s atmospheric panelled room and its wooden wall-panels and richly coloured windows were complemented by the lighted candles and Georgian goblets and drinking horns decorating the tables
Association Chair Caroline McLachlan began the evening by welcoming the members and guests including Cllr. Jane Mudd, the Leader of Newport City Council, and her husband Steven and Jayne Bryant, the Welsh Assembly Member for Newport West. While welcoming Jane, Caroline congratulated her on her recent election as Leader of Newport City Council.
Caroline referred to the significance of 7th January, throughout the Orthodox Christian world and how Christmas is celebrated in Kutaisi, Newport’s sister city.
Following the Dinner’s first course, Association
Secretary Derek Butler read greetings from Professor Madonna Megrelishvil, the
first (and only recently retired) Chair of the Kutaisi Newport International
Association, the present Chair David Megrelishvili and the members of the
KNIA. Derek spoke of the incomparable
contribution Madonna has made to the friendship between Newport and Kutaisi
over the past thirty years and remarked that David was a personal friend of many
Association members as he lived in Newport for over ten years during which time
he was deputy manager of The Priory.
Between courses, messages from our KNIA friends Lyalya
& Tamriko Kobeshavidze, Maia Alavidze, Nino Nijaradze and Ziniko Chichnidaze
were read by Caroline, long-serving NKTA members Sylvia Mason and Sonia Fisher,
and the Deputy Head of Lodge Hill Primary School Nick Smith who has established
a strong link between his school and a primary school in Kutaisi.
Caroline then proposed a toast to `Friendship` at the end
of which we all stood and gave a rousing version of ”Gowmajos”, the Georgian
equivalent of “Cheers” or “Iachi da”. The
messages were listened to with interest and each one was warmly applauded. Later several members mentioned how moving it
was that friends separated by over a thousand miles could come together in such
a joyful celebration.
Caroline invited Cllr. Jane Mudd, Jayne Bryant AM and Dame Rosemary Butler to speak. Jane responded by saying how delighted she and her husband were to be invited, that she was pleased to know that the link between the two cities that began with the signing of the Twinning Agreement in 1989 is as strong as ever and that she will ensure that, despite financial restraints, the Council will continue to give the Twinning and the NKTA its full support. Jayne gave a warm speech saying how pleased and proud she was to be a NKTA member and Rosemary talked about the history of the Twinning, the difficulties it had faced in the early years, its many achievements and her love and respect for Madonna. Both Jane and Jayne mentioned how they had been inspired by Rosemary’s dedication to Newport and her promotion of women in public life.
Jayne and Jane were presented with 2020 calendars
picturing Georgia with photographs taken by Peter Nasmyth, a good friend of the
NKTA who lives and works mostly in Georgia.
Caroline closed the evening by saying that it was clear
from the laughter and chatter in the room that the event had been a huge
success and proved that the friendship between Newport and Kutaisi remains
vibrant. She then invited everyone to
participate in a group photograph taken on hotel’s staircase.
Since the event Madonna and other Kutaisi friends have
written to say how touched they were to know NKTA members were celebrating
Christmas Day with them and during their festive parties many glasses of
`sharvi gvino` were raised to toast their friends in Wales
Madonna asked how many of us dared to drink from the Georgian horns.
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Our chair Caroline spoke at our recent October NKTA meeting about her recent visit to Kutaisi and Georgia.
Caroline recently spent a few days in Tbilisi where she attended the `Start of the Season`, an event organised jointly by the British Council and the British Embassy. While there she met Madeleine Moon, MP, the Chair of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Georgia.
They held interesting discussions and this connection will continue. She also met Timuraz Murghulia, one of the first group of children to visit Newport in 1991, and he talked about how the visit has influenced his life.
While in Kutaisi, she participated in a full programme organised by David Megrelishvili, the recently appointed Chair of KNIA (Kutaisi Newport International Association) and this provided opportunities to consider future collaborative projects and revisit continuing initiatives.
Caroline had also visited the Mushroom Art House in the village of Kursebi, not far from Kutaisi, where earlier this year Newport student Oktawia Van Tienderen spent a month with her host Mariam Zhorzhikashvili supporting the development of conversational English with children and adults. The local people forage, prepare, cook and store a special type of mushroom that grows in the area and which is of particular interest to mushroom aficionados worldwide, an important part of the community’s plans to develop rural tourism.
Caroline also went to The Bridge for Social Inclusion, the Kutaisi centre for children with learning difficulties that has been supported financially by the fund-raising activities of the staff and students of the School of Care, Coleg Gwent, Newport, led by NKTA members Alice Butler-Bright and Clare Munro. Caroline reported that the renovation work being undertaken as a result of the funding has considerably enhanced the provision The Bridge is now able to offer and has enabled some very valuable initiatives to take place i.e. early yeas assessment, innovative practices for children on the autistic spectrum and home visits to support parents with children with a range of disabilities. Caroline noted she was privileged to accompany an early year’s specialist on one of her home visits, where she modelled a range of play behaviour for the parents to use with their young son.
She spent a day in the English Philology Department at ATSU, a Department she has been visiting for the past 29 years and which has been central to the development of the Twinning. It was the first day of the Autumn term and as a result she was unable to meet the students but she held an interesting and informative meeting with the Rector.
Caroline ended her report by saying that she enjoyed many social gatherings with old friends and KNIA members, eating delicious Georgian food, drinking Georgian wine and enjoying Georgian hospitality generally. She noticed how many good restaurants there are in Kutaisi now which are catering for a greatly increased number of international visitors. As a result, she thinks the NKTA could explore the possibility of supporting tourism in Kutaisi by encouraging work visits by young volunteers from Newport. She added that there are plans to link The Bridge centre with a special educational needs school in Newport.
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Our warmest greetings from Kutaisi.
Many years of friendship and partnership connect our cities. As you know, during these years,
Georgia has overcome many challenges to become a truly independent democratic country.
Today, the country and our city are facing new challenges.
On June 21, 2019, the Russian Federation banned flights to Georgia, which could prevent
Russian tourists from visiting Georgia. In response to this, a new campaign started with the
slogan “Spend Your Summer Holidays in Georgia”, which is aimed at supporting Georgian
tourism industry. Because tourism is one of the most dynamically growing sectors of our city,
we would like to ask you as our twinned city and great partner to join the campaign and spread
information about Kutaisi as a tourist destination. Please find video detailing some of the city’s Landmarks https://www.facebook.com/tourismcenterofkutaisi/videos/1757405371037820/
As you know Kutaisi International Airport
offers very convenient directions for tourists, namely citizens from 24 towns of 15 countries
can arrive by direct flights in our city:
The wizz air, low cost airline offers the following directions:
Italy, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Greece,
Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia.
From September wizz air adds 6 new directions:
1. Brussels, Belgium
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
3. Basel, Switzerland
4. Eindhoven, Holland
5. Bar, Italy
6. Tallinn, Estonia
2. Kharkiv, Ukraine
3. Odessa, Ukraine
The answer to the question why to visit Georgia and Kutaisi can be found in our image clip on
the following link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1757405371037820
On the website of our Tourism center
https://www.facebook.com/tourismcenterofkutaisi/?hc_location=ufi you can find plenty of
special offers of the private sector for tourists.
Finally, if possible, we would like to ask you to put this clip on your communication channels
using the hashtag #Spend Your Summer In Georgia Kutaisi. This will be an invaluable aid
for our country and city, and another proof that the relationship between our cities is fruitful,
result-oriented and productive.
We are counting on your support.
Thank you in advance!
Mayor of Kutaisi Municipality Mayor of Kutaisi Letter
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Our two Model United Nations Participants had shared their memories and experiences of their time in Kutaisi. It was a packed meeting, seeing His worshipful the Mayor also attend. Both participants, Edward and Libby provided excellent accounts to members present.
They shared their experiences of the Model United Nations session itself where they had been assigned to Moldova as the country they needed to represent to the session. They also noted the various excursions hosted by both Kutaisi City hall and friends in KNIA. Both had attended `Rustavi`- a famous Georgian dance ensemble.
They advised that they have made many new friends from across the world but have a very positive long lasting memory of Kutaisi and Georgia. Both Edward and Libby thanked the members present for being able to have had the chance to attend the session and life changing experiences it has brought. Members were also invited to ask any questions of which were related to their experiences of food, culture and general experience in Kutaisi and Georgia.
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