Written by Derek Butler
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.