When Lia Danelishvili moved with her family to Corvallis in 2002 to take a job with the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, she was sad to leave her native country of Georgia behind. But it was her two daughters that had the hardest time adjusting. Her youngest became full of patriotism when she moved to the United States.
“When I brought them here it was very hard,” she said. “Salome missed her relatives. She said she loved her country and she was a Georgian, so she should go back to Georgia.”
But the girls adjusted, made friends, began doing well in school, and slowly became Oregonians. However, Danelishvili, a senior research associate with the Department of biomedical sciences, wanted to make sure that her children maintained their ties with their Georgian relatives. So in July 2008, she and her daughters flew to Georgia to visit with grandparents, cousins and various aunts and uncles.
“For the first two weeks, it was perfect,” she said.
But when a conflict broke out in early August between Russia and Georgia, suddenly the family visit reverberated with the sound of bombs being dropped nearby. Danelishvili’s focus became getting her family home safely.
The girls were so focused on playing with their cousins that they didn’t notice what was happening nearby, and Danelishvili made sure that they associated happy family times, not international conflict, with their home country.
Despite the politics involved, Danelishvili said as a people, Georgians and Russians consider each other friends. The two countries were closely tied under the former Soviet Union, and even after the fall of the USSR, Danelishvili maintained friendships with Russians.
In Corvallis, she and her family often picnic with Russian immigrants living in the area, and spend time together during Orthodox holidays.
“We are friends. We love each other. We understand each other,” she said.
Unfortunately, many of Danelishvili’s American counterparts only know Georgia as a country because the recent conflict made news over here. For the rest, the mention of Georgia conjures up the American state of Georgia, a place Danelishvili has never been.
Hoping to set aside some of those misconceptions, Danelishvili asked her visiting parents to bring her a flag from Georgia, which she presented to the Memorial Union President Raphiel Carter last week. The red and white flag will be placed among the other flags hanging down the main corridor of the MU. The flags represent the home countries of many OSU students, staff and faculty.
When the flag is hung, she will take her daughters to the MU to see it take its place among the rest.
As frightening as her last trip to Georgia was, Danelishvili will return with her daughters for a visit in the future. But not for awhile.
“Things are still messy there,” she said. “To damage takes a few seconds, to rebuild takes decades.”
~ Theresa Hogue