From October 11 to October 15, 2021, the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) carried out the major activities at the St. Mathias Apostle Gymnasium-Boarding School in Batumi as part of a project funded by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
The aim of the project was to create and disseminate new knowledge about the past totalitarian regime and the repressed people via creating comics about the stories of victims of repression, which would also further increase empathy towards and among the victims of religious minorities. As a result, the children of the gymnasium-boarding school created 5 original comics about the repressed people during the Soviet regime.
Meetings with the young people were held for the duration of five days:
On October 11, IDFI representatives visited the boarding school and together with the head of the boarding house - Mother Sidonia- held an introductory meeting. On this day the youth was provided with general information about the repression and they were given a chance to express their views and attitudes towards the topic of the lecture. IDFI representatives listened to the participants’ expectations.
On October 12, Eka Kalandadze, PR Assistant for the project, delivered a lecture on "Creating History through Graphic Arts" based on a workshop conducted by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. The lecture discussed the stages of development of the art of comics, the types of comics, and the main and secondary elements of their creation. The discussion about the history, format, tools, and features of the comics was held with the participants.
In the second part of the meeting, Anton Vacharadze, Head of IDFI Memory and Disinformation Studies, reviewed the period of the repressions and introduced the personal stories of the people who fell victim to the Soviet regime. Anton spoke about the personal stories of the victims, their achievements, and the brutality of the regime towards them. Among the victims’ stories, the children were informed about the Rejeb-Beg Nizharadze (1873-1937), the first Georgian lawyer and public figure, one of the political leaders of the Georgian Muslim society, who was also the first graduate of the university.
On October 13, Lia Dekanadze, a Georgian Muslim and a co-founder of the Solidarity Community visited the boarding house to talk about their community's perception of the past repressions, the need for an inter-religious understanding, and the similar challenges that the various religious leaders faced under the Soviet totalitarian rule. At the end of the lecture, the boarding school students held the first discussion with IDFI representatives on the content and outline of the comics.
On October 14, the three groups participating in the project started creating the content of the comics, after which the active process of drawing comics took place throughout the day. On the following day, October 15, each group presented their created comics, held a presentation, and talked about the knowledge and skills they acquired through the project.
The meetings were held in question-answer mode. The children of the boarding house had an opportunity to openly ask engaging questions or express opinions receive answers in the discussion.
It is noteworthy that the children of St. Mathias Apostle Gymnasium-Boarding School are actively involved and interested in the history of their country. The growing interest of the younger generation in the issue of the repressed and their involvement in relevant discussions is crucial for raising public awareness. Thanks to such projects, the society, government, and decision-makers will once again recognize the importance of remembering victims for Georgian society.
An educational week was held with the financial support of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, within the framework of the project: “Inter-religious dialogue through graphic art”.
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