Beyond the News

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March for Europe – afterthoughts on imagination and European unity

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An article by Kakha Kotashvili from Georgia on his experience at the Advocate Europe meeting in Rome, March 2017, which he attended in the frame of a MitOst20 shadow visit lottery for members. 

Old Piazza Di Spagna from a course book

From my school days I remember a picture of the Piazza Di Spagna (Square of Spain) in Rome, Italy, being in my geography course book. At the time, I thought this square was very beautiful with its nice, old buildings and flowers on stairs. I liked it so much that during the whole year I kept dreaming I would go there and see it in Rome, preferably with the girl I liked at the time. I had a kind of Roman holidays in my mind.

Time passed and I forgot this picture, this dream and this girl, too. I grew up, went to Europe many times and thus had a chance to go to Italy as well, but somehow didn’t have a strong wish to visit this country as most of my European journeys were and are still connected with Germany due to MitOst activities and my other work; so every chance to go to Italy was delayed. Suddenly I, who never won a lottery in my life, got a message that I was the lucky one who would go to Rome, attend an Advocate Europe seminar there and take part in the March for Europe event as MitOst member. It was a really big surprise which reminded me of my old dream I had already forgotten.

And here I am, in Rome, in front of the stairs of the Piazza di Spagna. It’s my last day here, I have already attended the meeting, I took part in the March for Europe and am full of different kinds of emotions. But now I’m thinking and comparing the picture from the book and the reality in front of me. It’s so different…

You know, I’m more a man of the countryside than a man of the city, and in order to fully acknowledge the beauty of a place, I prefer when there are not so many people around. I especially like architecture and the particular colors and spirit inside of old buildings – it’s so authentic and yes, it talks to you of the stories from past centuries, especially here, where many historic paths meet. Now I remember the words my couchsurfing host told me this morning: “Yes, it’s your dream and you have to go and see it, but please, don’t take it too close to your heart, it’s not as beautiful any more as you think.”

 Piazza Di Spagna now

But the fact that the place has changed is not the main point in this story, neither is the Piazza di Spagna. The main point is the reason why and with which expectations I have arrived in Rome – reasons I only realize now. It’s about the expectations and the reality we as Georgians are faced with here, in Europe. For us, the EU is a Piazza di Spagna imagined from a picture: beautiful, old, quiet, nicely colored, luxurious and with places around to sit and rest. A place which inspires you to become better, to meet other nice people, who don’t think about war, poverty, and problems, but about the arts, science, who have jobs, and a nice life to live. But the reality is different.

Yes, it’s very nice here and it looks almost like in heaven, but it’s also more crowded. It’s how life works: when something is good, everyone wants to have it and when everyone does, it’s not so good anymore. There aren’t many flowers here. When so many people are coming to a place, they need space, not flowers. And it will become more flowerless as more people will arrive. There are a lot of people, but less spirit, which was what attracted me most when I looked at the picture and which is not here anymore. And I’m standing here, in the middle of the crowd, thinking that it’s better to go home and walk in my streets, to take care that their spirit is kept alive. It’s perfect to be here, but it’s better to take care of what you have.

I love Europe, I want it to be united, without BREXIT and other nationalistic and populistic movements. Not because I want to live here, no. I want Europe strong and united above all because I feel it’s important to build a better future for my own country where people won’t have such big problems that they dream of living in European countries – not for fun or because they want it, but because they have no other way out. I want Europe strong and united in order to face problems together and give an example that it’s possible to change, to stimulate hope and not disappointment. This is the most important to me. So this is why I’m very grateful to the Advocate Europe team for giving me the chance to come here, attend the March for Europe and realize all of this here, in the heart of Rome.

And yes, POWER is in UNITY. 



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