Georgian history is enriched with people, who have played a priceless role in the survival of Georgia for centuries, but there is no one like Ekvtime Takaishvili. He is a hero from the previous century, who have saved Georgian legacy and its cultural identity.
He was a historian, archaeologist, co-founder of the first university in Caucasus region, author of the many publications about archaeological expeditions all around Georgia etc. His work during his career is priceless and unique even now, but this is not why he is so precious for Georgians. His main contribution begins in his late 50s.
The year 1921 was full of terrors for Georgians. This is when the Red Army invaded the Democratic Republic of Georgia and after heavy fighting Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic has been declared.
Just a few weeks before that, the leader of the government, Noe Zhordania gave a special mission to Ekvtime Takaishvili. He had to collect the most precious pieces of Georgian treasure from the museums all over the country and prepare them for evacuation to protect cultural heritage from invaders.
Ekvtime and his wife were appointed as the protectors of this treasure, which included priceless golden crosses of the greatest Georgian kings such as King Tamar and David IV the Builder, handmade priceless pieces of jewellery from 5th century, icons and handwriting. All together it was up to 200 boxes of part of Georgian history, which had an immeasurable value. In addition, he was entitled to protect Georgian national treasury, 2229 kg of mainly golden bars and coins.
He took this treasure to Marseille by ship and deposited it into the bank. Georgian emigrants could not afford to pay a maintenance fee to the bank, so in 1934 the court decided that treasure should become the property of France and moved it to Paris. After that, Ekvtime has urged to return this treasure back to Georgia for years. In 1940 when the German army occupied France, they were aware of Georgian treasure, so they searched it actively, but French people had hidden it in the basement of the Palace of Versailles and Ekvtime was helping them to do that. He spent 4 nights in cold basement after which his health condition became worse.
You might think that a person, who was protecting this priceless treasure, could have lived like a king, but in reality Ekvtime spent 24 years in emigration in extreme poverty. He had only one goat and he and his wife were surviving with its milk. Sometimes they could eat fruits and vegetables, which they were growing themselves, but most of the days they were hungry and only thanks to Georgian emigrants they could survive.
Modern historians say that by selling a single item from this treasure, he would be able to support not only his family, but also every Georgian emigrant in France for over 10 years, but he rejected every offer he was getting. Many individual collectors and foreign museums, especially from London and New York, were interested in buying some part of the collection, but he has never sold a single item.
In 1945, after long negotiations and by the influence of Stalin, national treasure was returned to Georgia. Ekvtime was 82 years old at that time. When the plane arrived in Tbilisi, Ekvtime was holding back from coming out of the plane, because his jacket and shoes were so torn that he was ashamed of the people.
At that time, in Georgia there was still very strict regime of Russia, so Ekvtime had a house arrest for 8 years until his death. His faith could be even worse, but he was too old to be imprisoned. Only a few people could see him. He passed away alone in a one-room apartment at the age of 90.
In 2002, he has been canonized by the Georgian Orthodox church.
In 2013, he was awarded the title and Order of National Hero of Georgia.
So, after that always keep in mind that each item you see in the museums of Georgia, it might be the one that Ekvtime saved at the cost of his life.
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