Elena Pershakova, a Russian woman human rights defender defending the rights of citizens victims of law enforcement entities' abuses, has recently concluded a successful and fruitful temporary relocation stay in Georgia, funded by ProtectDefenders.eu with the support of the Tbilisi Shelter City programme.
Today, more than 550 human rights defenders at risk and their relatives from all corners of the globe have benefited from a temporary relocation grant from the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, allowing them to get away from a dangerous context and strengthen their skills and capacities to continue their work.
Click to Read More to learn about Elena's experience
"My expectations towards my participation in Tbilisi Shelter City programme, thanks to the support of ProtectDefenders.eu, were fully met. I got to change the working situation, meet a lot of new people and even got new skills: had started to learn English, began to learn how to drive a car and other things. Despite my frequent working trips, I rarely manage to travel for personal purposes, and this was a great opportunity. I became calmer, less irritable, less nervous. On a 10-point scale, I feel myself at 9!
I think that participation in such programs as Tbilisi Shelter for Russian human rights defenders is needed not only because they are vulnerable and subjected to pressure and threats. First of all, it is important to understand the number of prejudices connected with the relations between Russia and Georgia: one must fight against prejudice. We need to discover the Caucasian traditions for ourselves by the example of the most hospitable Caucasian country — Georgia.
In addition, Georgia has much interesting achievements which we could learn: the success of the police reform; organization of public mass events and legislation on this topic. Now there are activists and NGO staff in Russia, in relation to whom there is a constant persecution from different sides. And the experience of Georgian NGOs that have evolved over the last 4-5 years under completely different conditions, even with regard to supervision and control over non-profit organizations will be very useful for my colleagues.
In Georgia, of course, you start to feel yourself much more secure. For example, my first trip to the metro in Tbilisi: I will never approach a policeman in Russia to ask anything, direction or advice. And in Tbilisi, I overcame myself, asked the way — and received a very friendly, human response. Psychologically, in Georgia, you are relaxing, and friendliness to non-citizens from the locals is helping on it. I was struck by the culture and nature of Georgia, but Georgians are generally a special attraction. To learn how to rest – what is was the most difficult skill for me — this is what you need to do in Georgia. In Moscow it is not common to show strong friendliness on the streets to strangers. In Georgia, you will not just be helped, but will also go where you need, or help you get any kind of service."
Picture: Tbilisi Shelter City