To rescue Katarinenfeld
Manon Bokuchava, Kvemo Kartli
(Bolnisi, T. Stepania street #4, does not have a status of cultural heritage)
The story started 200 years ago, when German people were forced to settle in Georgia.
A part of German colonies was established in Kvemo Kartli region too. One of them – so-called Katarinenfeld, was located in the territory of Bolnisi. Probably, Germany has never been so close to Georgia as it was then, but coexistence of Georgian and German peoples turned up temporal. In 1941, with the beginning of the World War II, the Germans were exiled.
If we believe the historians, only one day was given to the Germans to leave houses and they could not even to take their personal belongings. Today, you can hear the stories told by elder generation, who say that the people, who first entered the houses of the Germans, saw wine and food stored for winter in the cellars.
(Bolnisi, Kostava #23, German arch-shaped wine cellar, does not have a status of the cultural heritage yet).
Nowadays, there are up to 330 gothique style houses built by Germans in Bolnisi. Mostly they used oak tree for the construction. Those houses with wooden balconies, tile roofs, with unusually thick walls and deep wine cellars – make Bolnisi special.
Today, only 12 buildings have status of the cultural heritage in Bolnisi. But there are tens of houses and wine cellars, which were also built at that time and were preserved till today. Besides residential buildings, there are constructions for different purposes, such as buildings of minor enterprises and the former Lutheran Church where the Bolnisi Sport Complex is functioning now.
We see three tendencies in the streets of modern Bolnisi: German houses, which are about to disappear, because they were not rehabilitated for years. Those buildings are already ruined.
(Bolnisi, Kostava #28/ does not have a status of cultural heritage monument yet)
Also, we see houses, which were renovated by local people. One of them is located in the Kostava street #28. The house has traditional German deep arched wine cellar, but new floor was built upon it. It is an example of the tendency – to build Bolsini over Katarinenfeld.
(Monument of culture heritage, Bolnisi, King Parnavaz street #46)
Third reality is the houses, which kept their façades till today. Their small part has status of culture heritage, but there is one problem. The roofs of the houses are damaged in majority of cases, rain damaged the walls, wooden floor is rotten here and the balconies, as well as the entire houses, need rehabilitation.
People, who live in the houses, said the only thing which was done was to establish underground communication of the German districts and pave the streets. We observed the ongoing pavement process of the streets in the town.
89-year old Tamara Ulikhanova lives in the King Parnavaz street #38 in Bolnisi (the house has a status of cultural heritage). Three weeks ago, the roof fell down and she expects the Bolnisi City Municipality will reconstruct it. She said she is the only one around, who knows Swabian language (one of the German dialects).
(Bolnisi #38, monument of the culture heritage)
“Very few tourists come to visit the places. As a rule, they are all Germans. They enter our houses and I talk Swabian with them. Some of them do not understand at all. Once a German man came and showed me an album with the photos of the people who were exiled from here – you know, I recognized our neighbors. I also had many photos, but I did not give them to the tourists.
Unfortunately, as you see the buildings are not in good conditions. My roof fell down, the houses are dilapidated, people are poor – there is no income from tourists here”, - Tamara Ulikhanova said.
(Bolnisi, King Parnavaz #44, 46, cultural heritage monuments)
Nargiza Gabidzashvili and Tamar Kavelashvili live in the house, which have status of the monument of culture heritage in the King Parnavaz street. They showed us the second floors of the houses, where rain is coming in because of the damaged roof. They said the streets were reconstructed, but nobody cared about buildings yet.
“German tourists come and take photos of the buildings from outside and do not even come in. The locals have no income from tourists”, - Nargiza Gabidzashvili said. They are afraid that the conditions of the buildings will worsen since they are very old and rehabilitation does not happen.
Representatives of the Bolnisi municipality administration explain they do their best to rescue Katarinenfeld.
Konstantine Kordzadze is the head of the Infrastructure and Architecture Service at the Bolnisi municipality administration. He said nothing was done to preserve the German Treasure in Bolnisi. He claimed, now the German streets are paved in Bolnisi and the local administration plans to announce tender in couple of weeks – to purchase projects for three buildings. Those buildings have the status of culture heritage.
“Unfortunately, 1/3 of the German buildings in Bolnisi were transformed or ruined. We cannot help them, but we have approximately 330 houses, which kept its façades. We do our best to preserve the houses. Obviously, considering the status of the buildings, we will consult with the Ministry for Monument Protection”, - Konstantine Kordzadze said.
He added that they have municipal program, which funds Bolnisi population with 10 000 GEL. As a rule, the locals renovate the roofs and houses with that money.
“We think to increase the amount of money next year, because this amount is not enough. However, only our budget cannot rehabilitate the houses. Everybody shall support us,” - the head of the Infrastructure and Architecture Development Service at the Bolnisi municipal administration said.
Representatives of the National Agency of Cultural Heritage Preservation said they work on the rehabilitation plan of Katarinenfeld. Manana Vardzelashvili spoke about it with us. She is the head of the UNESCO and International Relations Department at the Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation.
She said Georgia started to collect data on the German Cultural Heritage and develop future action plans to preserve it only 2 years ago. The German Heritage is surveyed simultaneously in Asureti, Bolnisi and Dmanisi.
“By the end of the year, we will have the common strategy on the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage and it will enable us to create working plans and plan concrete activities with different agencies”, - Manana Vardzelashvili said and added, that status of cultural heritage does not mean that only Ministry of Culture shall take care and rehabilitate the buildings. It is complex issue, where each agency has to contribute. The Agency tries to give the status to German houses in Bolnisi in near future.
German side is also interested to rehabilitate Katarinenfeld, however, current situation is not very promising and all parties agree with it. In parallel to that, Katarinenfeld, which is now Bolnisi, will host a lot of guests next year to celebrate 200 years anniversary of the German people’s settlement in Georgia. The celebration will take place in front of the buildings, which do not look so ceremonial right now.
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