Georgia’s Presidential Administration restores symbolic Leuville library

Inside the library of Leuville are numerous books detailing the modern history of Georgia. Photo by Nino Orjonikidze., 27 May 2014 - 19:24, Tbilisi,Georgia

Inside the walls of a historic library in a small French village are books describing Georgia’s vibrant history.

About 30km south of Paris is Leuville-sur-Orge, which some describe as a ‘small Georgia’. The area is symbolic for Georgians, with its castle and orthodox cemetery.

But most importantly, inside the library of Leuville are numerous books detailing the modern history of Georgia.

The village is more famous in Georgia than in France, because the first independent Government of Georgia in exile settled there in 1921.

To recognize the importance of Leuville, Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili has decided to give the village library a much-needed upgrade.

Georgian writer Lasha Bugadze encouraged the President to get involved in the Leuville library rehabilitation project, after the documentary A Journey to Leuville was featured by ARTEFACT production for IMEDI TV.

Shooting documentary A Journey to Leuville. Photo by Nino Orjonikidze.

President Margvelashvili said Bugadze believed the preservation of the library was a "very exciting project” and encouraged him to get involved.

He told me the books needed to be protected and it would be good if this project was implemented, so we decided the project would be developed by the Administration of the President, Margvelashvili said.

The President of Georgia is planning to visit France on July 14, where he will see Chateau Leuville and present the project to Georgian diaspora living here.

Leuville is a must-visit place when Georgian officials visit France, as the first head of the government of independent Georgia, Noe Jordania, died and was buried there after he took refuge in France when the Bolsheviks gained power.

In 1921, three years after Georgia proclaimed independence, the Red Army invaded Georgia. The Georgian Parliament gathered in Batumi and voted to exile the Government, who were granted political asylum in France.

On March 18, 1921, the then-Chairman of the Government Noe Jordania, Government members and a handful of Georgian representatives and their families went boarded the Ernest Renan ship and sailed to Paris, where they founded the Georgian Association in France.

Life in Leuville was difficult for the Georgians; there was no water or electricity supply and money quickly vanished. So did the hope of returning to their homeland.

At the time, about thirty Georgian emigrants lived in 15 flats inside the castle and shared a common lounge.

To earn money Jordania and Government members were forced to grow vegetables to sell. They grew local vegetables but also Georgian red beans and Russian pickles and later sold in Parisian markets.

After 80 years, attempts were made to turn the estate to Georgia and the Georgian people. On May 23, 2011, local and Georgian representatives signed agreement  to hand over Leuville estate to Georgia, however the official handing over has not happened yet.

For many generations, Leuville castle has been a symbol of resistance and aspiration for freedom.