The love story of a Georgian Juliette and Nigerian Zacheus
Zacheus Opeyemi, 32, first came from Nigeria to study in Georgia in 2012. Very soon, he met a Georgian girl, Juliette. In 2013, they got married. Now they have a four-year-old daughter, Natalie. Zacheus works at a company importing cars to Georgia. Juliette, 23, is a medical university student. The family live in Tbilisi. They have opened up about the problems they’ve encountered in Georgia as a mixed-race couple.
“My parents love Zacheus. They never opposed our marriage. However, I have heard many nasty, horrible things from others around. For example, I remember, when I was pregnant, I was travelling in an underground train with my husband, a stranger lady looked at us and exclaimed in Georgian: “She is with that monkey, she will give birth to a monkey!” I did not tell her anything, it left me speechless. There were cases, when passers-by would spit out while looking at us, calling “Hey, look at that Zangi [Negro in Georgian]!”
Sometimes my baby is asking me, what does “Zangi” [Negro] mean? It appears children are calling her this word. Parents should explain to their kids not to use this insulting word. It may hurt my baby. She is very cheerful, she speaks Georgian, English, even little Russian. She goes to ballet dances and her teacher adores her.
There was another case. My husband understands Georgian pretty well. We were in a taxi. The driver asked me: “are you people married?” When I said, “yes”, he was astonished and asked me again: “What happened to you? Some misfortune?“ I was with my baby, but she was very little and hopefully, she could not understand that.”
“As a black person, if you are walking with a Georgian lady, you do have a problem. Mostly men have aggressive reactions.
Some Georgians have stereotypes about Africans. People ask me weird questions like, “do you know, what TV is?” We, Africans are not coming from jungles. We are humans, not animals! Of course, there are nice people around as well. I have a lot of Georgian friends and they always protect me.
Since I have a family in Georgia, I need documents to live here legally. However, I have been denied to get a permanent residence permit. The only basis for rejection was the confidential information of the State Security Service, as if I represent some kind of threat to the national security of Georgia.
I appealed the decision at the court. The claim was approved. So I hope that at least now, after three years of struggle, finally I will receive the permit. I have heard that a lot of Nigerians have similar problems in Georgia.
Meanwhile, my dad passed away in Nigeria and I could not attend the funeral. Since my issue with the residence was not decided, I was afraid that in case of leaving the country, I might not be allowed to return to Georgia. It was very hard time for the whole family.
Despite all of this, I love Georgia for its rich culture, traditions, food, friends and I want to stay here, first of all, because of my family. A lot of unpleasant things have happened to us, but it makes us even stronger.”
Tolerance and Diversity Institute – TDI | Images of Diversity