Jumber Was Here!

Five years ago, I met and befriended a young man from the eastern European country of Georgia. He had come to the Netherlands seeking asylum. This was because he is bisexual, which is just not accepted there and he was in fear of his life. The authorities looked at a piece of paper that says that it is safe for LGBT people in Georgia, and told him that he would be sent back. I helped him evade deportation and he tried again in another country. That, I have written about at the time. Unfortunately, they too looked at that same piece of paper and sent him back. He was deported to Georgia.

Jumber and I getting a drink together, just before he left the Netherlands

In Georgia, my friend had nothing to go back to. His family didn't accept him and, in fact, his father was one of the major reasons he had fled in the first place. His mother had tried to support him, but died shortly thereafter under suspicious circumstances. Although my friend could not say for certain, he has always suspected that his mother died at the hands of his father, just for trying to help her son. Though he had had a business before he left, that business was taken by his father. So, when he went back, he had no family, no place to live, and no income.

My friend kept in touch as best he could, sending me messages from internet cafes. This picture he sent, broke my heart. He was living on the streets of Tbilisi, with just a few pieces of cardboard and plastic to shield him from the cold. All day, he walked the streets looking for discarded bottles, which he could hand in to get the recycling deposit so that he'd have some money to buy a little food. When there weren't enough bottles, he had to resort to stealing food.

As soon as I could, I started sending him some money every month which enabled him to rent a small apartment in Tbilisi and to eat normally. Despite being depressed, he went looking for a job and took whatever work he could. The work was hard and physically exhausting and the pay was lousy. So lousy, in fact, that he remained dependent on what I sent him as it wasn't even enough to cover the rent of that small flat. But despite this, he was so glad and proud to be able to do something. And I was just as proud of him for not giving up.

Jumber in the hospital, after a brutal attack

It was not to last. After working this job for a few weeks, he was spotted by somebody who knew him and why he'd left Georgia in the first place. They returned with others and beat him up to within an inch of his life, damaging several internal organs. The photo above, taken in the hospital, is the last photo I have of him. To allow him to recover, I had set up a crowdfunding campaign, which took care of the medical bills for his care and hospital stay. Mentally, he didn't truly recover, and he remained afraid to ever leave home, terrified as he was of another attack. Despite this, he always looked for odd jobs to get some income and to feel useful.

We kept in touch, communicating via WhatsApp. When he attended protest marches against government corruption and the injustices in Georgian society, I was worried for his safety and he was arrested multiple times. I tried to get him to go to organisations standing up for LGBT people in Georgia, but as hate crimes were directed at such organisations and police looked the other way, he didn't dare. Especially after that attack, he never really trusted anybody other than me.

Jumber trying a Belgian waffle when we met up again in Brussels

Several times a week, we talked via WhatsApp. We talked about maybe getting to meet up again some day. We talked about finding a better life outside of Georgia. And we looked back fondly at the times we'd spent together during his failed attempts for asylum in the EU. It made me smile when he told me about little things that made him happy, like when he had the opportunity to enjoy an icecream cone on a hot summer day. I remember how proud he was that he'd managed to get a proper ID card again (and he sent me a photo of it). His messages were always full of love and hope and kindness.

In July of 2022, just after I'd sent him money for that month's rent, he told me not to send anything for the following month. I asked whether he was sure about that, whether he'd be able to make rent and buy food, and he told me not to worry. At 12:43 on July 8th 2022, he messaged me "thinking about you" and when I responded, he read it and reacted with a ❤️ emoji. Just over 5 hours later, at 18:11 on that same day, I inquired about his health. That message, was not just unread, but remained undelivered in WhatsApp. For more than a year, I sent messages to him every few days, over 200 in total, but never did that single grey checkmark turn into a double, let alone blue.

Yesterday morning, a friend suggested hiring a private investigator. That thought hadn't occurred to me before, but it was sound advice, which I promptly followed. I sent the detective the information that I had (the photo of that ID card came in handy) and it took them a little over a day to report back. The devastating reply: "I'm sorry but unfortunately this person died last year". Although more details will be sent later on, I'm virtually certain that they will confirm my fears and that my friend has taken his own life. Every time I had looked back at his final communication to me, it always felt like he didn't want to burden me and was saying goodbye.

Dear Jumber Kikacheishvili, you have suffered so much in the mere 32 years of your life, yet you never let hatred enter your heart. It was too full of kindness for that. You tried so hard to find a better life, giving up everything you had, and were rebuked. Regardless of the details of how you left this life, I feel you have been murdered by the system. This cruel world is a lesser place with you no longer in it. I hope with all my heart that I was able to let you know that there was at least one person who considered you a valuable human being. Even if nobody else cared about whether you lived or died, I did. My tears for you are real. For as long as I live, you will not be forgotten. I won't permit this world to be without evidence that you were here, and I'll remember you and tell your story to whomever will listen. Jumber, may you have found the rest and peace that you could never find in life. I remember the one Georgian word you taught me: ნახვამდის.

In memory of Jumber, I have set up a fundraiser for Amnesty International and have requested that my employer donate my 15 year work anniversary gift there instead. It is too late to save the life of my friend, but perhaps others may be spared his fate.


Tom Hardwidge

Oh, Steven. I’m heartbroken by this story, and your loss. You truly were a port for him in a stormy sea. The world is poorer for having lost him, and I hope some day that the intolerant culture which led him to this end realises that one day. ❤️


I'm very sorry. And upset, of course. But this isn't the right time or place to feel anger. My condolences.

Marjolein de Groen

Hoi steven, wat een verschrikkelijk verhaal.
Het is nog steeds jammergenoeg in veel landen een strijd om jezelf te kunnen zijn en dat is erg triest.
Wat goed van jou dat je hem zo heb geholpen en hem goede en memorabe momenten heb gegeven..
Het is wel triest dat een persoon zo'n besluit neemt als hij of zij geen uitweg meer ziet.
Hopelijk heeft hij rust gevonden en wordt de wereld ooit nog eens een plek waar je gelukkig kan zijn.
Veel sterkte.

Ramón Wilhelm

Oh no! Reading about the loss of your Georgian friend made me cry! 😭 He was a very good friend, but he suffered under a cruel system that doesn't allow people to live the way they want to feel happy and healthy.

My heartfelt condolences for the loss of your friend. 😢❤️

Richard Rosenblatt

What a truly heartbreaking circumstance to have to deal with. There's no happy ending here but I hope at least that your very moving essay helped you find closure. It is such a shame that your friend was not treated with fairness in this life. My sincere condolences for your loss, Steven.

Bertrand Guégan

What a devastating and heartbreaking story..! I'm so sorry for your loss Steven!

No name

Wat een ontzettend erg verhaal Steven.
Er zijn geen woorden voor.

Sterkte man!


Hoi Steven, tranen in mijn ogen als ik dit lees. Wat een verdrietig verhaal en wat een onrecht. Heel veel sterkte ermee. Wat fijn dat jij er voor hem bent geweest. Je hebt een goed hart


Heel verdrietig, sterkte Steven!


I am very sorry for your lose. The world is a rough place but still some of us are trying to make it a better one. It's a very slow process, carried by the people that turn the hate they face into pain that they bear instead of striking back and bringing more harm to the world.
It sounds like your friend is one of those rare people that beard that suffering and took some hatred out of this world.
Look at his father, look at your friend - what a huge accomplishment under the most adverse circumstances. I wish you all the best.


Wat een bijzonder verhaal, helaas geen leuk eind.. het gaat je goed, sterkte!


What a terrible way to lose such a dear friend. So awesome of you to stand by him in his darkest times. And thank you for sharing the story with the world so Jumber will never be forgotten. My condolances for his loss, it should not have come to that. Stay strong!!!


I’m so sorry to hear that. It is very saddening to know people are suffering in these ways for simply wanting to live their own lives their way. I know how difficult it can be when one is left to handle issues on one’s own and how that affects mental health to reach that point of contemplating suicide. It’s a very saddening and common issue. May your friend rest in peace, and may this situation make you stronger and encourage you to live your life in a meaningful and loving way. I wish you all the best and I offer you my sincere condolences. May you live a blessed and safe life surrounded by loved ones. Be safe. ❤️

Jack Yan

Thank you for sharing this, Steven, and making sure Jumber is not forgotten. What a tragedy, but also what a great friend you were to him.

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