I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Winston Churchill

Oct 15, 2008

I have been to "buffer zones"

Story by Rusudan Tsiskreli

photos: Goga Chanadiri

Yesterday 14 of October I visited the villages that just one week ago were in "buffer zone".
I saw Karaleti, Tkviavi, Tedznisi, Megvrekisi and Ergneti.
In Karaleti, Tkviavi and Tedznisi many houses across the main road are burned. All are robbed. Locals, who did not leave their houses, said that this was mostly done by Ossetian militias. Russians never interfere. But after Russians left Gori, they started preventing looting in buffer zones too.
First of all, after passing Gori we entered Karaleti, which was so frequently mentioned in news. Burned houses across the road... In the center there was building where just several flats were burned. Window frames were missing. People were looking out of the windows, looking at the workers on street and at us. In front of building were lieing several metal window frames and workers were installing them back to their places.
We drove off from Karaleti to Tkviavi. There we saw EU monitoring mission from france in front of burned house. The owner of the house, an old man had been being interviewed by monitors. Many neighbours gethered around, everybody wanted to gain more attention to their problems - burned or looted houses. We continued our way to Ergneti.
Megvrekisi and Ergneti are complitly burned. In Ergneti is our block post. Just in the middle of the village. In 500 meters are russians and ossetians are located. There are still bombs and ours are exploding them. We heard a sound. We meet several men and one woman there.. they are left houseless. They don't complain.... woman told us how her husband was killed but absolutely without emotions. Seems they lost ability of expressing feelings. Men were sitting in the street by their lorry even joking. "We live like Gipsys. Here in car we have sleeping bags and sleep here."
Then we drove to Megvrekisi. There people had returned. Most houses were burned or bombed. We met several people there. We were told story about one old ossetian woman, who was married to a Georgian in this village. Ossetians killed her brutally and her corpse remained in her yard.
Then some neighbors burred her in her own garden. We saw the grave.
People were complaining, they need more attention from government. Waiting for the commission to count their loses. They are trying to save left harvest. Some of them live at neighbors places which have survived, others - in the ruins of their homes.
We met 103 years old woman. Her house was complitely burned, she lost everything except her hope and sense of humor. Her youngest son told us his story. He studied in Tbilisi, afterwards he moved to Tskhinvali, where he got house and made a good carrier. In the 91-92-ies' war he lost everything and went to Tbilisi as a refugee. According to his words at that time the attitude to refugees in Tbilisi was good. Everybody tried to help, but it changed after Abkhazia war, when in east Georgia came up to 300 000 refugees. After some time in Tbilisi, he moved back to village Megvrekisi, he managed to build a new house, but now he lost everything again. He was telling his story without emotions, as he was telling not his own but someone other's story. They suffered too much to have a luxury of emotions.
Afterwards he took out of ruins hidden bottle of vine, gathered some grapes and apologized that can't serve us better according to the traditions of hospitality. He had to look up for glass in neighborhood. Only one glass could be found.
We drank to their health. After we gave some warm clothes, which we took with us, to them. It was clear that they were much richer then we before war. Their houses were big and very nice. It was clear even by ruins, but now they were thankful even to our modest help.
Young man said that his garden of apples had survived, but he has no boxes, nothing to gather the apples in. In other villages we saw boxes but their apple gardens were bombed. People try to collect survived potatoes and onion. Even if it is very dangerous. There are many unknown unexploded mines around... 4 caws had been exploded on them already.
Few people didn't leave village during the Russian occupation.
They said that they were hiding all time or in cellars either in the gardens. Several people, who were suspected having a relation to our forces were executed. The most part of the population escaped when the Russians entered through the gardens and forests. They walked to the village Igoeti, which is approximately in 45 km away. After they were picked up and moved to Tbilisi or Kakheti refugee camps. They learned who was alive and who died only when they returned.
We left village Megvrekisi and drove to Tkviavi - a big village which was almost deserted during occupation and people had just returned. Here many houses survived, but most of them were robbed. So they returned to empty houses... but still some of them remain homeless. Here people are complaining more then in Megvrekisi, seems they still have power to complain. Everybody was asking how government is going to help them. Who remained in village during occupation say the same story...
Ossetians were behaving like animals and at first russians were not preventing them to do so. Afterwards Russians started preventing looters and executing them. But it didn't help much. Most of the gardens were bombed, too few harvest survived.. people are sitting outside of burned and looted houses and discussing who is guilty. Opinions are very different.
We visited house of f0rmer governer of this region Mikhail Kareli. His father remains there. House is not on the main road, and in the neighborhood it's the only burned house. Kareli started with fighting against smuggling and finished by becaming the only chief of smugglers. But in neighborhood everybody is loyal to him - it is Kareli's neighborhood, everybody there are having relative ties.
In the yard I saw many boxes, so needed in Megvrekisi...
We left village on sunset. It was such beautiful sunset in black, burned fields...
When we drove through Karaleti, work there had been finished. New, white, metal frames installed in the backround of the black from fire wall

1 comment:

Miranda said...

Rusudan, thank you for sharing what you saw with your own eyes and felt with your heart. It was really touching.

Those people really need help.. I hope that they will be given a helping hand.