Project Description

Armed con­flicts hap­pen every day in this world. Because of modern media the news reach us wit­hin a few minu­tes. Still there are dis­pu­tes no one is tal­king about – alt­hough it should be done. For exam­ple the fact that Rus­sia is snea­kily annex­ing parts of Geor­gia. In 2008 Geor­gia inten­ded to gain the con­trol over the taken areas Abkha­zia and South Osse­tia. This mili­tary exer­cise ended in an armed con­flict in which Rus­sia main­tai­ned the upper hand. On both sides several hund­red people died. More than 20,000 civi­li­ans had to leave their home­towns.

The EU inter­vened and ended the con­flict after five days. They decla­red armi­s­tice. Rus­sia reco­gni­zed the two areas as sover­eign sta­tes, this lead to the ending of a rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween Rus­sia and Geor­gia. Geor­gia finally has gai­ned inde­pen­dence with the dis­con­ti­nua­tion of the Soviet Union in 1991. Never­the­l­ess they have pro­blems reaching their goal to become a mem­ber of EU and the NATO and to cut them­sel­ves off from Rus­sia. As long as Rus­sia has that much aut­ho­rity over them, the par­ti­ci­pa­tion will stay impos­si­ble. Until today the bor­der bet­ween Geor­gia and the occu­p­ied areas of Abkha­zia and South Osse­tia is slowly moving.

The bor­der from South Osse­tia — about 60 km long — is the rea­son for the loss of Geor­gian ter­ri­tory and the home­land of many Geor­gi­ans. So far more than 200,000 Geor­gi­ans are refu­gees in their own coun­try. The wire mesh fence prevents the com­mu­ni­ca­tion bet­ween Osse­ti­ans and Geor­gi­ans. Geor­gi­ans may not pass the bor­der or they are sen­ten­ced to jail. South Osse­tia is clo­sed for inter­na­tio­nal tou­rism.

The Geor­gian govern­ment can­not gua­ran­tee any lon­ger the secu­rity for people going there. The­re­fore it is not advi­sa­ble to go there. Addi­tio­nally unmar­ked land mines can be found in unin­ha­bi­ted ter­ri­tory. The mis­sing inte­rest of the politics and the media regar­ding the cur­rent events leads to sta­gna­tion on the Geor­gian side. Only 2 years Rus­sia alre­ady anne­xed the Cri­mean pen­in­sula. Geor­gia now is fac­ing the same fate.

Jaria­s­heni is loca­ted in the red cir­cle. 20 kilo­metres in the north of Gori.

Jaria­s­heni has a popu­la­tion of 300 hund­red people. The vil­lage is loca­ted in the govern­ment area Shida Kartli, 20 kilo­metres in the north of Gori. South from the bor­der there lies the vil­lage. By now it is almost com­ple­tely con­trol­led by the Rus­si­ans. The last time the bor­der fence was moved was in April this year. The move­ment was only 100 metres into Geor­gia, but it can hap­pen again at any time.

It hap­pe­ned over night, so that many habi­tants woke up the next day to rea­lize they have lost their ground and fields. In total the habi­tants’ access has been restric­ted to about 30–40 hec­ta­res. In aver­age the bor­der is moved several times a year. The exch­ange bet­ween the habi­tants and the sol­diers hap­pens on loca­tion when the sol­diers are working or patrol­ling on the bor­der. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion is working bet­ween both sides. But that does not give the habi­tants the right to inter­vene.
In the course of the last drawing of bor­ders armed sol­diers have cut down apple trees on the field but also in the gar­dens of the people. Fur­ther­more they have built a fire exit on the ground for the case of an emer­gency – as they say.

The habi­tants can­not defend them­sel­ves against the ongo­ing events. It just hap­pe­ned that their ground now lies on Rus­sian ter­ri­tory. They have to deal with it. The field is repre­sen­ting the bor­der zone. It is signa­li­zing the change of ter­ri­tory and is giving the sol­diers the pos­si­bi­lity to patrol on pro­per streets. In fact there is no sign of a state bor­der there, but it is one.
Step­ping too far on the field may lead to an arrest. Whe­ther it is tag­ged as a bor­der or not. The linear dis­tance to the real and mar­ked bor­der is about 400 metres.

A typi­cal house in Jaria­s­heni.

One main road is con­nec­ting the vil­lage in the west with the big­ger place Mej­vriskhevi. The police sta­tion is loca­ted there. To the east the road is ending because the occupa­tion zone is star­ting there. The area of Jaria­s­heni is appro­xi­mately a cir­cle and has a radius of 500 metres. In the cen­tre is a mar­ket place with the local church and an empty house with a bench in front of it. It reminds of a bus stop made of cement. Some small street are lea­ding into the vil­lage where the house of the people stand.

The streets are plain gra­vel paths. Neit­her they have fixed roadsi­des nor are the streets paved. Also the hou­ses are in a basic con­di­tion. For exam­ple the walls of the hou­ses are not plas­te­red and even some­ti­mes they are only pro­vi­sio­nally pro­tec­ted from the rain. Most of the gro­ce­ries are ear­ned by the peop­les them­sel­ves. They are keeping ani­mals like pigs, chi­cken and cows and are gro­wing their own fruits and vege­ta­bles. In the vil­lage its­elf there is not a gro­cery store. To make purcha­ses they have to drive Mej­vriskhevi or Gori – which is alre­ady about 30 minu­tes away.

The whole vil­lag is mee­ting at the mar­ket place. Inha­bi­tants and police men.

Ever­yone is com­ing toge­ther at the mar­ket place. It is — except for the church — the only public mee­ting point for the people of Jaria­s­heni. Young and old, habi­tants and police men. People know each other. Espe­cially due to the high pre­sence of the local police the people in Jaria­s­heni become a bet­ter fee­ling in their ever­y­day life. The police is always there, gives new infor­ma­tion and are tal­king to the Rus­sian side. The con­tact to the police men is very import­ant for ever­yone. The old man often are sit­ting on the bench or are play­ing domino. They are exch­an­ging news. The youn­ger boys are com­ing to the place to ride their bicy­cles in the near mea­dow.

One of the old men is a local far­mer, he is res­ting on the bench with his fri­ends. He is having a break until he has to return to his cows on the field to look after them. The cows are run­ning around fre­ely. “Once I owned more ground than now”, he reports. The last bor­der move has hap­pe­ned just a short time ago. Howe­ver he is yet allo­wed to let his cows on the field and to care for his apple trees. He has a per­mis­sion from the Rus­sian side and is yet tole­ra­ted. That is why he is still opti­mi­s­tic about the whole situa­tion. He is not thin­king about lea­ving the vil­lage. Mainly because his living stands and falls with the pos­si­bi­lity to have access to his fields. From time to time politics from Tbi­lisi come over to have a look at the situa­tion. Even once the governor has been there. Still they also could not bet­ter the con­di­tion. He is hoping for the best — alt­hough in fact the bor­der is moved several times a year.


This far­mer has yet the per­mis­sion to let his cows on the occu­p­ied field.

I am not planning to leave my house and I am not going to do so. 
No way will I depart from this area. Whether or not they build a border.”

Eliz­bar and Dzhe­nia Mest­um­rish­vili have alre­ady been through the trou­ble cau­sed by having to leave their house and vil­lage. Now they have sett­led down in Jaria­s­heni and — again — have come as close as pos­si­ble to the bor­der. Offi­ci­ally their gar­den is loca­ted in South Osse­tia. And with it also their out­house.

They are living alone in the big house at the bor­der. It is fen­ced-in with a very old and bro­ken fence. The coupe is caring for the two dogs and the chi­cken and mana­ging their life in this tense situa­tion. Eliz­bar pres­ses his own wine in the bas­e­ment. The poverty is obvious in the whole house. The only fur­ni­ture in the giant living room is a table with four chairs. A cur­tain is han­ging from the wall and the win­dows are covered with white beds­heets to keep the bright sun­light out. Ran­dom objects – like wheels from a car, a woo­den box and a tiny shelf – are lea­ning against the wall.

The house is the clo­sest you legally can get to the fen­ced bor­der – the bor­der lies 200 meter away. Stan­ding in Elizbar’s gar­den you can see the house of their for­mer neigh­bours who had to leave. He alre­ady went there several times to have a look at the bor­der, but only in com­pany of the police men who often come over to see if they are alright. Once a team of a Geor­gian news chan­nel came over to make a report about the situa­tion. He took them to the bor­der and was happy about their inte­rest. Ano­ther time a group of activists came to Jaria­s­heni to make pho­tos and get an insight. “These people couldn’t achieve any­thing”, com­plains Eliz­bar. “They were just annoy­ing us.”
“In my opi­nion it’s not dan­ge­rous living in Jaria­s­heni. We have been living elsew­here, where it was a lot dif­fe­rent.” says Dzhe­nia. It is Sun­day and she is wea­ring a sum­mery blouse. It makes no sense to pro­test against the Rus­si­ans neit­her to leave the vil­lage. They will not leave and the two are too weak to move again. They got used to the situa­tion. So far they can sleep well at night alt­hough the door lock is bro­ken.

In 1999 most of the Osse­ti­ans living in Jaria­s­heni had to leave the bor­der. Many of them were res­pon­si­ble for the arres­ting of the Geor­gian people. Even Eliz­bar got arrest for a few days once. It was when he did not have a clue about the course of the bor­der. By now he knows it by heart. Today out of fear they are always stay­ing in the house when the bor­der is moved.

Eliz­bar Mest­um­rish­vili alre­ady had to leave ano­ther vil­lage.

It is not easy to leave the house. We have alre­ady lived in ano­ther vil­lage and were disper­sed.
Even if someone would offer to help us move, we could not leave. The effort is too big for us.”

On the way to the mar­ked bor­der the police man is unlo­cking his gun.

Only ruins are left behind where the people have to escape.

Behind the gar­den fence comes an aban­do­ned apple tree gar­den. It is clo­sed off by ano­ther fence. Tre­spas­sing for­bid­den. Only accom­pa­nied by the police. The walk through the gar­den leads to ano­ther house. It has the same ground plan as the house of the Mestrum­rish­vilis. But nobody is living there any­more. The rooms are empty. Only the wall­pa­per is pee­ling off. The win­dows in the second floor are covered with iron sheets. The entrance is ridi­cu­lously locked with a wire. From the upper floor you have a good view over the land­scape. About 100 metres into South Osse­tia is ano­ther aban­do­ned house — it does not even has its win­dows any­more.

At this point you are able to see bor­der and con­se­quen­ces it has on the habi­tants of Jaria­s­heni. Right next to the aban­do­ned buil­ding the Rus­si­ans have rol­led out the wire mesh fence. There you also see a sign for the first time. It has “Atten­tion! State bor­der! Pas­sage for­bid­den” writ­ten on it and warns in Geor­gian and Eng­lish. Com­ing from the other side it warns you in Rus­sian. The fire­break a short while ago is here seen as the street con­nec­ting both sides.

Eliz­bar does not like com­ing here. It makes him sad to see how ever­y­thing has chan­ged. So he is lea­ving after a short while. It is not because of the Rus­si­ans in this area. They are not dis­tur­bing the living at the bor­der. In fact they are hel­ping them where they can. The rest of the time he does not notice any­thing the Rus­si­ans are doing. They are acting invi­si­bly.

Eliz­bar is 75 years old, his wife one year older. By now they are too old to leave. The­re­fore they are hoping for the best.


Behind a big cop­per door stands the house of the local monk Nukri Kalash­ni­kovi, 44, in which he lives with two fur­ther fel­low belie­ver and a woman. When he became a monk he chan­ged his name into Beri Noe. In Geor­gian beri means monk. A dirty Opel stands in front of the house. Next to the num­ber plate it has a Ger­many sti­cker on it. Self-made cheese is han­ging from the washing line while a chi­cken and his chicks are squea­king in a wine box. “After the tur­naround 1990 I have been to Ger­many”, tells the bro­ther in faith Valeri Kalash­ni­kovi enthu­si­a­s­ti­cally. He likes to talk and does it a lot. His father and Beri Noe do not say a thing. They are just lis­ten­ing.

His ground also where the fruit trees have been stan­ding was taken away from him. He lost 17 hec­ta­res of land. Only a little gar­den is left over. It is loca­ted on the other side of the path where the house stands.
The field was enor­mously redu­ced and only a little piece of land has remai­ned. It is not sepa­ra­ted with a fence from the for­mer field – which still can be seen from the field. The occu­p­ied field is dry­ing out. Through these restric­tions it is get­ting har­der and har­der to pro­vide one­self with enough to eat. Ever­yone in Jaria­s­heni is fac­ing these pro­blems. They are living in poverty. Work on the fields is necessary for sur­vi­ving. For most the crops are the only source of income they have.

Most people in Jaria­s­heni make their own cheese. It dries on the washing line.

Beri Noe is hol­ding the fair every week at the little church.

Next to the monk’s house lives an old widow. She has lost her hus­band and son in the war 2008. Since then she has to struggle along. She can count on the help of her neigh­bours and the  other people from the vil­lage. They are hel­ping each other. Still that does not mean that she has not to work on the field any­more. She is wal­king with a stoop because of the hard work. Dres­sed in black she is weed­ing the gar­den in the sun until she makes a break in the shadow of her house. Her basic inven­tory is partly pla­ced out­s­ide of the house. Safed by a woo­den roof and pla­s­tic sheets. A little kit­chenette lines up with a sink and a little table. On a shelf are several coo­king uten­sils. On the upper floor count­less corn­cobs are lying on the floor in order to dry­ing.

After her hus­band and son fell in war 2008 she is one her own with work and the house.


Valeri’s father unk­no­wingly pas­sed the bor­der and was arrested for a few days.


The most important thing is you are human.
Whether your are Russian, Ossetian or Georgian.”

The bor­der move­ment is res­pon­si­ble for the poverty of the people. Like you can see at the monk his belief in God helps him in his des­pair. He and his bro­thers in faith can­not do any­thing to prevent them­sel­ves from what is com­ing so they see God as their only chance to get through what is yet to come. Next to the couch in the living room Beri Noe has arran­ged a prayer cor­ner with pic­tures of saints, books and a cross. The beardy monk is wea­ring the typi­cal brown and black habit and a cap. In com­pa­ri­son to other hou­ses in Jaria­s­heni this one has a lot more fur­ni­ture, it reminds of a com­mon house like you are used to it in Wes­tern Europe. The cur­ta­ins at the win­dows, many car­pets and blan­kets make it very com­for­ta­ble. Even a bud­gie has found a place on the living room table. Every week they all toge­ther go to church at the mar­ket place. Valeri’s bro­ther is living in the monas­tery for 15 years. Valeri preaches peace bet­ween the people. The natio­na­lity of someone does not have a mea­ning for him. What has hap­pe­ned bet­ween Rus­si­ans, Osse­ti­ans and Geor­gi­ans shall never hap­pen again. In his opi­nion you should not only be fri­end with just one nation, like the Geor­gi­ans for exam­ple. There have never been hos­ti­li­ties bet­ween Osse­ti­ans and Geor­gi­ans in Jaria­s­heni when they were still living toge­ther. The Geor­gi­ans always had a good rela­ti­ons­hip to the neigh­bou­red vil­lage Art­sevi – now behind the bor­der. Some Osse­ti­ans are still living in Jaria­s­heni.

Valeri’s 75 year old father was arrested a short time ago because he was on the other side. In the eye of the Rus­si­ans he had make a mis­take alt­hough he unk­no­wingly wal­ked over it. Luckily he was set free shortly after and could return. Not every pri­soner can say that. Often the Rus­si­ans are very moody and it always depends on their daily mood whe­ther they arrest you or not. Never­the­l­ess it is a lot of stress and unplea­s­ant – even when you are not arrested. Like all the other people, the police men are bro­thers too. They are sup­porting the people a lot and spend much time in doing that. The effort is big, but it is worth it. “I have never been to Tblisi, and I do not want to go as well. I stay with my people in Jaria­s­heni”, tell a police man. He him­self has ser­ved in the 2008 con­flict. The police men are fri­ends. Vale­ria has a lot of respect for them. “They are in a much more dan­ge­rous situa­tion than us”, he tells while he is pou­ring his self-made wine.
Only a few cars are dri­ving around in Jaria­s­heni, so most of the time it is a police car pas­sing by. The­re­fore the sound of wheels on the gra­vel alre­ady gives the people a safe fee­ling.

Many people alre­ady have faced what is maybe yet to come in Jaria­s­heni. Two refu­gees from the war 2008 give an inter­view. They tell what they have expe­ri­en­ced on the run and in the time after. Also what they are hoping for their per­so­nal and Georgia’s future.


Nika Mar­ko­zash­vili, 23, has lived in the vil­lage Vizi which belongs to the puf­fer zone bet­ween Geor­gia and South Osse­tia. In the war of 2008 the house of his family was des­troyed and they had to escape. Today he is living in his own apart­ment in Tbi­lisi. He stu­dies eco­nomy in the 4th year.

You have lived in Gori. When did you have to leave the house?

I left 4–5 years ago when I finis­hed school. It is hard to get a pro­per edu­ca­tion, the­re­fore I went to Tbi­lisi. I grew up in a vil­lage in the buf­fer zone. Living there cau­ses a big risk because ter­ri­ble things hap­pen in this area. The village’s name is Vizi. It is the last con­trol­led by the Geor­gian side. There are many Geor­gi­ans sol­diers who try to punish Rus­sian and Osse­tian sepa­ra­tists. The occupa­tion line always is very dan­ge­rous. You easily can get arrested.”

Was your family the only one who left?

No, ever­yone who was Geor­gian escaped the vil­lage but some retur­ned. It is spar­sely inha­bi­ted again des­pite the dan­ge­rous­ness. Many people are moti­va­ted to spend their life there again.”

Can you ima­gine Rus­sia as a part­ner?

No way. Politics con­trol the eco­nomy the­re­fore an eco­no­mic part­nership bet­ween Geor­gia and Rus­sia never will be sta­ble. We can­not deter­mine the opi­nion and mood of Rus­sia. We can­not pre­dict whe­ther they will allow our pro­duct on the mar­kets. Their embargo (pro­hi­bi­tion of Geor­gian pro­duc­tions) was fine, I guess. It moti­va­ted us to look for alter­na­tive mar­kets.
In addi­tion to it I am not able to relate to Rus­sia as a politi­cal part­ner because Rus­sia occu­p­ied Geor­gia all the years. For exam­ple the war in Abkha­zia and the last one 2008, I myself have wit­nes­sed.”

What are your memo­ries of the war?

I can clearly see the 7th of August. I must have been 15 years old. That was the day my family and I were in Gori and my aunt was in Vizi. We deci­ded to take her and other rela­ti­ves with us. The road from Kar­a­leti to Kir­zins was full of sol­diers. In the morning war star­ted.”

Did you now at this point that you would have to leave the vil­lage fore­ver?

First you don’t rea­lize what is hap­pe­ning. Yet after a short time I could ana­lyse the situa­tion and I knew it, yes. We also had to escape Gori because our house was des­troyed by a bomb. You can see it on video. Jour­na­lists from the chan­nel Rus­tavi 2 have been there – they have fil­med the explo­sion. It is much known. A fri­end of mine with whom I went to school was inju­red. He was 15 years old like me. I have seen how his mother died through the bomb.
Ano­ther bomb luckily only was a blind shell. Other­wise much more people had to die that day.”

How have the politics of Geor­gia chan­ged since 2008?

In my opi­nion a lot has chan­ged. The worst are all the vic­tims. Both civi­li­ans and sol­diers. Many inter­na­tio­nal orga­ni­sa­ti­ons hel­ped us. For exam­ple in Vizi: USAID, GIZ and a Ger­man foun­da­tion brought food, cut­lery et cetera. 2007 was the most suc­cess­ful year for the eco­nomy. In 2008 ever­y­thing was dif­fe­rent. Politi­cally, mili­ta­rily and eco­no­mi­cally.”

You said it is dan­ge­rous on the occupa­tion line. What is going on?

People get­ting arrested. A cow­herd was seen bey­ond the bor­der and he had to stay in jail for three days. He had to pay for his free­dom. Other people I know were in the forest close to Gomi loo­king for mushrooms. Not even kno­wing they were get­ting to close to the bor­der. I know for sure these people are not beha­ving wrong. In fact they are nice. I had an inter­view with an ex pri­soner because I was com­pa­ring Osse­tian, Rus­sian and Geor­gian sys­tems for uni­ver­sity. They were not tor­tu­red or any­thing. The con­di­tion in the jail was much bet­ter than here in Geor­gia.”

How is the govern­ment of Geor­gia reac­ting towards these pro­blems?

It is not enough. There is a lot work to do. The politi­ci­ans have to make deci­si­ons and the people need to take the initia­tive. Espe­cially the young people. And some day the people will say ever­yone is part of Geor­gia — even in Abkha­zia and South Osse­tia. Still they can­not say it out loud because the sys­tem is too strict.”

Gaioz Cha­vcha­vadze, 22, had to leave his home­town Avnevi when he was 14 years old. The vil­lage is loca­ted 25km in the west of Jaria­s­heni – now behind the bor­der. He lives in Sagur­amo, a shared flat, with other refu­gees in Tbi­lisi. At the Free Uni­ver­sity of Tbi­lisi he stu­dies social eco­no­mics and manage­ment.

When did you have to leave your house and with whom?

It was in the con­flict in 2008. I left my house on the 8th of August toge­ther with my par­ents, my grand-par­ents and my older bro­ther.”

Have the ent­ire people of Ave­vni left the vil­lage?

Ever­yone did. The vil­lage was com­ple­tely empty. Some inter­na­tio­nal orga­ni­sa­tion, the UNO I guess, hel­ped us move. They pro­vi­ded black jeeps and some­ti­mes bus­ses to eva­cuate the vil­lage. Me myself I have left with my own car.”

What are your memo­ries of the war? Have there always been con­flicts and were you sur­pri­sed of what has hap­pe­ned?

There were always con­flicts in the area where I lived, so the only sur­pri­sing fact was the size of the con­flict. We were used to noise and gun­fights – that was not­hing new to us. But when we finally had to leave the house on the 8th of August (the offi­cial begin­ning of the war) I could hardly rea­lize what was hap­pe­ning.
We thought we were dri­ving to Bor­jomi and when the situa­tion would calm down we could return. The­re­fore we did not take any fur­ni­ture with us. Just one bag with clo­thes.”

Do you know anyone who has died?

Yes, some of my neigh­bours. But luckily no one from my family.”

What was your pro­fes­sion back then? Did you have plans for the future?

Even then I went to school in Tbi­lisi. I had several plans. We had a mill in the vil­lage and my family were cul­ti­va­tors: They had many hec­ta­res of field and I also was plan­ning to deve­lop in this direc­tion. I had a good edu­ca­tio­nal back­ground in agri­cul­ture. We had the only mill, so my family was quite suc­cess­ful and our earning were sta­ble.
The qua­li­fi­ca­tion of my par­ents gua­ran­teed a good life. It was not so hard to adapt the new situa­tion and rea­lity.”

What do you think about the cur­rent rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween Geor­gia and Rus­sia? Can Rus­sia be a poten­tial part­ner for Geor­gia?

No, I could never ima­gine Rus­sia as a part­ner for one sim­ple rea­son: In my vil­lage there was a buil­ding of the Rus­sian sol­diers of peace. We often were in con­tact because they were sit­ting on the only spring of water. We had to go there to get our water. I never con­nec­ted these sol­diers with peace – I always felt dan­ger in the pre­sence of them.
Some­ti­mes they pro­hi­bi­ted us from lea­ving the vil­lage and dri­ving to other pla­ces. It was more than once in the news but then easily for­got­ten after. The Rus­si­ans are dan­ge­rous and I could never respect them as equal. I can’t trust them. We are in a cold war situa­tion and there is a giant enemy against us. In case of esca­la­tion we have only little chance to accom­plish any­thing.

What about the pre­sence in the media? Is the cur­rent situa­tion an import­ant theme in the news?

It is only in the news when there has been a new bor­der move­ment. And the reports disap­pear fas­ter than they appear. Still there is no sta­ble pro­test against ever­y­thing that is going on. I still know many people who live in occu­p­ied vil­la­ges and for them the events are part of their daily life. They are fac­ing the same situa­tion like me 8 years ago. The pro­blem is still not sol­ved.”

How have the politics of Geor­gia chan­ged since 2008?

The only thing that “impro­ved” is the fact that the war infor­med the world of the exis­tence of Geor­gia. It is not only a state in the United Sta­tes of Ame­rica. And apart from that point: Only nega­tive deve­lop­ments. If there had not been the war the rela­ti­ons­hip of the people on this side and bey­ond the bor­der would be much bet­ter. My par­ents, my rela­ti­ves had a good con­tact to the people on the other side. For exam­ple the grand­mo­ther of a fri­end of mine lives in Tskhin­vali – the capi­tol of South Osse­tia – she often visi­ted. She even had house on both sides.”

So the Osse­ti­ans are not the enemies? Only the Rus­si­ans?

That is a one sided assess­ment. I can­not easily say that. I only can say that I ima­gine an open and faith­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion rather with the Osse­ti­ans than with the Rus­si­ans. The Rus­sian defi­ni­tely is nega­tive, an occup­ant. I do not want to talk much about his­tory but the rea­son for the con­flict was an awful atti­tude towards each other. And Rus­sia plays the guilty part. Geor­gia was part of the Soviet Union for 70 years, 100 years in the Rus­sian Empire. This cul­tu­ral bor­der has for­med the empire.”

What are your plans for the future?

I want to stay in Geor­gia and become part of the Minis­try of Defence. It is import­ant to work in this sec­tion–  espe­cially after the war. Not because of any mili­tary fee­lings or revenge and ven­ge­ance. Not at all.
You do not feel safe in this coun­try. While we are doing this inter­view people in Jaria­s­heni or Dvini get sto­len their cows or ground and are arrested. Sle­eping well has become impos­si­ble. I’m sorry for that. I quit war and vio­lence. I pre­fer peace and I want to achieve it in Geor­gia. I’m sca­red that if people leave Geor­gia and find out that it is pos­si­ble to have a safe life in Europe they’ll never come back. I don’t want to leave this rea­lity.

© Chris­tina Stol­len­werk and Robin Was­ser­fuhr // spe­cial thanks to Teona Sekhnia­sh­vili