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Basmach | Koba, Tskhinval

Koba, 50 years old, Tskhinvali 

I spent the last eight months of service in Afghanistan. In March of 1989, I remember, a Georgian died in our section. When we sent his corpse back home, one of our comrades accompanied him. He was also named Koba. When he returned, he brought back some food from home: Chacha, smoked meats, Churchkhela. Anyhow, Robert Kharabadze, our coworker, came in to see me. Why are you still sitting there, Koba has already set the table! He said. I was surprised because I didn't know anything about it. They always used to call me. 

They were sitting in the pantry. I walked in and saw a Georgian flag was hanging on the wall. I thought he must’ve brought this with him. Anyway, I didn’t sit down at the table. That was it, we haven’t uttered a word to each other ever since. Even though before that, we had always been together.

When the unrest began in 1989, I already knew how it would end. I had already had the experience of fear, of the experience of an irresolvable situation, of blood, of death. People around me didn’t have a clue where this was going to take us. I came back from Afghanistan in October. In one month, on the 23rd of November, several colonies of Georgians had shown up from Tbilisi to Tskhinvali.  

I recalled the events of Afghanistan once again during the time they killed Vladik Jioevi, nicknamed Basmach. He also served in Afghanistan. It was 1992. His unit occupied the height nearby Pris and battle ensued, many were wounded. He sent the rest to get ammunition, but they couldn’t return since Georgians had closed the road. Basmach was already wounded. He kept firing until his last bullet, but then lost all his blood. Georgians found him. One of them, it turned out, fought with him in Afghanistan. Georgians were the ones to tell us that Basmach was dead, and we should take him away. I wasn’t there, but I know when they went there, this Georgian man fell on his knees, holding Basmacha’s hands and crying. You killed my brother! -he screamed. How can I wash away this sin? I killed him too, he was crying. 

They didn’t even ask a price for his body as they usually did. They gave us his body and his automatic. The Georgian told us please let me know when you bury him. We let him know, and as we were firing farewell shots for him, we could hear a sound on the other side, someone else was firing with us from Georgia. 

From the series “Rebuilding Memories for future- South Ossetia 1991/2008” 
Text: Zarina Sanakoeva
Photo: Vladimir Svartsevich / Anastasia Svartsevich from the archives


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