Cursed Affair | Tamar Kobaladze, Tskhinvali28.06.2021 | 7 Min to read
Tamar Kobaladze, Tskhinvali. Since 1991, lives in Dighomi IDP Compact Settlement
I lived in Tskhinvali on Lermontov Street. There were 4-5 Georgian families on our street. The rest were all Ossetians. But we never differentiated, this is Russian, or this is a Tatar or Armenian. Tskhinvali did not differentiate. Where have I ended up? I said, when I came here. They looked at everyone from a regional angle. This person is Gurulian, this one is Imerelian.
Don’t they look at us like that?!
I remember this very bitterly. Thirty years ago, when we first moved here. There were only empty fields around us. They made a market, they came down from Dighomi Village and sold vegetables. One time I was buying cabbage and the seller boy was telling the other seller about us. These people are refugees, he said. The other one also continued the degrading tone and turned to me. Ha! Did you like the asphalt so much, you don’t want to return back home? I hope God does not test you, even if you had to lose a shack, you would kill yourself with tears, I said.
But that boy wasn’t the only one, but everyone had a hard time understanding what we went through. Your house is completely burned to the ground, they told us. We learned of this at my aunt’s house. My aunt’s neighbor went to her apartment, she walked around the rooms, she was all alone, then she sat down and started crying. Manana, why are you crying? Her spouse asked, scared. You know what Aleko, Lamara’s house was burned down, and I am imagining what it would’ve been like to have all your belongings burned, she said. That’s why she was crying. This is how she tried to understand our suffering.
For three days and nights, they had trucks hauling our belongings out. Our relatives were stationed at the posts. We always knew when your furniture was being moved, but we can’t do anything, they told us. After they stole everything, then they burned it down, set it on fire.
This happened during the second unrest. Because the first one when Gamsakhurdia came and held a rally which led to the creation of Adamon Nihas, we were able to resume regular life and relationships one year or more after that incident. Not only that, I was 22-23 year old and worked in a store, and when I went there, my coworkers would say, look, here comes our little extremists. They truly loved me and respected me, and I respected them.
It became difficult much later on. Ossetians would say, what do these Georgians want, why are they trying to destroy the Sovie Union, what isn’t enough for them. They didn’t want to break up, they didn’t want this unrest, or expulsion of Georgians. Those that lived next to us, in the evenings we would sit and drink coffee or just hang out and talk. But there were Ossetian irregulars who wanted to benefit and had their agenda. They were even trying to collect money to buy guns, they were getting supplied by Russians.
Our people, Georgians, they never thought about what would happen to the Georgians who lived there. They held a rally and left strife. Gossip spread, they wanted to get rid of Ossetians and give Georgians Ossetian houses. Ossetians started saying that twisted-jaw (Zviad Gamsakhurdia) said I’m going to make Ossetians drink water from galoshes. Now we will see who is going to make who drink water out of galoshes. But at the same time, local Ossetians defended us from the outsider Ossetians. Before coming to Tbilisi, at some point, we fled to my mother’s village. Ossetians told us, go, take the kids. When we went back, no one even had their doors painted. That time we used to subscribe to magazines, and they used to bring it to our house through the post office. These magazines were thrown outside on the snow by the door.
Towards the end, the neighbor woman had gone and kicked my mother, saying this was Ossetian land and not Georgian. But what possessed her to do such a thing, her life took a turn for the worse, her child was burned, her boy was killed.
It’s a cursed affair to fight over land. Because that’s not what our end is, we won’t leave this earth with more than two meters anyway.
The second unrest was exactly on Christmas in 1991, we met the New Year in Tskhinvali, right before Christmas, we went to the village. The night sky lit up, it went red, there were shootings. What was going on, we cried out. It’s nothing, these are our people, they have come from Tbilisi, they have brought in military police, we were told. That was it. We were locked in the village, thinking we were there to celebrate until old New Year. Georgians were capturing Ossetians. If they killed an Ossetian, then they would come and kill Georgians. Then the cycle started all over again. My husband was stationed at the post. When the roads opened, he put us in the car and took us out. We passed the city quickly, I didn’t even stop by the house, what was I supposed to get anyway. I didn’t think that we would be gone for a long time. I was supposed to go back soon. I learned later that they burned our house down. First they looted it, and then they burned it. We heard other things too like when they entered homes, they killed some, they let some go, some were raped. My neighbor had a well, and they said that it was filled with executed Georgians. They killed them and threw them down.
We came to Tbilisi in 1991. We settled here in Spring.When they herd cattle and think it’s temporary, but we have been here ever since. It’s been 30 years we have lived here.
I really want to live in my part of the world. I know that neither the house, nor the relationships are there, but I still want it. I miss that feeling when you go and quickly know how and where to solve problems, and you don’t need to beg anyone to do it, everyone knows you and you know everyone. I’ve become assimilated here, but they won't register this house to our name. And everything we reached here, took us years. There, I was in charge of a large store, I had so much respect. I had opportunities. Here, I have an economics degree, and I work in the police department, I carry a mop and clean. We were oppressed. Life has passed us by.
They all miss Georgians. I got word many times, our acquaintances have told them in Tskhinvali that we had a very different life when Georgians lived here. Of course it's not surprising - the people they knew are no longer there, they don’t have that warmth anymore. It’s now a war-torn place. The old Ossetians there, the so-called intelligentsia, have mostly left, some live in different cities in Russia, some live in Ukraine.
From the Series, “Recalling Memories - South Ossetia 1991/2008”
Text: Tamar Babuadze
Transcription by: Marta Meliqidze
Photo: Vladimir Svartsevich / Anastasia Svartsevich from the archives