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old good frined | Inali From Tskhinval

Inali, 57 years old. Tskhinvali 
Remembers 1992-1993 Wars

I am from the village Otrevi. I was already living in Tskhinvali from the beginning of the 90s. My parents were in the village. They lived well, worked, had everything they needed. 

In 1991, after the New Year, I wanted to visit my parents in the village. But the road to the village passed a Georgian village, Eredve. It wasn’t safe to pass by there anymore. Everyone was trying to go there with the accompaniment of Soviet troops, they still were there with us at the time. But you couldn't trust them all the way either. 

I went to the village and saw that only Grandmother was left there. Georgians were already coming into the village. Parents were still young, Father was 50 years old. It was dangerous for the men to stay there, so they went to my mother’s village, in Little Liakhvi Gorge. 

The village was empty. They had already taken a few houses apart, block by block, they were taking them as construction supplies. They took my grandfather’s and his brother’s bricks too. 

We were able to get a few elderly out of the village, but we couldn’t get Grandma to agree to leave. Nothing will happen to me, she said. It’s true. No one touched her directly, but they stole all her possessions. When the situation became seriously tense, then they brought her down. 

When we were coming back from the village, Georgian irregulars stopped us at the checkpoint, at the Tskhinvali entrance. We were about 20 cars with military cars in the front and the back. When they stopped us, I looked back and couldn’t see the armored vehicle, it disappeared. 

They made everyone get out. Some people were able to escape at least, They jumped into bushes and ran down the hill towards the city. Those of us who were standing on the truck’s cargo bed, they did not even get us out of the car. They locked us up and took us to Meghvrekisi. A truck and two cars were brought along.

They dropped five of us off in the village, near the Meghvrekisi headquarters. It was a two-story building, a reddish color. Everyone kept threatening to hit us, men and women. They beat us up badly, with their feet, with guns with rifle butts. So, in the midst of this, I recognized an acquaintance. He was named Guram, he worked with me in the aviation factory. I could barely look out of my eyes, it was bruised so badly. Guram, is that you, I asked. So what? He said. We worked together for six years, you know me, you know I’m no extremist, I said. That time has passed, he said. That’s all he said. 

They took us away from there, they threw us in the car and took us back to the checkpoint. Told us they were going to exchange us for two dead Georgians. But it didn’t work out, I don’t know why. They took us back. From the way they were talking, I realized they were taking us to kill us. I somehow opened the door of the cargo bed and sneaked out, I jumped from a moving vehicle. I fell and lost consciousness. This happened somewhere between Tskhinvali and Meghvrekisi. It was 12 o’clock at night. 

I regained consciousness at Tkviavi Hospital. I couldn’t figure out where I was, I thought at first that I was in Meghvrekisi Hospital. The janitor came into the room, an old woman. When she saw me, she started crying. She felt bad for me. How did I get here, I asked. They brought you here in a Niva, she said. I asked her if she could help me escape. When the women left, the head doctor came in. He was a man of about 60 years old. He had two women, residents, with him. They were more degrading towards me than him, they kept lifting their hand to hit me, one even spit on me. The head doctor stopped her, but he also was disrespectful to me. Have you ever seen a rabbit pick a fight with a tiger, how dare you start a war with us, he said. Then the janitor came in again. Let him go, she asked. He is so badly beaten, we don’t even know if he will survive. She begged him for a long time and finally, they agreed. 

The ones who had brought me there, they also came to visit. There were three of them, they wanted to kill me or to beat me. The janitor stood in front of them. Have mercy on this boy, she said. One still hit me in the head with his rifle. If you are so brave, go to fight in Tskhinvali, she said. 

When these irregulars left, they put me in an ambulance. The driver took me to Tkviavi, where the road turned on Artsevi. They left me, told me it was already too dangerous there. They gave me two rubles, there will be a bus from Gori here and to take that. I am still grateful to him today. There was a water sprout on that crossroad, I put my head in there. I couldn’t walk. I had a concussion from the beating. I found some of my villages at the bus stop. They were going to Karaleti on the Plavismani-Gori bus, to their kids. But the irregulars stopped and checked the bus and threw the Ossetians out. They were also waiting for transport, to return back. When they saw me, they ran up to me. What happened to you, they asked. 

We got lucky and our Georgian acquaintance passed us. His wife was from our village, they were going to see his wife’s relatives. They put me in the car, more correctly they laid me in the back seat, I couldn't sit. My villagers sat on top of me to cover me up at the posts. This is how we arrived in Otrevi.  

Then I learned what fate had in store for those that were in the car with me. They told me, they were supposed to take us. Then Willys came, uniformed men were sitting in there. They were either military or police. They were angry with the irregulars and told them to take the Ossetians back to where they found them. We are humans and not animals, aren’t we? They dropped them off by Artsevi, in the same car they were picked up in. 

They were already looking for us when we arrived in Tskhinvali. For one month, we were in the hospital. My legs were badly hurt. Then I had home treatments. 

One day I was sitting on the bottom of the tree when the boys came up.  They had taken Guram as a hostage, the one that worked with me, and then beat me in Meghvrekisi. They knew about this incident. He wasn’t expecting me to be alive, since they took me to kill me. He had come back to Tskhinvali to see his house. When my friends saw him, they threw him in the car and brought him in. 

When he saw me, his face changed. I was so angry, I wasn’t going to let him go even though I had helped so many Georgians before. We knew each other, whenever I knew someone was innocent, of course, I helped them. But I didn't want to let him go, I wasn’t going to help him. He was a hostage for a month and a half, then they exchanged him. When I heard they had let him go, I got mad. I know I am committing a sin in front of God, but I didn’t want him to leave here alive. 

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From the Series, “Rebuilding Memory - South Ossetia 1991/2008”
Photo: Vladimir Svartsevich | Anastasia Svartsevich