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After the War

Qoutes form focus groups conducted within the project  "Everyday Peace in Conflict-affected Communities" 

What was fired first, a gun or fireworks?
Gori

If it were my choice, I wouldn’t want to be born in this city. I mean, this city is stagnant. It doesn’t move forward, or backward either, because it’s permanently hung on the past.
Gori

The first toast people in Gori raise is to peace
Gori

The child always painted in black
Zugdidi

I would surrender my weapons that I keep stashed. Yes, I would give up my weapons for peace, but not otherwise. By the way, it’s the first time I’m considering this.
Akhalgori

Ah, I wish I’d never been born here. Where can I go? You live once, and you end up living in fear at that. You miss your loved ones. And you trust no one. Is this life?
Akhalgori

A close friend died on the other side [of the conflict divide]. I had to go. Otherwise, I would never forgive myself. But who cares? Even if they asked for money, I could sell my car and pay them. But that’s not how it works. So, me and some other guys just sneaked over to the other side.

We were afraid we could bump into someone else. And it was rumored to be a minefield. We lied at home, telling our families we were going to see friend in another village.

Finally, we sneaked over, attended the funeral, and headed back. Now we could breathe freely.

We told our parents the truth about our trip only after making it home. Some people saw us anyway, and they would surely tell. And that would be like adding insult to injury. Mother made me swear not do that again. Father got angry too, but seemed to be more understanding. He knew how close me and that boy were. “I knew right away where you were going, but said nothing,” he told me.

***

There are people living in ruined buildings in Zardiaantkari.  Some have come back, but their ceilings are leaking.  Stability is such a luxury.
Gori


Well, a week may pass by, and you may not even remember that there are [Russian] military bases here.  But it’s enough to ride in car one evening from here to Tbilisi or back, and you will notice those orange lights.  You can’t miss them.  They’re on the right just as you pass Kaspi.  Those circular ones, they’re coming from those bases. They have many bases.
Gori


This is how it went in my childhood, even before the war.  Out of nowhere, they would start shooting.  Our parents would rush from the room next door to wake us: “Down to the basement, now!”  The only thing that is different today is that bullets don’t hit our homes anymore.
Ergneti


A whole family settled in one room. No private restroom or bathroom.  Everything is shared.  There’s grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, and children, all together.  And what do young people do?  Of course, they gather in the yard and start drinking.  That’s why I didn’t move into that dorm.  Instead, I found shelter in my relatives’ apartment.  I have sons, I probably wouldn’t be able to keep them in.  Then someone moved into that dorm and let the young people there try some marijuana at first. Then he gave them heavier stuff, got them hooked, and ruined their lives.  We would all have to go making a living, including dad and mom.  And grandma and grandpa, what can you expect of them?
Tbilisi

Why, was I old?  I was 32 when I came from Abkhazia. And it’s only after 30 that people mature and get settled. And these best years were stolen from us, from our generation. So, what’s left?
Tbilisi

“Getting a bad reputation” is the issue here. If your skirt is slightly short—I mean a bit above the knee—or if you’re wearing a tight T-shirt, that will give you a bad name right away.
Gori

My sister was very little, like 17 or so, when she created a family. My parents were against it. They even got law enforcements involved and brought her back home, but she still married the guy. It so happened that, six years later, her family broke up. I was the first she called, saying that she couldn’t pluck up the courage to break the news to the other members of our household.  “What will the neighbors say? What if dad won’t accept me back? I thought I’d rather kill myself than tell you this.”
Zugdidi

There’s this family, our acquaintances, and they knew that their daughter was being abused by her husband. But [instead of helping] they told her: “For all we care, you can drown yourself in a well. Why did you marry him if you didn’t want to?” That girl is dead. She died.

They wouldn’t let the boy’s family mourn her. They took her body home.
Zugdidi


Women go to Germany to work, and then their husbands start driving BMWs.
Gori

These are the children of war, they say, and that’s true.  You know, I and people of my generation hear the sounds of shots fired differently.  I already know well what the fear of war is.  It even smells different somehow.
Gori

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What if some soldier runs after me on my way to kindergarten and drag me over the “border”? That’s how my relative was kidnapped. They kept her for several months.
Gori

There is a Russian polygon there in the occupied territory, and they often hold large-scale drills with army machinery. Our whole house is shaking when they do that.  There’s just 12 kilometers between us.  We get all anxious, and the kids run for shelter, hiding.
Gori

Sokhumi is not just stone and metal, or just buildings.  Sokhumi is a community, a diverse community. Yes, we all spoke in Russian, because it was still the Soviet Union. But now, looking back, I wonder what other language were we—Armenians, Jews, Greeks, Georgians, Russians, Estonians, and others—supposed to speak when we socialized? That was Sokhumi. That was peace.

Tbilisi

It is believed that I don’t need to be rehabilitated. I am employed. I have a job. I also have an apartment, thank God. I feel fine. But even today, when a plane flies over, I make note of it. Not that I’m scared or anything. I just make note of it.  It’s been 28 years, but those bombings are still here with me.
Tbilisi

 

I am a realist to the core, and I always shoot straight. And I believe that we the IDPs are regarded by the rest of Georgia on this side of the Enguri as second-rate Georgians. It’s felt everywhere. You can take my word for it.
Tbilisi

I live in the dormitory of Georgian Technical University. There are 535 families, or about 2,000 people, living here, enough for two densely populated settlements. Now imagine four people living in a 12 m2 room without even a wet area or other amenities, how many problems you think we must have? The IDPs just gave up on help and started taking care of their problems on their problems, because their voiced are not heard in the parliament, central government, or media. Where should they speak up? Who should they talk to? Dead end.

There are 10 families on our floor. Yes, there’s been expansions of living areas, occupying neutral spaces. And we supported those who needed it more. “I’m all right for now,” we would say, “but you have a family of seven, and you can’t live in 18 m2. You need to expand. You can’t sleep on top of each other. Let me help you expand and take over that other, vacant room. Someone else may take over it. Why don’t you?” That’s how we supported each other. Sometimes I think all right, one day I make enough money to buy a place of my own, but will I live there? I mean, I’ll have to lock my door there, but here we share everything, and we haven’t locked our doors in 15 years. We see each other all day. As for problems, they’re so many that… I don’t even know where to start.
Tbilisi

It happened in 2008, before the war. Our neighbors went to pastures. They were cattlemen. And one of them was accompanied by his relative’s son, a boy of 14. They spent all day in pastures. They had dinner. The cows were resting. After that, they set off down the road back home. On their way back, this boy noticed a toy that wasn’t there in the morning. Yes, they saw someone pass by while they were eating, but they didn’t pay attention. The kid picked up the toy, and it exploded right in his hands, blowing him into pieces.

Gori

UK

 

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