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Life in conflict zone

 Less than 70 Kilometres away from Tbilisi lays the village Khurvaleti surrounded by green mountains.

In some of the houses there are no signs of life, abandoned buildings are left behind by their owners. As you follow the road up in the village you will see the big wires stretched long way in both directions. It’s the administrative border dividing Khurvaleti in two parts.

Davit Vanishvili’s house was separated from the village Khurvaleti by the wired fence. He and his wife were told that now they were living in South Ossetia and cannot cross the border.

The houses on the other side of the border are occupied by Russian military forces, the government of Georgia cannot control the region. According to the several different reports prepared by international observation missions, amount of the Russian troops exceed the amount of civilian population within that region. People once living their lives in Georgia are now living in as called ‘South Ossetia’.

‘South Ossetia’ was granted administrative autonomy after the Soviet conquest of Georgia in 1921. The city Tskinvali became the capital of the region. The conflict in South Ossetia started in 1990 when Ossetians demanded to form South Ossetian Soviet Democratic Republic. Ossetian separatists were supported by the Russian Federation (the Soviet Union at that time). After the armed conflict in the region of Tskinvali in 1992 certain territories became controlled by Osetian separatists, including Tskinvali region, Znauri region and the region of Javi. Nowadays ‘South Ossetia’ is recognized as independent state by only 3 countries Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. 

In 2008, the Russian Federation's military aggression against the Georgia turned into the war known as “August war”. Georgians were expelled from the residential areas of the former South Ossetian Autonomous District and the region (including Akhalgori and Mamisoni Pass) was entirely under the control of South Ossetian separatists. Georgia has lost control of 135 settlements in the region, most of which were mixed - Georgian-Ossetian. Every village that was populated only with Georgians, was completely destroyed.

Khurvaleti is not the only village that has been divided by the administrative border. In 2013 the the inhabited part of the village Gugutiantkari appeared on the other side of wired fences. The villages Dvani, Ditsi, Tsitsagiantkari and Arzvi also have lost territories because of the occupation. Even recently in 2015 almost the entire village of Jariasheni turned across the border.

The citizenship has became an issue for Vanishvili, according to de-facto regime of South Ossetia no georgian citizens are allowed to live permanently at that territory, many Georgians don’t even know neither Ossetian nor Russian languages. In that tragic situation Davit Vanishvili with his family still continues his life full of struggle and keep hope for the better future.

Not everyone has stayed on the other side of the border like Davit Vanishvili. People whose houses were destroyed during the war or people who could not stay anymore because of the conflict, left their land and moved to Georgian side. The government prepared for them specially built settlements in different near Khurvaleti and Tserovani. We have talked with one of the inhabitants of the settlement "New Khurvaleti" Melano Silagadze 43, who is working for the non-governmental organization Houses Without the Border as the agent for house care. Silagadze has told us that in this organization on this position work 4 women, each with 10 beneficials. Acoording to her, 95% of all the beneficials (out of 40 people) are old ones who need constant care and help in everyday life. The reason behind this is that, in these settlements there is not enough infrastructure for full development. In the place called "New Khurvaleti" there are 139 people. But there is no hospital, supermarket or educational institutions. Doctors only come to the settlement on Wednesdays. On the other days in case of the emergency the ambulance will arrive in about half an hour. The young generation mostly live houses and family members and move to nearby villages/cities for better life conditions. 

One of the best examples of the situation discussed above, is Jimsher Lapachi and his family. 74-year-old Jimsher is living with his wife, while his daughters are living in Gori. His grandson who was helping him also left the settlement for getting a job. Jimsher is cultivating the land to earn for living. He says that despite the fact that here he has all the essential conditions for living, life in his home village was better. 

Even though people in the conflict zone have somehow adapted to new life, they still miss the old life. Most of them say that they would give up everything they have, just to return home.


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