Displaced persons in Georgia wonder if they will ever see home again
|Publication Date||22 November 2002|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Displaced persons in Georgia wonder if they will ever see home again, 22 November 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46a4855ba.html [accessed 29 August 2014]|
A EurasiaNet Photo Essay by Molly Corso: 11/22/02
Nino Nodia-Jebovna and her family have moved again – for the fourth time in 10 years. From Abkhazia to Poti, Georgia; from Poti to Kakheti; from Kakheti to Grigoleti; and finally to an abandoned building back in Poti.
Her family's plight – and their chain of abandoned homes – map out with startling clarity the tragedy of the 1992-93 conflict in Georgia's Abkhazia region. The conflict created hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and many of them are still struggling to reestablish a stable lifestyle.
"I lost seven [loved ones] in Abkhazia: mother, uncle..... They burned my house in front of my eyes," Nodia-Jebovna said, adding that the life of a displaced person has also proven traumatic. "We lived in Poti. We lived like beggars. We walked and ask people to give change."
The inability of Georgia and Abkhazia to agree on a lasting peace settlement is dashing the IDP hopes of returning to their homes. "My hope is all gone," Nodia-Jebovna said.
Aslan Berzenishvili, also a refugee, is more optimistic than Nodia-Jebovna. Yet he is wary of UN-mediated efforts to promote peace, and is skeptical that the Georgian government can do anything to promote IDP return.
"[They] need to do it so we talk between ourselves. The government goes and talks about things they have no idea about," said Berzenishvili, who lives in the village of Ureki, a few kilometers south of Poti. "It needs to be our own people; people who were born there, who were raised there and who have roots there. They should do the talking."
In Poti, refugee Gena Jarjania says he would gladly return if given the chance. "Until I return [to Abkhazia], I am not going to shave. Everyone laughs at me. They say, 'You are never going to return; its better just to shave,'" he said. "I was born in Abkhazia. I will never get used [to living] anywhere [else]."
Despite the horrors experienced during the Abkhaz civil war, Berzenishvili expressed the belief the IDPs and Abkhazians could live together in peace again. "What we have now is just bad... We never expected this," he said.
Many believe that an Abkhaz peace settlement will prove elusive until the Georgian government can reach some sort of accommodation with Russia, which supported Abkhaz separatist forces during the fighting. Prospects for such an agreement appear slim at present. Tension between Tbilisi and Moscow is running high due over a variety of issues, including the Chechen conflict. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Geli Malachania, a refugee living in Ureki, believes IDPs like himself are caught in the middle of a geopolitical game played among states.
"Who needed that [the war]?" Malachania asked. "The Russian empire needed it..... They [regional governments] are just playing, and making money off of it, nothing more that that. It is a financial game and we are just pieces."
Editor's Note: Molly Corso is a journalist and photographer based in Georgia.
Posted November 22, 2002 © Eurasianet