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Abkhazia or Georgia? The effects of war: Tskaltubo, the city of refugees

In August 1992, simmering ethnic tensions in Georgia’s Abkhazia region exploded into a 13-month war between Georgian government forces, Abkhaz separatist forces, Soviet Russian government forces and North Caucasian militants.

Ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia fought largely on the side of Georgian government forces, whereas the area’s ethnic Armenians and Russians mostly fought for the Abkhazians. Separatists were supported by thousands of North Caucasus and Cossack militants and Russian Federation forces stationed nearby.

Significant human rights violations were reported on all sides, peaking with the Abkhaz capture of Sukhumi on September 27, 1993 and the large-scale ethnic cleansing against the ethnic Georgian population that followed.

Women were raped, some more than a hundred times. Their sons and husbands were beaten and tortured in front of them.

Russians and separatists played football with the heads of Georgians.

13,000-20,000 ethnic Georgians and some 3,000 Abkhaz were reported killed, over 250,000 Georgians became refugees, and 2,000 are missing.

We are in Tskaltubo, Georgia.

Tskaltubo is a former resort, built by Stalin due to its thermal waters. It was very popular in the Communist period.

It was abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

During the war, some 25,000 refugees were moved to Tskaltubo and housed in empty hotels. Most lived here until 1992.

Tskaltubo became a city of refugees.

We are at Hotel Samgurali, one of the most run-down and problematic housing locations.

We’ll go inside and try to talk to some of the refugees who have lived here for 22 years.

I am Ludmila Chikovani from Gagra in the Abkhazia region. I have been a refugee since 1992 because of the war in Abkhazia and now I live here in Tskaltubo. My family – my husband and two sons – fought in the war in that period. During the war, my husband died. My son took his dead body from Abkhazia to here. I live here in very poor conditions. I’m alone here. The government gives me 45 Lari in refugee support each month. But it’s not enough. Also every month as compensation I get 500 Lari. This is my house – welcome. This is an everyday room, for the TV. It’s where I spend most of the day. This is my kitchen. The toilet and bathroom is in that corner. This is my bedroom. This is an old building and the water is damaging it. We have asked several times for it to be repaired but we don’t receive any response.

Hello, I am Yadon Nijeradze. I can’t speak a lot… I am from a village near Gudauta. Because of the war, I left my home and moved here, where I live in poor conditions. It makes me a little bit nervous to talk about my hometown. Life is really hard for me.

I am Lili Urashvili. I am from the Tsageri district, and I married in Gagra in the Abkhazia region. I moved here because of the war. I can’t remember what year it was, but I’ve been here for 22 years. I have four children, 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. So the family is very big. I am 85 years old. My life is just problems, problems and it’s poor.

My name is Waja Tapataze. I was born in 1946. I was displaced from Abkhazia in 1993 after the war. It was September. I was working in Sukhumi, in a factory. I’ve lived here since 1993. I have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I had a very big house in Sukhumi, and here I have just one room. How can I compare the life I had in Abkhazia to here? The government promised to give flats to refugees but we’re still waiting. I’m a pensioner, I don’t have a job.

I am from Sukhumi. I was born in 1950. I stayed in Sukhumi – the capital city of Abkhazia – until the last minute, before it was occupied. I was working as a cook for the Georgian army, making them food. I left Sukhumi in 1992 and I’ve lived here in the sanatorium, Georgia, ever since. There are seven people in my family – my husband, my husband’s father, my daughter and granddaughters.

That’s my one dream. This is the entrance. Here’s the very small kitchen. This is an everyday room where we spend most of our time. This is another room that we spend a lot of time in. I decorated this room myself. This is a bedroom. Here’s where I do the washing and cooking, and I also keep some things that don’t fit in the other kitchen.

When I came here in 1992, the local people were very friendly. Since moving here, the members of my family who have died – my husband and his father – were buried here, not in Abkhazia. Like most refugees, I had financial problems, mostly in the first years. But then I started a small trading business, which became my main income. The Ministry for Refugees was very productive in the first years, and very good at taking care of refugees. They would help with most things, like goods, or food. But I was also working with my small business. Everything you see in this flat I bought myself, not through support. I’m a little bit sick now, just because of age. I only have good things to say about the Ministry and the Government – I thank them. Also, the manager of the sanatorium is a good guy who takes care of refugees. Tumur Kukalashvili is the head of a department for refugees here, a local boss. I dream of having my own flat – one that is really mine. Not to live in a hotel or sanatorium.


COUNTRY


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Kiss From The World is a unique online magazine packed with videos and photos taken all over the world, extraordinary journeys and one-of-a-kind encounters. Kiss From The World makes you the traveller, taking you to the heart of the action, into the depths of forests, to interviews with hardened gang leaders, into a world of unknown tribes, war zones, exotic parties… But it also takes you on a journey into daily life, and the extraordinary normality of the world.



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