Eyewitness Stories


Marina Beridze, 40, Gori

 

I came yesterday evening, as the result of disorder I left my house. The war had just begun. There were massive bombing, but still everything was all right with my house, the houses of my neighbors were bombed. It was not difficult to come out. We came by minibus. On the way they were bombing everything. The tanks were standing there. There were exploded cars all over. Nothing happened with us on our way, we came here peacefully.

Before we left there were burning post office, military hospital and generally everything around. I have noticed the airplanes as well. They were Russian’s, people talked about it and also the image, the emblem of Russians, I know how does it look like. They were constantly bombing Gori.

At that time my house was in order, now I don’t know what had happened with it. When the bomb fell, some people were wounded, they were residents of Gori. This story started 4-5 days ago. It took me 10 hours to reach the refugee camp. Yes, I reached the camp peacefully, but it’s impossible to live there, it’s useless for living.

I don’t know if my relatives are still there? They were going to leave, but where are they now, I don’t know. I’m scared, what will happen with us? The government promised to help us and we hope for that.

 

Address for Gori: 2. Tsmindatskali str.

Camp: Tbilisi, Digmis Masivi 4th quarter, school #130

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Khaduri Luiza, aed 38
Village Beloti, Small Liakhva
 

We arrived yesterday; we have been walking all the way (about 30 klm.). We had been calling Gamgoba but no transport was provided. We had also failed to contact our relatives. This is why we had to walk. Some of our people are yet walking. We have no information about them, where they are or how they are. 
Ossetians raided the village. They shoot, they broke in and threatened to burn and kill us all if we would not leave. Then they ordered to tell about their threat to everybody. Then they gathered us by the church and threatened to kill us if we would not leave. 
While we were there in the gather-place by church we saw houses burning. They themselves told us: “We have an order to demolish all around” and they bombed every area where they would see anyone in a uniform. We left and approached Tirdznisi only in the midnight. We stayed in the empty houses until dawn. 
We had no accident while walking. To be frank, when we came to the Russian check point and asked whether anything was happening they said all was fine. They said that they ordered not to harm civilians. 
No soldier or official insulted or harmed us.  Every shop and every house is burnt in our village. The bombed areas are absolutely demolished. Kokoiti ordered not to harm our village as it was his village. But despite it they attacked and forced us to leave. 
All started about a week ago. The conflict started as the Ossetians blocked the roads and did not let us transport groceries. 
I try to calm down. We went over a lot. We are scared. My father and mother in law stayed there. We have no information about them. When Ossetians broke in they took phones from all of us. They broke telephone cards. Only I could hide my phone and we could contact the city only from my phone. But we fail contacting them now and we have no information how they are. 

Camp- School no.130, Digmis Masivi, 4th quarter. 

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Nanuli  Chavchavadze, Age 61, Alexander Chavchavadze, Age 67, Elizbar Chavchavadze, Age 47. Village Nori
 
We used to live in the village Nori, Qareli region. Because of the war we moved to refugee camp on August 11, 2008.  It ‘s been already for four years that Ossetians  and Georgians are separated by a “border”! The relations between them became tense gradually and then shooting started ! All of this began on August 5, 2008 and turned into shooting in August 7, 2008 . We left our city  by August 10, 2008. Approximately  at 7 o’clock  we learned that were attacked and began to move out.
I was the last one to leave.  While preparations to leave, while evacuating children we were all the time under fire. The were no soldiers, but the shooting was nonstop from Ossetia side. Such armor/weapons were used that I do not think that would be Ossetia’s , they   could not be so well equipped. We were waiting till the shooting slowed down in the basements of our houses. Then we moved out towards Nikora mountain.
 We had to leave in a situation of hosting a child from Tbilisi. He was sleeping in the bed. When I heard shooting I rush to the child and pull him out of the bed and at the same moment  it broke into pieces. My son is an Inspector-Investigator, he was wearing uniform and had to move around very carefully he used to go in and out though back door, since they ( the attackers ) were after people in uniforms.
 We moved out of there by my son’s vehicle, his sister was in somebody else’s vehicle. For a moment we thought  that was just panic. But my son advised that all of this was too serious and  drove us out of there. He had not slept for four nights and was very exhausted,  on the way  again was shooting so we had car accident and our vehicle broke down. We continued our route  by another vehicle, on the way we were picking up escaping people. We reached Gory, where were placed at a school building. But again the airplanes flew above us and bombed the Gory. In one flat eight people died! Then an order to leave Gory was announced. We were moved into basement. Now we were together with soldiers. People were in panic, they were shouting, cell phones were not operating… It was cold, we were hugging each other. Then soldiers from Batumi Battalion came. They shared with some canned food. They were so nice guys! They were saying that we are part of one nation and nothing could be achieved if we do not stand together, especially, when obviously, we are being exterminated. Then we moved out of there to Tbilisi, others went to different directions. My spouse was wounded on the way by sparkle.
 Before we abandoned our houses mostly the damaged were those of Policemen’s families. There houses were bombed most intensively. These weapons, with such terrible sound drove us crazy. That was something terrible! Ossetians and Russian were shooting at us. The only thought I had was my son.  To have him survived.

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Young man, Village Achabeti, 12.08.2008

We left at about, do not remember, what time. It was either Thursday or Friday. When we were leaving, the aviation was bombing bypassing road, where a number of people died. My friends were following me when they witnessed an air raid that practically ripped in half several women. It was an unimaginable barbarity. Later on Sanakoev’s forces left without warning people. The only hope was our police. They visited the Georgian families and warned on the threat. After that in two hours the gorge was bombarded again and the death toll was high. Village Eredvi was next – it was bombed with a very high death toll. 
Now we try to call there and we are still in communication with the gorge. We learned that the Ossetians took away my friend’s grandfather and father’s sister. I think everyone realizes what is going to be their end – The Ossetians are going to cut their throats at the tomb of their own relatives. As It happened in the past… Revenge… For example, my relative was taken away and put into BTR (armored vehicle). His house was burned down. 

At the stadium of lower Achabeti, there are some Russian tanks. There are a lot of tanks. Some father and son are still in this village, locked, they can not leave. But they managed to record everything on tape. They are still in Eredvi and recording all the brutalities committed by militaries. What shall I say more? In the village Eredvi dead women and children are lying on the highway. I leave next to the bridge, where some dead man is lying on the ground. The body’s smell is horrible. There are many people like this. 
One man, in Tamarasheni, he was sick in the bad. Fuel was poured on him and later on lit on fire in his own bed. The house was razed down. What else? – They kill people and later on destroy their bodies.
This was done by Chechens, Russians, more often by Cossacks (Russian volunteers). There was some information that the Russians were doing even worse things. There was a case when some people, who only managed to leave the territory in the very last moment, were stopped by Chechens. The Chechens told our folks that the way Chechens were treated in Chechnya, Georgian should expect the same thing here. According to them a completely civilian city was razed down by Russians and Chechens advised us to leave as soon as possible not taking anything. There were three young guys (Chechens). Thanks to them that they let us go. 
There are talks that there are a number of civilians dead in the village of Kheiti. My neighbor, young boy, could not leave the place on time. He is still in the village. They are hiding in Kvemo Ubani, can not leave their hideout. There is a number of bad information but this information is not public yet. I am not sure whether we ever return there.
The heroism of our soldiers was truly remarkable. Before Russians rolled in Tskhinvali, the Georgian militaries were very successful there. The folks applauded them and wove flags. I personally was among them.
I personally said that we had to go to Tskhinvali, but this was a big provocation. When we entered Tskhinvali, our militaries were bombed right away. My two cousins were at the very front, my brother in law is also in the army. He left the city at 5 AM after all our folks left. He did not want to leave but there was no other way. Later on they stayed in Gori. Then there was a military skirmish. But the fight was limited to aviation and tanks. We did not use our rifles. We were overwhelmed by Russia’s superiority in air power. They committed a lot of brutalities razing down houses, gardens. Nothing is there.
There was information that helicopters were hovering over village Kurta. Village Kekhvi has gone.  The Russians demolished schools. They also bombed Kekhvi secondary school, demolished village Kurta school. Achabeti school was lit to fire and razed to the ground. There are still some people inside. They have mini-generators in the underground shelters and so they are able to charge their telephones. 
There was an unimaginable brutality, what I personally witnessed.  We hid under the bridge when the artillery bombarded us from mortars. All the trees fall down. One can not express by words about the tragedy that I witnessed there. Later we left. Village Eredvi followed us. Air Forces were bombarding the refugees. I must still point out our military forces – they are real heroes. I did not know that they could have fought so bravely in Tskhinvali. They successfully imposed control over the city and noone could believe this that our forces were able to be so successful.  The whole Europe saw how successful our army was, but Russia is big. 58th Army was fighting us. Java was bombed as well. The soldiers never laid arms, literally fought till the very end. But you understand that, we would not have been able to do anything against Russians.
When Russian air force started bombardment, the whole gorge left their homesteads. I left the gorge earlier. The information is still coming. We planned to stay there till very end, even made underground tranches. But we did not have rifles. There were spots over our village occupied by Ossetians and these spots were successfully taken under Georgia’s control. However, later on there came aviation. Initially we thought it was a Georgian aviation. 
My father’s sister is in Gori and I know that a lot of people died there as well. European Council is silent. Pregnant women and children were killed in front of us. This is unimaginable brutality and so it can not continue. Chechens were telling us that Russians did the same what they did in Chechnya, however they also indicated that such military weapons were not used there – there has not been such brutality. Russians robbed the houses and then set houses at fire. Why you demolish it? Go and live there… 
The folks were running along the river Liakhvi.  And there were some tanks on the other side of the river that were shooting the civilians! Tanks were shooting civilians!!! 
There was a lot of shooting before our militaries entered Tskhinvali. My parents were shivering, crying. They took a refuge in underground shelters. Everything was destroyed.  I still can not figure out how we survived. After that our forces entered Tskhinvali. Had not they entered, we would have been dead. Russians were shooting at civilians not only by rifles, but also by mortars.

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Ms. Manana Kobaladze, 46

I can’t recall exactly the date, we left about three days ago. We are refugees from Tskhinvali, we have been refugees for twenty years. We had lived in the village of Satskheneti, Tskhinvali region. Then we lost all of it, nothing remained. I had a house in another village, we moved there. I have a husband and 2 sons, who joined me.

Together we started to adjust to the new life, bought everything anew, small livestock, cattle. These check-points were installed here during that previous conflict. They used not to let us go in or go out, but used to cast us out. The situation was awful there, no Georgian was given a chance to have a normal living.

When the bombing started recently, we tried to escape in what we were dressed. We haven’t even the most elementary, spoon to eat something, though we have nothing to eat also. As the bombing was launched from above, we were hiding in the basements for 4-5 days.

My sons managed somehow to get us out of there; we sat in someone’s car and escaped like that. We reached Gori just in the moment when the industrial complex district and the army unit was being shelled and we ran to a shop and hid in its basement. We were hardly saved.

They were firing different things; they were firing from above, bombing. We could not see the soldiers, as the shells were being fired and everybody was scattered around, we could not identify anyone.

They were bombing from above and we could not get out. Now they have entered with their tanks there and burn down the houses, set fire to anything.

When we left there still was a village, but afterwards they burnt each and every house; people who left behind, are said to be shot. I don’t know. The fact is that it is impossible to contact them on the phone.

Our house was being robbed first and then burnt. Of course, I haven’t seen it, I know it from what others say. What they are doing elsewhere, they would do the same there.

I don’t know, dear, we were being bombed, we were being harassed; they shared what they were going to do with men and with Georgian women and that finally all of us would be killed.

Ossetians were active, running around, Russians were standing still, yes, they were standing, they did not do anything to help us. We have been coming for two days. All my relatives lived there, but we cannot contact anyone. They might have eluded. I have been having high blood pressure these two days. What could I feel, I almost went crazy out of the stress. To become a refugee twice…

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Naira Zanebidze, Age 49, resident of Gori Region, Village Satskheneti

 
We arrived  to Tbilisi three days ago( August 10, 2008). our village was bombed by aeroplabes. We could not go out of our houses. When the openning of Peace Corridor was announced we walked all they way out on our own. We covered all the way out  through Erdevi on foot. The Peace Corridor was opened ethnically Osetians as well.  While the corridor remained there were no shootings so we – me, my husband  and  young population escaped from our village. Only old people did not leave the village Satskheneti,  approximately 15 people stayed there.
At the beginning of bombing our house was not destroyed  only windows were broken , since the bomb fell very close to it. This was going on in the whole village, not only near my house! We had our personal vehicle and 15 people left the place all together in one car.
I did not see soldiers, but we heard that they were in the forest. The Airplanes were circling in the air above our heads and bombing us. In two hours after we abandoned our houses the military forces landed. Should not appear the airplanes we would not leave our place!
We were already used to shooting around since there were ethnically Ossetia’s settled all around us.  We remained at our place as long as we could survive.  We had only two hours of luck  to escape and stay alive.
We, my husband and I, did not much care for the sound of airplanes above our home. But then sound of something coming closer felt as directed exactly on us. Firstly we though that it was sound of shooting, but when it exploded very close to our house we realized that it was a real bomb. There was even not a single soldier near us to protect , we were on our own,  listening to the sound of exploding bombs! That night our neighborhood gathered and passed night all together. Then by our personal vehicles we moved to Tbilisi. It took us three-four hours to arrive here. We went directly to the City Administration and there were taken care of and placed to the Hotel. If not reaching the administration we would be still without any shelter.
Now were all nervous, we hear news that our were houses were robbed and then burnt down! A boy that escaped  from neighboring village told us that the “Peacekeeper’s” loaded all our household stuff onto large vehicles and then through explosives to burn down our houses! We have information form eyewitnesses that several of our neighbors were killed. We are in shock and are not able to handle ourselves .

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Maya Terashvili, Age 26.
 
It’s ben three days I am in Tbilisi. Before arriving here I used to live in the village Satskhene that is in Patara Liaxvi Gorge. The War began, airplanes flew all around and bomb all over, the cannonade wascomming from different weapons, Children and women were driven out of village by local bus. It was very hard to espace. The airplanes were all the time around us. When city of Gory was reached we were bombed. We jumped out of our bus and concealed ourselves from bombs in the basements of houses. It was very hard to survive. We saw airplanes above us, throwing down bombs. There was no sign of soldiers or something like that. At that time the houses were not destroyed very much. The window panes at houses were broken, because of bombarding at residential construstions.
At the moment I have no idea in what condition is my house. I was told that it’s been torn down!  But  only after seeing that with my own eyes I’ll believe in it ! There was a Post of Osetians near us. It was something like a “border”!  In case of any little misunderstanding Ossetinas used to start shooting towards Georgians! They were always the first ones, of course!
There were many women and children with me escaping to Tbilisi. The way  till Gory took three hours . In total it took approximately six hours to reach Tbilisi. We left so many relatives there, old people, grandparents.  From my family only me and my child , only women and children left the village to survive. How we are? How could be our condition described? – Terribly bad. We do not know what shall happen next. Will we ever return back to our houses?

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