Exactly 7 years ago, I was in Racha with my family. It’s one beautiful, mountainous and extremely quiet region of Georgia. I was 16.
It was an unusual day. TV was on and we were watching the news about the Georgian-Russian war.
We heard that Gori was being bombed in those minutes. We heard about the victims, how Russian troops were getting closer, taking more and more villages, saw the officials being in panic and heard many other news. It wasn’t an equal war, the news about battles or our military operations weren’t broadcasted, it was just a HUGE panic and misunderstanding. We just tried to reach our voices to the Western world – please do something! We’re victims!
There were no one I hated more than Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the heads of Russia. WAR WITH RUSSIA?! HAVE YOU SEEN THE MAP? IT’S HILARIOUS!
I was watching. I wasn’t scared. It rather was getting on my nerves, I felt anger and the big lump in my throat.
(You don’t know how it feels to watch the news in the country which is in war.)
We were about to start our family dinner.
Suddenly we heard a very loud voice! Something exploded in the nearby. The house shook. We were shocked – was it an earthquake? a bomb?! In our tiny village? (with around 50 inhabitants!) We are super close to Oni, which is also a super tiny borough, one of the smallest in Georgia. Who needed to bomb us!
The neighbors called us and asked what happened, as if anyone knew. Houses are super close in that village.
Then we had silent 20 minutes.
We moved to our neighbor’s place.
Then it started over again. This time, seriously.
We heard the bombs exploding first, only then the sound of the reactive planes could be heard. We saw them. We all laid down. The wooden house was shaking as during an earthquake.
We started praying. Mother was crying and trying to keep me and my sister closer.
We stayed super quiet to hear the planes approaching. Then we started to recognize their voice. They approached (2 or 3 of them), bombed us and then we heard them leaving to bomb the neighboring village. They returned in every 5 minutes. If they took longer, we thought it was over, but they kept coming back over and over. We heard every single bomb falling, hundreds of them, and exploding. We could clearly see Oni being in flames. They were bombing absolutely everything: forests, villages, fields…
There is nothing worse than laying down and knowing they’re about to drop a couple of bombs. Would we survive this time?
“We all are about to die now” – a young woman became hysterical, so her sister had to slap her. Then she managed to light a candle and started praying.
Surprisingly I was very calm, unlike the others. I seem to be very collected in force majeure situations, I tried to calm down the others, especially children. My little sister was crying loudly.
The only thing I was thinking while heard the planes approaching was that the pilots were people and maybe they would act like ones (naive me). The second thing was that I just waited when everything would end. I closed my eyes and covered my head with hands.
I don’t remember myself being that tired any other time. I wanted to sleep. And I was very thirsty.
I felt the taste of metal in my mouth.
This nightmare lasted for about 6 hours.
Then it became quiet, for about half an hour. It was an unusual silence. My grandma and another old lady started talking about the reasons why the Soviet Union collapsed.
“It was such a stupid decision! Did we live badly? Not at all! We lived well, at least we had the peace!”
I was born in free Georgia. I hated Russia, especially in that moment and roughly asked them to stop saying stupid things. I was very upset.
We didn’t want to go home, couldn’t believe it stopped. As if we could help each other, but we wanted and needed to stay close. Being together in such times is the most helpful thing.
We finally went out. It was already a late evening. The leaves were all shrunk and black, the sky was super dirty, I still remember the smell in the air. Our house had survived, but all the glasses were broken, everything had dropped on the floor, etc. And it was unbelievably quiet.
We soon found out that the half village was evacuating to Tbilisi. We decided to wait one more night, as the traveling didn’t seem to be safe.
We finally managed to call my uncle, who had to pick us and bring to my second village in Imereti, which was still untouched and quiet. (yes, telephone lines don’t work properly during the war).
We slept in the cellar. Didn’t sleep actually. We heard the military cars moving on the road and helicopters flying, all night long. We were quiet and waited that it would start over again. We heard rumors that Russians would attack us again, but this time occupy Oni. Million such rumors are spread during the war. I called the (poor) police and asked if another attack was expected (naive me vol 2). Nobody knew.
Finally my uncle arrived (who had to go through very unsafe places, including Gori, to reach our place).
Leaving the village was extremely hard. I cried while watching my house, where I had spent every single summer, the brightest days of my childhood, while watching the huge blue mountains, the ones I love most of all, I tried to remember every stone and corner of the village, in case I’d never see it again. It was hard and utterly sad.
We arrived to Imereti. My second grandpa doesn’t enjoy watching the TV, he has just an old radio. It was always ON. I felt like Anne Frank, listening to the radio all day long and being in fear.
We heard that Russia was about to take Tbilisi. I was questioning what would happen in this case.
I was crying at nights, knew that could never go back home, have a normal life again, which seemed so happy and easy from that point.
I didn’t really realize what it meant when the Russian troops take your city. Do they just stand there? What’s happening then? What do they do? (naive me vol 3).
Tbilisi was unsafe, the half of the city evacuated into regions/neighboring countries.
The second part of the war had already begun: marauding.
Because Russian troops aren’t people as we know them, the ones living in the societies. Seriously. They are tribe members, wild, uncivilized animals. They were stealing everything (forks, toilet bowls, toilet papers, computer monitors (often without processors) and conditioners (just the inside parts, which also indicates they have no idea what they mean and how they work). Later the phone calls were published, they had started this kind of “business”.
They were killing and raping, so, standard Russian boots package.
We heard they were in the next village. We had no idea where to evacuate. (Into the forest somewhere?!…) We hopefully survived, they apparently didn’t risk entering the super narrow ravine, where our village is.
I wasn’t myself in those days. I couldn’t think about anything I loved, as when you have serious health problems and every normal activity seems far and impossible.
After 2 days I heard the voice of the hope, it was the first TV ad (which I didn’t see, just heard). Bank of Georgia managed to shoot a video about its support in the hard days, that it’s always with us, something like this.
It was a big relief – if I heard something as normal as an ad, could other usual things get back in my life too?!
That evening me, my sister and several other children went to the river. It was green and deep, we were swimming and enjoying our time.
Suddenly we saw 2 planes flying above us. My blood froze in veins.
Soon we heard the sound of explosion.
My sister started crying.
It didn’t repeat again.
Then I remember sitting on the stairs of my house and listening to the radio, Nicola Sarkozy and Mikheil Saakashvili, the ceasefire agreement was reached.
I couldn’t believe everything could be like before. I was crying. Something had changed in my head. Now life seemed so easy and lovely thing to do. That was a first time I got a hope I wouldn’t be physically destroyed, that was the first time I knew my family had survived. I didn’t know anything about my friends, acquaintances, no one else.
After 10 days we returned to Racha.
I ran to my dog, which seemed extremely happy (he refused to go with us, was very scared of the cars, so we had no choice but to leave him with our neighbor). I checked every room, went to the balcony to see my favorite view, went out to check the village. I loved everything there. It was still my place.
I know the price of being in peace since then. You aren’t you, you don’t live during the war. You are a couple of kilos of meat, that’s it, hopeless and miserable.
Now I think- it was just 5, maximum 6 hours of bombing, around 1 week of being in fear.
(People live in such conditions for weeks, years!)
But disaster isn’t measured by hours. I underwent a complete hell.
Then the Georgian troops came, there were still unexploded bombs and rackets left.
One of them was in the nearby of my house, weighted 2 tons, if I remember correctly. Gladly it didn’t explode (Russians were using old weapon, hopefully!)
Another one weighted 8 tons, was later placed in the Oni center.
After that time I hate fireworks and for a very very long time was afraid of the sound of planes. I still do a little bit. The war gave me countless nightmares, I still have them quite often.
That’s it. It’s my experience of Georgian-Russian war.