Diaries From Abkhazia


Photo: Mariam Kanchaveli

At the beginning of 1992, a civil war started in Georgia. Jaba Ioseliani and "Mkhedrioni" led the war. They ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and appointed Eduard Shevardnadze as his successor. By that time, it was possible to travel from Tbilisi by rail not only to Abkhazia, but also to the Russian Federation. In 1992, the situation on the railways became out of control. Robbing trains, blowing up rails was not uncommon.

In August 1992,  a war broke out in Abkhazia. The reason for starting the war was an attempt of the then weak state of Georgia to protect the railway over Abkhazia by force of the militia and to exercise control over its own territory.

Many people from Abkhazia had to move to Georgia and lost their homes forever. As a result of the conflicts, up to 300,000 people were forcibly relocated.

28 years have passed since the fall of Sokhumi, but the people who were in Abkhazia during the conflict are experiencing its loss with the same intensity now. They still expect to return to Abkhazia. ThroughtheNews decided to talk to them and find out about their emotions and attitudes after so many years.

Maia Abkhazava

Finishing school, getting a student card and the outbreak of the war took place at the same time. Until then, there was one hotspot in Samachablo, but Apkhazava thought that war would never affect her until she experienced it.

Maia Abkhazava is from Ochamchire, but she was brought up in the area of Gudava village. Her parents divorced early and she and her brother were staying with their grandmother. After the war began, everything was flipped upside down.

“Instead of hanging out with friends, my life completely changed and I ended up learning every Russian word associated with war, because I used to hear them very often. But despite the fact that war was very close to me, I couldn’t realize the gravity of the situation fully”-Abkhazava mentioned.

After the fall of Ghagra, she first found out about the death of her relative. Then it continued in that way. Many young men died and everything was happening right in front of her. There was too much death, suffering, fear and tears in her life during this hard time.

 When a peace agreement was formed, she and her friends rejoiced and decided to go to University for the first time. But the fear of an uncertain future would very soon return to her. 

“Being a student of Sukhumi Humanitarian Institute continued for only three days, then everything began all over again”-she mentioned.  

According to her, Abkhazians were using Russian tanks, cars, tractors, carts, horses, everything that they could get their hands on, and she was following the situation from the window of her house. At first, Abkhazava and others around her were mourning the dead, but after a while, they started  thinking only about saving themselves and hiding in a safe place.

“Four of my classmates were taken by my lecturer to her house, because their parents weren’t around and the lecturer didn’t want to leave them. After several days a shell fell on her house and all of them died at once”-Abkhazava mentioned.

Because she had blond hair and didn’t look like a typical Georgian, she was able to pass as an Abkhazian, and bring home water and food distributed to Abkhazians.  At each knock on the door, she was thinking it was the last time she could open the door.

According to her, wondering whether her grandma, uncle, and brother were alive or not, was worse than hunger and thirst.

“The only dream I had every night was about my grandma’s house engulfed in flames”-Abkhazava mentioned.

After a month and a half, she left Sokhumi. She was expecting burnt houses and emptiness, but hoped that she would go back home. The 19 year old girl found herself alone in this world, but persevered and survived despite everything.

Maia Abkhazava was 19 when she became an IDP. She is now 49 years old, living with her husband and three daughters. Her apartment is in a building allotted to IDPs. 

David Didberidze

“I try not to think about Abkhazia. I don’t like watching scenes connected to it. It’s very hard for me. It reminds me of everything, childhood, youth, and college years. Despite the fact that I spent most of my life in Tbilisi, being an IDP, I feel like a guest here. My carefree life ended in Abkhazia — David Didberidze mentioned.

When the war started, Didberidze was in Gali. He was awakened by the noise and airplanes were flying everywhere. He remembers many emergency cars where people had ended up with injuries. Didberidze was member of the National Guard loyal to the President, so he had tools also. At first, he and his friends decided to go forest by forest, but then realized that they would run into Abkhazians or Georgians there and they would kill them. For four months he couldn’t manage to go to his house. Then in accordance with the Government’s decision, he was sent to Sokhumi by helicopter from Zugdidi with others to participate in the war. All of them were equipped, but wore civilian clothes. On the second day, he visited home, and Sokhumi was bombed. Then there was too much death and suffering for a long time.

Until the last minute, when he realized they had lost this war, he couldn’t imagine that such a thing could happen and that one day he would be living somewhere else, far away from everything. After crossing the border and arriving in Tbilisi, he was dreaming about being home in Abkhazia.    Even after he realized that the war had ended and they had lost Abkhazia, he wouldn’t think of beginning a new life.

“I was waiting every day to go back. It was unimaginable for me to get used to living in Tbilisi. Only for these last three years did I realize that it would be too hard to return to the old life. I can compare myself to a passenger who stays on at the station with his trunk and is waiting for the train, not knowing it will come,” — Didberidze said. 


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