Georgia/South Ossetia: life on both sides of the administrative boundary line

06-08-2009 Feature

On both sides of the boundary, in South Ossetia as in Georgia, the battles that took place in the summer of 2008 left indelible scars. The enduring aftermath of the conflict is revealed by an elderly couple, cut off from their children and grandchildren, who now live 'on the other side' and a young widow determined to secure the future of her son.

 South Ossetia: Natela and Volodya saw their village partly destroyed by the 2008 hostilities. The ICRC is providing them with food and medical assistance.  

When you find yourself in the courtyard of this aged couple, any other reality disappears from your mind. The idyllic landscape extending beyond a yard filled with domestic animals in the yard hardly evokes the worries confronting people living in this South Ossetian village, which went through the destruction and havoc wrought by war.

Natela and Volodya have lived here ever since they were married. " I used to live in Tbilisi and would come and visit my relatives in the village for summer holidays and family events " , says Natela. " Volodya was really good looking. We got married at only seventeen. " Natela and her husband have been together since 1952. They have gone through hard times and managed to put up a small house, raise four children and take care of their grandchildren.

Today, the ICRC telephone is now their only means of communication with their children, who live on the " other side " , not far from Gori and Tbilisi. Natela asks her daughter about her grandchildren and tells her about life in the village and their daily diet – mainly beans and noodles. Natela harks back on the Great Patriotic War years, over half a century ago, when she was a little girl. Her mother used to carry a slice of brown bread in her pocket in case one of the children fainted from hunger. They would dream of better times when they would be able to eat noodles to their hearts'co ntent.

After the fighting in the summer 2008, Natela went to Tbilisi with ICRC help to receive medical treatment. Volodya suffered a lot from her absence. From time to time, his elderly neighbour Victor would help him chop wood and do the cooking. Natela returned after six months.

Today, Olga, an ICRC nurse, is visiting them. As she helps Volodya to get dressed, the old man tells stories about his life in the Stavropol Territory, his military service, the time when he was building his house. " Life is like a vase – if it's broken all you can do is pick up the pieces " , he concludes.

 Georgia: the Narsavidze family had to leave its village in August 2008. It is now hoping to go back home.  


Shorena Narsavidze is 23 years old. A tall, thin woman with a warm smile but sad eyes, she is the youngest of five children (one boy and four girls). The Narsavidzes are from the village of Azhara in the Kodori Gorge.

Shorena Narsavidze    
    Shorena was seven when her family went through the dreadful ordeal of war and lost its breadwinner: Giorgi Narsavidze was killed in Abkhazia in 1993, shortly before the end of the conflict. The family was forced to seek shelter in another village. However, after a couple of months Shorena's mother decided to return to Azhara and have the farm fixed up.

The Narsavidzes had a big farm. They had some 10 cows, pigs, dozens of beehives, fertile lands, walnut trees and more. The village offered the family their support and helped it to cultivate the land. Shorena's brother Roman, who used to help his father, took care of the cattle while the girls looked after the vegetable garden and the chickens.

Time passed. Shorena's sisters and brother got married and had children. Shorena also fell in love at a rather early age. She was still in school when she met Niko. In the spring of 2008, they decided to get married. Niko got a job as a truck driver.

Shorena was four months pregnant when warplanes appeared over the village, on 8 August 2008. Kodori Gorge was bombed. The Narsavidzes left their village together with other residents and headed to Chuberi. Unfortunately, Niko's truck broke down and they had to walk the rest of the way. They took nothing but clothing with them.

The family reached Chuberi on the foll owing day. The husband of one of Shorena's sisters took them to his home in the nearby village of Nakra. Then winter came. " Food and other items provided by the ICRC helped us to carry on " , says Shorena. Niko suffered from depression. He could not live with the situation or bear the discouragement of unemployment. The stress was too much for him and he died in December.

In January 2009, the widowed Shorena gave birth to a son. She named him after his father. Today, six-month-old Niko is her only concern. " He is my hope and my future " , she says. " When bombs fall and you see destruction and death all around you, nothing is more important than the life and safety of the children, but as soon as the situation calms down you start thinking of how to feed them… "

Now the family's main aim is to return home. Shorena stands at the gate with her baby in her arms. Little Niko, smiling delightedly, holds an ICRC booklet in his hands and crumples a page.