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Still displaced after ten years

27-09-2004 Feature

A group of Georgians displaced from the Gali region during the conflict with Abkhazia in 1992 took shelter at the premises of a former paper plant in the village of Akhali Abastumani in Western Georgia. This "temporary shelter" became their home for a whole decade. ICRC delegate, Eka Minjoraia reports.


The lack of clean water was overcome after the ICRC restored the centre's supply.©ICRC/Eka Minjoraia/ref. IMG-0014 

Day after day eighty-year-old Zaveta Sharia watches a place in the distance, where her home used to be, a place where only ruins are now visible.

Little has remained but memories.

" I got married early. My husband was a good man. We had a nice family. We were both working on a collective farm. We were always hardworking and had enough of everything at home. We were happy. I remember once we even hosted Marshal Zhukov. He was very pleased and used to send us parcels with sweets for years. He took our photos and sent them to us... Everything got burnt down, those photos too. My medals and honorary papers for my good work also vanished. "

While living as displaced persons new misfortune came upon her family. Two nephews and three cousins were killed by a mine on the way to their native village in the Gali region. Her four brothers died soon after.

Her own son fell seriously ill and now her daughter-in-law has to bear the heavy burden of eking out an income. It is not easy taking care of three children. The old woman's heart used to sink each tim e one of her grandchildren asked her for a piece of bread.

Today most of the problems that made living here unbearable have been solved. For almost six months, after a strong wind had blown the roof off the centre, rain poured into the building. Thanks to the UN the roof was repaired. It still smells damp inside but at least the rain is kept out.

The lack of clean water was overcome after the ICRC restored the centre's supply. One of the residents had already fallen ill with typhus and the 28 families sheltered there had had to depend on neighbouring households for clean water. Showers are now on hand on the ground floor and hot water is also available. Zaveta insisted that locks be put on the doors to prevent the children breaking anything. 

Several displaced families living in the collective centre have participated in the ICRC's agriculture, trade and craft activities project. Some are breeding pigs and chickens; others are waiting for tools to start their own activities.

Zaveta says she would gladly take part in this scheme too. She even drafts a plan, 

" If there were a fence here one could plant vegetables and trees. "

Things at the centre are undoubtedly better than they were but Zaveta's farewell comments underline just how much is left to do.

" I am just sorry I couldn't offer you anything, " she says sadly.

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