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We will go home one day, say the tent people

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, September 24
Gori became a city of tents after the Russian aggression. Having survived, it now returns to normal life.

In the city centre, just in front of Gori municipality and the Stalin Museum, there is an indication of the bombing in an area bordered by white lines. But houses at the entrance to the city which were destroyed by Russian bombing have been completely rebuilt. Repair and rehabilitation work is still going on, but with the support of international organizations this process is moving swiftly.

On October 23 the Head of UNDP in Georgia, Robert Watkins, and Georgian State Minister on Regional Issues David Tkeshelashvili signed an agreement in Gori to launch a new project in the Shida Kartli region. The project, funded to the tune of around USD 1.2 million by the UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, aims to help the region respond to the crisis caused by the armed conflict in August 2008. Tkeshelashvili highlighted the importance of it and thanked the UN Development Programme for taking prompt action to assist IDPs.

“We will carry out very important and interesting projects with our friends in Shida Kartli. Money has been allocated to rehabilitate buildings where IDPs will live. We will create jobs for people driven away by the war who don’t have any income. We will compensate losses in the agricultural sector by reimbursing farmers for the produce they lost and giving them legal assistance,” Tkeshalashvili said, although he did not confirm in which particular spheres the IDPs will be given work or when they will be able to start these new jobs. “We will address this issue soon together with the local authorities,” Tkeshelashvili told The Messenger.

Robert Watkins said that UNDP will closely cooperate with the local authorities in Shida Kartli, the municipalities of Gori, Kaspi, Kareli and Khashuri, and expressed his hope that they will also be able to bestow assistance in villages not yet recovered by Georgians. “Strong national and local institutions are critical for recovering from conflict and providing public services to the affected population. We will closely work with the municipalities of Gori, Kaspi, Kareli and Khashuri to help design and implement an early recovery plan, restore damaged infrastructure and improve livelihoods,” Watkins stated. According to Watkins the most important thing at present is that IDPs are enabled to return to their homes and lead a normal life. He stressed the need for peoples’ reintegration into their communities.

There are still tents in Gori full of villagers from the conflict zones. The Head of the Regional Development Service, Giorgi Avaliani, told The Messenger that there are now 2,600 IDPs in tents and 2,800 in kindergartens.

“The situation of those in tents is normal. They eat twice a day and humanitarian assistance is taken there everyday,” Avaliani says. But it seems the humanitarian aid is not distributed properly as people complain about it. “They brought baby buggies a few days ago but they have not been distributed well, I have a 3 month old baby and she does not have one. All day long I have her in my arms and it is really tiring,” a young mother from the village Variani, Khatuna Siranashvili, told The Messenger.

Khatuna lives in a small tent with her three children, the youngest being Mariam, who has bright blue eyes. Speaking briefly about her experiences, Khatuna said that her husband was arrested just a week before Mariam was born. Now she is alone with the children but not in despair. “Here, we are all in terrible conditions, I don’t even have a meal from “Humana” for my Mariam, but I am not despairing and I live in hope. I pray for my children and wish that the Russian troops live our village so that we can return home,” she said.

Another tent resident, Mari, knows from her neighbours that her house has not been damaged but still lives in a tent because she is afraid for her three children who are of school age. The family stayed in the village until the Russians came, then they were forced to leave their house.

11 year old Mari Vardiashvili remembers that there was a terrible noise of bombing and shooting. “I was very afraid. I did not know what was happening. My mum was crying and so I became more nervous. Then my father told me to go, but I did not know where I was going,” Mari told us with tears in her eyes. Later she and her family arrived in Tbilisi but after the Russian aggressors left Gori they came here and started living in the tents. Mari and her sisters miss their home and school, they say that the teacher in Gori School is good but not as good as their Karaleti one.

Tamuna Nefaridze is 9 years old, a very small but very smart girl. She does not like the food they eat in the tents and says that her mother makes better meals than this. She lives with her mother, sister and father in the tents. She is from Znauri district and what she misses the most is her friend Giorgi who she has not seen since they left the village. “He is my classmate; I don’t know where he is…” Tamuna says very sadly, but she is sure that they will meet each other again very soon in their village and in the same classroom where they studied.