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Data Vanishvili - symbol of Georgia's perseverance against occupation dies

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, March 23
On March 19, Georgian local Data Vanishvili, also known as Data Papa, who had lived for about eight years on the other side of the occupation line, died after a long illness, aged 88.

In 2011, barbed wires installed by the Russian occupational forces in Khurvaleti village near occupied Tskhinvali divided Vanishvili’s house and agricultural lands into two parts, leaving him isolated from the rest of Georgia. However, Data Papa and his wife refused to leave the house. Data Papa was well-known for his activities against the occupation. He refused to obtain the so-called south Ossetian citizenship and to receive a pension there as he did not recognize the de facto republic and stated that he was a citizen of Georgia. Data Papa actively met with representatives of the Diplomatic Corps and talked about the situation in the occupied village from the other side of the wires. He was arrested several times for contacting visitors at the dividing line and for crossing the so-called border and moving to an unoccupied part of Khurvaleti.

The President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili expressed grief over Vanishvili’s death and stated that he was an example of strength and braveness.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated that "he is saddened by the death of the prominent Georgian citizen Data Vanishvili."

“Vanishvili refused to leave his house and lived in unbearable conditions, behind barbed wire fences. He guarded his land for years and never tolerated occupation, ” said PM.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani has stated that Data Papa is “a bold example of the fight against suppression through Russia’s creeping occupation and a symbol of devotion to the homeland.”

State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality Tea Akhvlediani also emphasized that Data Papa is a symbol of the ongoing occupation in Georgia. As the minister said Vanishvili embodies the harsh situation that many people living in the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia experience.

The US Embassy to Georgia published a statement saying that Vanishvili’s “resilience in the face of Russian occupation will remain an inspiration until Russia fulfills its commitments.”

Many people, including officials, politicians, and local government representatives have offered condolences to Vanishvili’s wife from the other side of the barbed wire fence. Data Papa was buried yesterday in the cemetery which is currently under illegal Russian occupation. Only several relatives were allowed to cross the occupation line to attend Data Papa's burial ceremony.