Georgia: Poti under bombardment

11 August 2008

August 10, 2008 What actually happened      

We were all very concerned about Ossetia and condemned thewar. We alldebated the issue and none of my colleagues, none of the people around me saidthat it was a good thing that our troops had entered Ossetia.We were sorry about what was happening andall very concerned. 

As we left work that evening some of my colleagues started saying that they were going to send their children out of the city because someone might decide to bomb Poti all ofa sudden. After all, it's a strategically important city. I wasindignant and said that such athing would never happenand that if the Russians did decide to come to Ossetia'said (whether they would or not was still not clear then), they would help theOssetian people and that's all. 

Around midnight I heard some kindof rumble. I ran to the window and saw traces of flame, explosions in the portand heard a deafening noise. I didn't have time to feel afraid. I just knew that if they hit one of the reservoirs in the oil terminalthere'd be a fire and everything would explode. I grabbed the phone and calledTengo. Vika answered and yelled, "Samira, they're bombing the port". Mama andAlina and her niece were running in a panic round the flat. The explosionscontinued and we ran downstairs. People were standing in the street crying andeveryone had deathly worried faces. I couldn't figure out everything that wasgoing on, some kind of explosions and gunfire that went on and on. Someone ran overand yelled at us that we should get out because we're next to the port, and sowe all began running. Planes flew overhead. We saw flames, and it seemed as ifthe planes were being shot at from the ground. I don't really know. The sky wasall thundering with sound and we could the trails of some kind of missiles or Idon't know what. We hid in the entrance of a building. Everyone was shoutingall around and women and children were crying.

The telephones weren't workingand the TV had already been cut off. No one understood what was going on. Obviouslyno one had expected such a turn of events.

We went to a district further from the port, to my sister. Moska wascrying and was very frightened. She was born in 1994 and didn't know how whenhad fled in 1992 when the Georgian army recaptured the city from ZviadGamsakhurdia's forces. She didn't know how her sister Katerina was born and wehad to get help from the Russian army, which was being evacuated. The militarydoctors delivered her in the field hospital. But that was all a long time ago. Now Moska was crying and so were theother children in the yard.

The bombing stopped but people wereafraid to go back into their homes.

We set off towards home. Therewere crowds of people standing around outside each apartment block, afraid togo back up into their flats.A woman was talking on the phone nearby and shesuddenly let out a terrible scream. Everyone started talking and I felt this unconsciousfear grip me. I told my sister not to speak Russian. It was this extremelyemotional state. Mama asked in Georgian what happened and they said that Senakihad been bombed, that soldiers called up for the army had been there and thewoman's brother had been killed.  We ranhome and started calling everyone.

It turned out that a bomb had hitour terminal. My colleague and friend was working that night and was injured,shrapnel wounds, broken ribs, light injuries to the head. The reservoirs werenot damaged, only the foam station and the sub-station in the port. People hadbeen killed in the port, seven it seemed, and some had been injured. A youngguy who worked in the company chartering the Odessa-Poti ferries was killed.They brought in the dead from Senaki. The reservists there were allowed toleave. Another of my colleagues was injured by a bomb. People were sofrightened that no one talked about politics. We all just stayed close to eachother and some people crossed themselves and whispered prayers. The only thingI could think was that we needed to keep together.

When morning came we all ran awayagain because there was an unexploded bomb and the sappers had come in todefuse it. I looked out the window and saw people running with bags, peopleleaving in their cars for the villages and for Ajaria. My friend Lenka rented aroom in Kobuleti and is there now with her family.

The city is deserted and theshops are hardly working.

Tengo didn't leave and we runover to see each other now and then.Poti has not been bombed again. We heardgunshots yesterday but we don't know what it was. I can't even imagine what thepoor people in Tskhinvali are going through. No one needs this war one little bit.
I'm nota politician andI don'tknow any politicians, don't know anyone whothinks that this is what we need. I don't divide people into Ossetians, Georgians andRussians. Myfriend's grandmother is Ossetian, we are Russians but we have Georgianrelatives, and my son-in-law is a Ukrainian. What'sthe difference? The most important thing ofall is to end this war as soon as possible and not let anyone more get killed.

There are people whowrite that we Georgiansdeserve this. Who deserves this? What have wedone to deserve it? What are we guilty of? Are Georgians some kind ofmonsters? Doesn't the same blood through their veins as through the veins of usall? Old men arecrying and it's unbearable tosee. Not one person has said to me that all of this is the faultof you Russians, not one single person. I realise that there might be some outthere who would say such a thing, but I have not encountered them. Some peoplein their blogs say that if you are Russians, Kuznetsovs, why do you not leavefor Russia?When people fled in the 1990s, we stayed because we faced uncertainty eitherway. My mother chose the uncertainty here because she was born and grew uphere. We were all born here. Back in the 1930s, my grandmother, just a child, was put on atrain and they said to her that there was no hunger in Georgia. "There's corn in Georgia", they said. This isour country now. We have Georgian passports and we are ordinary Georgiancitizens. This is why I feel torn into pieces when I stand on Georgian oil andsee Russian planes flying overhead, and I just cannot conceive that these twocountries can fight a war against each other.   

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