Thursday, December 01, 2005

Room 1213 in the Hotel Medea

Last night I met Manana and one of her two sons Paata - Georgians from near Sukhumi in Abkhazia. They fled their home in 1992 after their neighbours were killed by a gang of Abkhaz. In August of that year, Georgian forces had entered Sukhumi with tanks and soon afterwards the Abhkaz began a counteroffensive - 13 years later the conflict is still unresolved. Getting into Abkhazia today is possible but one needs the permission of the Abkhaz authorities and travelling through Gali is I'm told a little hectic (kidnapping and the like).

Today Manana and her son are still living as 'internally displaced people' in Batumi's Hotel Medea along with thousands of others. Even after all this time they dream about returning to Sukhumi. However, they believe the conflict can only be resolved by force. When I asked Paata about taking up arms for the return of his homeland he said he would be prepared to fight. This I found surprising from a man who since coming to Batumi has studied to become a lawyer and is working at a local human rights NGO. As Paata explained: "There's a Caucasian mentality. When your brother or when your neighbour or when an ordinary person from your town is fighting there is something in your heart that pushes you to fight too."

Listen to the story: an mp3 file is available to download from DivShare (5.5 MB)


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