“Days are very ordinary here, they are not different but you should still get used to this situation – to the condition of permanent fear,” says Gocha Makishvili, 30, resident of Khurvaleti.
Khurvaleti is one of the Georgian villages where demarcation line, which splits the territory of South Osetia from the rests of the country, passes through. Before Russian Georgian war of 2008 situation in the village was relatively calm and no open confrontation has been observed. Lives of local residents have changed dramatically after the war, when Russian soldiers started unfurling barb wires. Orchards and pastures of many residents now lay on the other side of de facto border. Moving demarcation line deeper left families like one of David Vanishvili’s cut off from the Georgian controlled territory. Locals live under permanent fear of being arrested by Russian troops. In fact, number of Khurvaleti residents have being detained by Russian forces for crossing illegally erected wire fences.
De facto border line passes through Gocha Makiashvili’s house. Part of his land is left beyond the barb wire, so he cannot access or cultivate it. In 2012 Gocha Makiashvili was arrested by Russian soldiers and taken to the detention center in the capital of self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia, Tskhivali. Court found Makiashvili guilty for crossing border illegally. He was release only after paying fine of 2000 Rubles.While entering his yard you will immediately notice bullet holes left from the gunshots fired by Russian soldiers.
There are many empty houses near de facto border line. Gocha Makishvili says, many residents have already left the village because of the fear and lack of adequate living conditions. Number of pupils at Khurvaleti secondary school has also diminished.
“I have four classmates at school. In some classes there are maybe more, five or six pupils.” says nine-year-old Tamar Bolatashvili.
Tamar lives with her grandmother in the village called Big Khurvaleti, approximately two kilometers far from the de facto border line. School is near her house – in 100 meters and she goes to school alone without any fear. As her grandmother Zeinab Khuroshvili says, children do not feel fear because there are no facts of shooting along the de facto border line.
Barb wire lies at the end of Zeinab Khuroshvili’s yard. “We know that several people were arrested by soldiers, but they do not come in here. We are careful and know very well that we should not cross the border” Zeinab Khuroshvili says.
Population in Big Khurvaleti has declined too. But unlike Khurvaleti where fear and difficult conditions are the main reasons for fleeing, in Big Khurvaleti absence of jobs and opportunities for youngsters are named as the main reasons for leaving.
Khurvaleti and Big Khurvaleti may share same problems, but the difference is that the big banner which says “State Border! Passage is forbidden!” every day reminds residents of Khurvaleti that these barb wires split part of historically Georgian territory from the other part of the country.
By Jamila Ibrahimova, Nanuka Bregadze, Nurlan Huseynov, Mariam Abesadze