Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Georgia: Risking Life for Faith and Memory

Villagers cross dangerous line when they go to gather wood or visit family graves.
By Nino Chibchiuri

Residents of villages in Georgia’s Gori district are in constant danger of being picked up and arrested by South Ossetian forces if they stray into the wrong area by mistake.

The August 2008 conflict with Russia shifted the de facto front lines between Gori and the unrecognised republic of South Ossetia, but the villagers who actually live in those areas are unaware of where it is safe for them to go.

Many still take the risk and make a swift foray into nearby forests where they have always cut firewood, an essential fuel given that there is no mains gas supply here.

Around Easter and other holy days on the Georgian Orthodox calendar, it is traditional to visit relatives’ graves and local churches. But for some border villages in Gori, both cemeteries and churches now lie on the other side, and such visits will carry a significant risk of running into trouble.

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