Sopho Bukia | Institute for War and Peace Reporting
I was born in Moscow in 1979. My father was working there as a football coach, and my mother is a chemist. We returned to Tbilisi for good on March 31, 1991, the very day that Georgia held a referendum on independence.
Some 98 per cent of the population voted in favour, my parents among them. It was a romantic time, and everyone was optimistic about the birth of this new Georgia. But that only lasted a few months until civil war started and the territorial conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In Tbilisi, I went to a Georgian-language school, having studied in Russian in Moscow. I remember how ashamed I was not to know the Georgian language, and I worked at it day and night. Within six months, I was fluent.
In such dramatic times, I felt there was only one job I wanted to do. When I left school, I went straight into the journalism faculty of the Tbilisi State University. After that, I worked in the newspaper 24 hours for a few years, and then moved to IWPR, where I gained considerable experience.
I first came to IWPR as a participant in the Caucasus network of journalists. This programme organised training for journalists every three months in the various countries of the South Caucasus. It was the most interesting and useful course I have ever taken. The sessions completely changed my approach to journalism, and people noticed the improvement in my writing.
IWPR completely changed my career path too. I worked as editor of IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service in Georgia, and as a consequence had to communicate regularly with professional editors in London. Every article became a master-class for me in writing and editing. I also gained contacts across the whole Caucasus, including in the conflict zones.
Now I work as Caucasus and conflict editor of Liberal, a Georgian magazine and I cannot overstate the importance to my work of the contacts I gained through IWPR.
Liberal is the only Georgian magazine that Abkhaz and Ossetian journalists are happy to work for. I am proud to say this is mainly because of me, and because of the experience I earned at IWPR, and the high reputation that everyone who works at IWPR gains.
Of all the articles of my time at IWPR, I am proudest of How the Georgian War Began, which we wrote directly after the war of August 2008 using journalists from Tbilisi and Vladikavkaz and an editor from London.
We tried to lay out the tragic chain of events that led to the start of the war in South Ossetia in 2008. Working on that article, particularly in those days when the tragic events were still being played out, was not easy.
However, I am very proud of the piece we came up with. This was one of the first attempts anywhere to create an objective image of what happened and the journalists of the BBC, when they came to Georgia later, used it as the basis of their own report.
For me, being a journalist is above all an interesting job, being first to know and investigate events. One of the most interesting parts of working for the Caucasus Reporting Service was preparing articles jointly with journalists from the other side of a conflict. This work showed that professional journalists can and must work together to report events objectively.