Imeda Lomaia, 44 years old, Gali region, village Ganakhleba

‘When we lost Abkhazia and the victorious Abkhazians came to the border, we took refuge in a family of our relative – in the village Orsantia in Zugdidi region. That’s where our misfortunes started. 

In the Gali district, this place was called a ”low zone”, as if it was a peacekeeping area; some people kept going there, but not young people. Mainly elderly people went to their homes to bring back any food they’d left there. We had to eat on this side too, right?! My mother was there when we found out that Abkhazians were coming and started the so-called ”cleansing” – meaning cleaning the territory from people. My father went there with my brother to help people stuck in the village come back. My brother was 24 years old. He allegedly didn’t want to go, but he accompanied father anyway… On their way back, the Abkhazians ambushed them near the border. My father was gunned down, hit with 14 bullets. My mother was wounded, my brother too was wounded and captured.

My mother, having her hand broken because of the wounds, recalls that one Abkhazian fellow was very nice to my brother. He gave him hot tea, cigarettes and kept telling him not to worry; encouraging him that he’d be set free as soon as father’s body would be handed over. But when the other, Chechen and Cossack fighters, saw how nice he was being to my brother and other Georgians, they took him away in an instant. There were four other people with my brother. After two days, he and another young man were tortured and then killed with a control shot. Others were forced to dig graves for them, then killed when they were done. The ground was shaking… There were also women from our neighborhood. They let them go and told them to send someone for the corpses and the wounded. Who would dare go in the rain of bullets.

My father’s dead body was laid in our yard, put in a coffin quickly assembled from four pieces of wood a coffin and buried there. If anyone had any medications in the village, they brought it all to my mother to avoid her hand getting rotten. They told us my brother was wounded, that they were taking care of him and they asked for a ransom. As we found out later, they killed him on the 11th of February and kept us in the dark until the 25th. We gave them the ransom somehow – some with gold, some with the money left, and we bought his body back to bury. 

When I was in Zugdidi in the hospital, there was no place to sit, even in the corridor. Some people came through the Svanetian mountains with their hands and feet frozen. Doctors performed one surgery after another. My mother’s hand was grown back the wrong way, so her bones needed to be broken again to regrow. My mother survived and so did her arm, but her husband and her son were killed. My mother didn’t let me leave my studies. I was in freshman year at the university when it happened. I kept studying, finished the Faculty of Law and became a lawyer. Life went on. When I was a student I lived in Tbilisi, studying and working, for 3-4 years. After that, I moved to Zugdidi and got married. I had complicated pregnancies. I had to leave my job since I couldn’t work since I was prescribed bed rest and had to stay home. I had a boy. During the second pregnancy, my elder one got chickenpox. Then it spread to his father, doctors didn’t detect it and it grew into pneumonia and we lost him within a week, not having a clue how. After 8 months, my daughter was born. Joy and sorrow were switching places over and over. 

7 years passed after that. I broke off from work. It’s not easy to not work for 3 years, then go back and continue working with such pain. I thought I would raise my children until they were able to live, dress up and eat on their own. At some point, I gave up on my career and work. You start to lose interest even in taking care of yourself, getting a haircut and so on. The only thing you think about is to raise your kids. 

I’m raising my children. It doesn’t come easy, but my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and my mother are helping. All these years I only thought about loving my children. I didn’t want a nanny, already they didn’t have a father and I didn’t want them to grow up without their mother’s love. Now I realize that they need a lot more than love. We live in a rented flat, waiting for state welfare. If they assign us a flat for free, I can take earn enough for food and my children’s education. My colleagues ask me to go back to work, but I can’t. Not until I’m sure my children are safe with someone. That’s the thing that matters to me the most. I’m dealing with it right now and have hopes for the future. Let’s see”. 

Author: Nino Gamisonia

Photo: Nino Baidauri