Manana, 31, Gali

„I starkly remember the day we fled our home. I was 9 years old then. I have many bad memories of it. The most vivid of them is my mother’s face, as I watched her crying. I could realize what was going on around me. I knew that this was war and we had to leave the place; and we did…

After leaving the house, first we travelled to Zugdidi for two days then to Poti – again for two days. In Poti we took Kometa (a small-size vessel) to Batumi. From Batumi we went to Tbilisi by train. There was a lot of confusion in Tbilisi as we did not know where to go, how to divide groups and what to do. First we stayed with my grandmother’s friends, then with my grandmother’s cousin. Since then we have rented an apartment for years.

I had a hard time adapting to this place. I thought I would not be able to communicate with anyone. Initially I was often called ‘hick’ and I could never understand why children would say that. It took me years to realize that they just repeated what they had heard in their homes. I started to have the inferiority complex, as if I was not as good as others. This happens when you lack something and it makes you think that somebody is better than you. It took me years to handle all those things and boost my self-confidence.

I have visited Gali a few times since I left that place. I went there during the New Year holidays or summer holidays but, to tell the truth, I do not want to go back. I feel like a stranger there. Someone else lives in my house. My grandmother and grandfathers are no longer alive, nothing seems to be left there for me … For many years we had hoped that one they we would return for good and live there again. I personally hoped that one they I would be able to step over the threshold of my house. But just a year ago I realized for the first time that we would never be able to go back.

23 Years have passed since then. I know that I left behind everything that happened there. The rest just came to an end.“