Teona (29) and Tamar (31) Gurguliani, the village of Lahili, Mestia

„We lived in Mestia but our most favorite place was Lahili where we visited our grandparents to spend summer vacations. We had our own paradise there. Our grandparents did everything to make us happy. The nineties were the miserable years for many Georgians but we had all we needed, our family had a farm and we were quite well-off. We had everything. We were a large, wealthy and happy family until we were robbed on one ill-fated day.

The day before the robbery, we were to go to Mestia where mother and father awaited for us but granny asked us to stay. We were very young then, just 8 and 6 years old. When we woke up in the morning, granny showed us dresses she had made for us. That day stuck in my memory as a grey and misty one. It was getting dark when we heard a noise from the gate. Granny welcomed the guests loudly but when we got to the gate, we couldn’t see anyone there. What we could see however was 6 men climbing over our fence.

They broke into the house wearing masks, attacked granny and started beating her viciously, mercilessly. They hit her, tortured her with rifle stocks. They scared us, the children away, by shooting above our heads and then turned back to granny.

I cannot forget the eyes of one of the men. Something in his stare was inhuman, heavy. I knew he had lost every shred of reason inside him and had turned into a beast. I ran into grandpa’s bedroom. I could see bullets zooming overhead. It was dark in the room but I could see everything clearly. Grandpa was shooting too and they were firing back. They shot grandpa right in front of my eyes. He fell on the floor and smeared my clothes that had fallen from the wardrobe with his blood. I went up to him, cried to him, but he motioned me to get out of the room. Which I did.

I did not talk for a year and a half. I was in the first school year and could not speak. Because of the stress I’d suffered I was taken away from school. As I was quiet all the time, the teachers did not think much of me and the classmates laughed at me. It hurt very much. I was scared to move from one room to another. I wanted to cry, to talk about my pain but I could not speak so I couldn’t do it. Those days were like hell.

The robbers managed to take grandpa’s gun with them. One of them grabbed it from the hand of the dead and ran away. Teona was covered in blood. I clearly remember blood drops all over her dress, body and face. It turned out that all of the robbers lived in our village and one of them was even our distant relative. Granny pulled the mask from his face only to find that he was her relative. He was later killed by my cousin who avenged my family. I remember them gathering at our place, plotting revenge, debating…

It escalated in a blood feud, of course. We were on the run all the time. In a hindsight, my life has been running away and being pursued. This is how we were growing up.

There were people who stood by us all the time. Our aunts tried to alleviate our trauma by supporting us financially and morally, protecting us from harassment and threats. Still, we had to live under constant intimidation and fear. We were wronged all the time, so in the end we had to leave.

Dad had to go to Russia. We were left without father, the four of us, mom pregnant with the fifth child. She was 32 years old and struggled very much. Dad died in Russia.

Many people interfered in the feud, trying to sort things out, but it still goes on. All we want to say is that it is appalling to treat someone the way we were treated, to take away from them something that is not yours; you cannot traumatize and change people’s life like this… You cannot live with the tragedy that is called blood revenge. Despite all that we have been through, we hope for a better future.

If you travel to our village, you will only find remains of our house. Our little paradise is gone.”