Back to the Future
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Four generations of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in Tserovani reflect on their own personal challenges and perceptions.  Each photo tells a story of the struggle between the memories and reality. How did each generation find a way to get used to their new life, or do these kinds of ways exist at all?


Mishiko Papunashvili, seven- years-old

We where in Akhalgori during the war. The roads were blocked and people were not allowed to cross the border. I know that there are some tanks there. They shoot and it’s dangerous. When the war was over, we arrived here (Tserovani) by car. Lots of people were killed.

"It felt good in Akhalgori, the air was different there. In summers we swim in the Ksani river. Although I don’t have friends there; nobody lives there."
"My aunt and mother don’t have appropriate documents and can no longer can enter Akhalgori. If we go, it is with my father or with my grandfather by power of attorney."
"I want to become a doctor. The one that usually cuts the stomach... yes, a surgeon! I want to save other people. I want to go to Tbilisi."

Tako Butkhuzi, 20-years-old

I was living in Tbilisi before the war. My mother is from Akhalgori, my father from a village called Akhmaji. I used to spend every weekend in Akhalgori. Even during the war we were there, we left the day when the army came to Akhmaji, unless it was needed to have a form #9 paper. I moved to Akhalgori when the school was built. It was a quite chaotic situation; everybody was trying to establish themselves.


"Of course, if it will be possible to go to Akhalgori, I would rush and would never look back."
"I know that this conflict is not easy to solve, but I hope I will be alive by the time when the borders will open again."

Levan Kutashvili, 19-years-old

I have been living in Akhalgori. I finished seven grades of school, then I studied in Mtskheta and finally I graduated from the school of Tserovnani. It was winter when I moved here; it was very cold. In the beginning I thought that it was a terrible place to live. I was afraid to live here. There was just one tree somewhere nearby.  The wind was blowing; I could see the huge fields and cottages that looked like the beehives. I got lost immediately and could hardly find my house.

I used to attend lots of trainings and various activities while living here. I also went abroad for a study visit. Then I applied to university and now I study journalism. The cost of Bachelor Degree is covered. I am a free blogger, I study, and I am also trying to improve my English. Apart from that, I am also an intern at one of the TV companies. One day I want to go back to live in my hometown. Firstly, I would study in Tbilisi and then I would go back in order to use my knowledge and experience in my town. Usually I go to Akhalgori in the summer. Life goes on there. There are few youth, also Georgians and Ossetians. They have good relation with each other. Everybody is trying to adopt to the current situation.

"I can say that my self-improvement commenced since I moved to Tserovani. We didn’t have chances to get informal education in Akhalgori. With the huge help of non-governmental organizations, it was easy for children to adapt to the society. The war doesn’t have any positive side. But in the terms of development, being a refugee helped me a lot."
"Everything is temporary. Maybe someday everything will change and we go back. It all depends on our relations. If our generation will try and communicate with each other… something might change then. We have to find a way to strengthen relations."

Nana Chkareuli, 38-years-old

It won’t be right if I say that my life has changed radically here, because I had my favorite job in Akhalgori as well. I was active, had a non-governmental organization and life was interesting for me. 

The idea of making Hello Café here was an idea of supporting the volunteer who was working in my NGO - Peace Crops. We supported her and implemented her idea. It took time for locals to get used to this Café. We usually organize various events to focus on different groups.

When I listen to youngsters, they say that they are willing to go back, but I am not sure that they have analyzed what it really means. Being a refugee gave youngsters unlimited opportunities, although if they go back they will get another opportunities as well, because lots of international and local organizations focus on this issue. I always used to say that every negative fact is followed by positive one. For these children this war was somehow a stimulus. They have learnt and analyzed a lot and it had a huge influence on them.

Only one thing that has changed for me is human relations. We had close relations there and here, somehow everything got fractured. As if people are closed in themselves and the playfulness that the village had before is lost.

But I think that in Akhalgori they would have something that they are lacking here. Sometimes I think that of course this generation achieved a lot here, but somehow their inner world is empty and I think in Akhalgori it could be the opposite. 

I want to go back, but I know that for now it’s impossible. I think that going back would be harder than the departure was. Everyone would needs to start from the scratch. I am already preparing for this, and I  always tell youngster to be ready, because this will be the hardest part. It is the new generation that has to respond to the challenges that we will face and they need to be ready for this.

Panic turned out to be horrible, you have a feeling that you are avoiding something and don’t even know what you are trying to rush from. It was difficult to be here. Before I have never thought about moving to Tbilisi, I was quite satisfied with my job in Akhalgori. But time passes by, and then you finally get a feeling that you own this, despite the difficulty of being in monotonous environment. It’s even harder for youngsters. 

I know exactly what will be the first thing that I will do when I go back and what will be the starting point. And I know that someday I will go back.
"Being a Refugees is viewed as either a legal status or a sort of a label. I am trying to break this stereotype and say that I am a refugee and I live in Tserovani. Lots of youngsters are hiding it, and I am trying to set an example for them."
"A a refugee is not piteous, its just a legal status. Otherwise we are strong."

Muradi Tskvitishvili, 63-years-old

I was born in Akhalgori. I have been living there before the war, I have never thought about living here before. I didn’t even know where Tserovani was located. I have just heard about the fields of Tserovani.

My wife, son, daughter-in-law and two children where leaving there together with me. After this mess started, troops entered and we were forced to move here. I stayed alone in Akhalgori for some time; I stayed there for 6 months. I kept watching after my house. Then I was no longer able to stay there and I moved to my family, I had no other choice, it was difficult. Everyone left, nobody lived there anymore. Next to my house, in the building of the former school, Russians used to spend time there. They used to make noise, or drink and shout. I was afraid that somebody could just come and kill me and then I left. 

I built my house with my hands. I feel sorry for it. I was a handicraftsman, now I am sick, I can’t work physically anymore. I had an operation on my heart. We had cows, gardens, harvest and life was not that hard. Here we have only 200m land behind the house. The employment level is poor; it’s hard to find a job. In 2009, a school was opened here, I started working as a guard; I've been working here since that period. My grandchildren are studying here. I have six grandchildren.

Sometimes there is a sparkle of hope...Sometime soon it will happen...Not soon, but someday we will go there, even though Georgians don’t have any rights and they are ignored; If I could, I would go there even tomorrow.

"Some houses were emptied, some were destroyed. I still don’t know the condition of my house; I don’t know if people lie to me or tell me the truth. But as I am informed, my house is still in the same condition as I have left it."
"It’s already three years that I have not been there; before I had a paper and I could go there. One day they didn’t provide me with the new form #9 and left me like this. Nobody gives us answers, we can’t go back anymore."
"It was a very nice place to live. The forest behind our house was beautiful, with high slopes. There are some Ossetians who want to buy my house, but I don’t want to sell it… I don’t know… Maybe someday something will change…"

Nadia Muladze, 93-years- old 

It felt good before the war… I had a castle, now I live in a shack. Unlike me, my children and grandchildren got used to the situation here, they study and work. Before coming here I lived in Znauri. I used to always work. I was working in the farm during 27 years. My husband was a guard at the bank.

Jany Kobaladze 63-years-old (daughter)

We are not able to go back, we are asked to have a form #9 paper. When it was possible, my parent refused to take this document, they used to say that they were Georgi ands and they would not to betray Georgia.  The house that was left there was burnt in front of my father.  First they burnt a second floor, then the first floor.  My father who was 87-years-old  was beaten. He felt so bad that he sat down in the yard and asked for the help. All the neighbors where so frightened that they even could not approach him. On that day my mother was in Tbilisi with me, we visited a doctor. The border was closed when we planned to enter it. We wanted to sneak secretly in order to bring back my father, but in vain. On the 27th of August our house was burnt down and the next day my father arrived. He follow the river, he had with him only the clothes that he was dressed in. People lost money, everything was burnt, Georgian, Russian and American money.

We haven’t heard anything about Tserovani before. When there was a period of construction work here, you could only see stones and gravel. Mud was accumulated. I brought all the stones here with my hands. Then step by step I planted fruits in the garden. 

"I am not sure that we will go back. The youngsters also don’t want to go there. Only our boys, who have seen the place with their own eyes, those who remember, want to go there."
"They think that the same abundant family will meet them there. But now nothing exists in our yard. My father lived and died with only one dream of someday going back."
"My father didn’t want to be buried here in Tserovani. 
He used to tell me: daughter, I think that people who are being buried here are unprotected and homeless. 
He was buried in Tbilisi, next to his sister."
Chai Khana
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