Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Friday, 5 September 2008

Gori and Beyond, Georgia, Sept. 5, 2008

Gori, Stalin's birthplace, has plenty of aid coming in after its pounding during the recent Russian invasion. Damaged apartment blocks are already halfway through renovation. Tent camps provided by UNHCR are sheltering 1500 people so far. Food, mostly cooked by Italian Red Cross staff, is being distributed. So, plenty of good being done, though much help is still needed. The 2nd frame here shows Koba Subeliani, far left, a Svan, MP in charge of human rights and protection of religious minorities(!), discussing humanitarian needs with some of the people with whom I had travelled to Gori. I was delighted to meet him. Below that, a look into the kitchen where food for the refugees' tent camp is being prepared.

The bottom 3 photos are from another village, Variani, which we entered by skirting the Russian checkpoint, going in on back roads to behind "occupied territory" lines. A bomb-damaged house and some of the wreckage in a wheelbarrow, along with a boy from the house holding up a bullet and bomb fragments; and a flag-marked example of UXO, or unexploded ordinance, about the size of a hand grenade. Plenty of bad stories here, fear and nightmares.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

People of Georgia

Today was the first morning since August 8 when neither Georgia nor Russia was a featured story in Google News online. Not to say that there's no news about them, however. Things continue to develop on a daliy basis. As of today it's impossible for Georgian citizens to get Russian visas in Tbilisi, for example, and likely similar in Moscow for most Russians wanting to go to Georgia.

As for today's photos form my archive: I was at the funeral of the lady in the wheelchair in January this year, in Etseri, Svaneti; the fortress is that of the Dadeshkeliani family in Etseri, featuring the tallest watchtower in Svaneti, copied in Tbilisi's open-air architectural Ethnographic Museum; the headstone (of my great friend Nodar's father) uses a photograph of mine in typical Georgian style.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

People of Georgia

Only one image today - but it's the first posting from my new digital camera, a Canon EOS slr. (Many thanks, NWB, for your help with this. You've finally achieved my switch to digital!)

This is from the Georgian "Peace Chain" which was formed around and across the country on September 1 - people holding hands to protest Russia's recent involvement in Georgia and to stand for the country's wholeness. I was in the Kakheti region with friends when this was happening. It was a brave front, but relations between the 2 countries continue to deteriorate. There's now no diplomatic contact between them, requiring intermediaries for them to talk; visa requirements have changed; and of course, the flights and postal service which were restored only this March after several years' absence are cut again since the war started. Day by day things change as we wait, watch and pray.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Off for a few days to Kakheti province in the east. Back soon, stay tuned.