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

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Interlude 3: Enough Already!, Georgia

Okay, so we get this, right? Buffer zone gets abandoned by occupiers, people return to selective chaos - some houses targeted for bombing or burning, others next door untouched. Fruit ripening on the trees, few people daring to pick it with fears of active mines uppermost. I'm not going to speculate on whether it was Russians, or Ossetian or other mercenary groups primarily responsible. But the damage remains. There was lots of new building going on as well, as we drove towards Gori from the main highway - grids of hundreds of houses for refugees/IDPS who have nowhere to winter. The people returning to their ruined houses and as-yet untouched UXO (unexploded ordnance) are understandably upset at how long restoration of normality is taking and will take. But I have to say that I'm impressed, comparing the current situation to what I saw of refugees after the earlier civil wars (early 1990s) of Georgia from 1999 onwards. We must just continue with this momentum - foreign observers ensuring some accoutability will help with that, I think - until things are as normal as possible for as many people as possible once more. That's what it's about, the people.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Interlude 2: More Wake of Destruction, Georgia

A few further images from yesterday's jaunt to the horror scene: dash in, click click click, chat a bit with shell-shocked survivors and returned IDPs like good concerned visitors - but please, God, could it make a difference from our comfortable lives to their unbearable ones? At least, more than losing some sleep over what we've seen and heard and then "recovering" and getting on with normal life, could our little trip actually improve their lives, even a few of them? Otherwise, count me out next time.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Interlude: Wake of Destruction, Georgia

I went with friends - an American and some Georgians - to Gori and north of it to the South Ossetian border today, through villages from which Russian troops had recently departed - the former buffer zone, in other words. Plenty of ruined houses, bombed- or burnt-out, and destroyed lives, in these villages.

Top: a typical scenario of damage
2nd: talking to a survivor
3rd: damage, closeup
4th: built 2006, destroyed 2008
5th: Merab, one of his village's haunted heroes, who stayed in place for the whole of the Russian operation and occupation

Monday, 13 October 2008

Dizi & Etseri, Svaneti, Georgia

Top three, from Dizi: Someone making k'ubdari (Svan meat pies) for the first time; and Svan ladies (Nodar's sister Tina, a widowed mother; her daughter and sisters-in-law)

Bottom: Mt Ushba from Etseri, just peeking over the horizon

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Dizi, Svaneti, Georgia

Top: just outside Dizi, where once much of the marble for Moscow's magnificent Metro stations was mined

Middle: mushrooms - she found many great ones, most of them edible, and cooked up a feast at our hosts' house

Bottom: a nice though small set of horns destined for drinking wine from