After War in Georgia, A Retiree Struggles to Rebuild His Life
|Volume 12, No. 2
Brotsleti, Georgia When Gaioz and his wife moved back to his childhood village of Brotsleti six years ago, they hoped to live out the rest of their lives in peace and quiet. With a proud smile on his worn face, Gaioz, 76, recalls life in the industrial city of Rustavi where he supported his wife and two children by working in one of the factories. But upon reaching retirement age, Gaioz longed for the green fields and fruit orchards of his childhood, and so he returned to Brotsleti in the Shida Kartli region of Georgia. To supplement his small pension, Gaioz raised cattle, and this was enough to give them a simple but comfortable life.
But Gaioz’s dream of a peaceful retirement was shattered when war broke out last August between Russian and Georgian forces. Just five kilometers from the territory of South Ossetia, the village of Brotsleti was one of the first casualties of the war.
“We hid in the orchards for ten days,” Gaioz recalls, “At 2 a.m. every night, the bombs and fighting stopped. That’s when we would run home and grab food from the pantry.”
When the fighting ended, Gaioz and his wife considered themselves lucky when they discovered that though their house had been looted, at least it had not been burned down. Unfortunately, however, all of Gaioz’s cattle – his only source of livelihood ” had been killed. To make matters worse, water that once flowed from South Ossetia and irrigated the fields was diverted in retaliation by Brotsleti’s neighbors to the north. As a result, this farming village is struggling to survive.
In order to help people like Gaioz, IOCC, in partnership with the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP), has begun distributing essential food items (flour, beans, pasta, oil, sugar, and salt) to villagers throughout the Shida Kartli region.
Active in Georgia since 1994, IOCC was well prepared to respond to the humanitarian disaster following last August’s war. Through a $200,000 grant from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), IOCC provided emergency assistance in the weeks following the war. Since then, IOCC has worked with the WFP to distribute food to other war-torn regions of Georgia, and has also teamed up with the Georgian Patriarchate and ACT International to provide counselors to the traumatized.
Back in Brotsleti, Gaioz clutches his ration card and patiently waits in line under the hot sun. Zaza Macharashvili, IOCC’s Field Project Manager, says that despite the hardships they face, Gaioz and his fellow villagers are “determined to remain in Brotsleti. Our hope is that the irrigation issue will be resolved in the near future, and that they can begin to farm again.”
by Ryan Erickson
Intern, IOCC Georgia