I returned from Bosnia-Herzegovina several days ago but my thoughts are still with that country and days spent there. By invitation from the Council of Europe we, Georgians and Ossetians visited that country, learnt a lot and have a lot to think about.
One of the bloodiest conflict appeared in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of the 20th century. Bosnians, Serbians and Croatians showed no pity to each other. Thousands of children were killed in Sarajevo battles. Margarita Akhvlediani said she has read that they tore out prisoners’ eyes and sent to each other buckets full of torn-out eyes. There is a town Srebrenica in this country in which during war Serbian military separated men and women and shot all the men (approximately 800 Muslims) just for their origin and religious belief. Srebrenica tragedy has been recognized as the bloodiest murder in Europe since WWII.
In the previous post 11 December I spoke a lot about the history of this country and its modern life so now I will just share my impressions.
It seems local residents, NGO sector and media representatives do not even want to recall the past any more. They say they look into future and try to forget the past. Serbian and Bosnian officials tell us in Sarajevo Mayor’s Office that they fought against each other until 1995, but now they decide upon the city problems together. 18 years have passed. Neither we nor our Ossetian colleagues can believe that people living in Bosnia-Herzegovina federation have managed to forget this tragedy. I speak with Dina Alborova in the bus; she believes one of the main factors in reconciliation of those living in Bosnia was that Hague Tribunal started punishment of military criminals. Bosnians themselves outline three main peacekeeping directions - opening of roads, recreation of infrastructure by support from international community and return of refugees. Most important was that equality of all the nations was defined by Constitution.
Bosnia-Herzegovina now has three presidents – Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. They make decisions by mutual agreement. We heard about this and it was like a coincidence; the same evening my friend Zura Kaulashvili from Gori wrote me on Facebook – my niece is with Tskhinvali group there and she knows you very well. I knew Zura’s sister was married in Tskhinvali and lived with her family there; I also knew she had 2 children and that one of them was a journalist but I couldn’t imagine she would be in the group with us. Zura himself is an IDP from Liakhvi valley and lives in Karaleti IDP settlement with his mother Nazi Beruashvili. Aunt Nazi is an active member of women’s peace movement and tries to make her contribution to peace-building.
Next morning I found Nino and told her in Georgia I was Zura’s friend – I know, she said, also in Georgian. Has it been long since you’ve seen Zura and grandma Nazi? – I asked. We have not met since war, she said. Grandma and my mother just met once in Istanbul, she also said. I miss them so much, her voice was shivering. I had nothing to say to her. An uncomfortable pause appeared. Medea Turashvili is sitting in front of us – Our border is open now and you can enter from Vladikavkaz with Russian passport – she told Nino. They will not let me in with the passport issued in Tskhinvali, Nino replies and does not move her head up; we cannot see her eyes but realize that even one more word and she will start crying. I take a deep breath and encourage her – Everything will be all right; a little more time and you’ll meet grandma and uncles again.
I was thinking about this that whole day. Bosnians opened roads as war ended and people started reconciliation themselves. In our country the tragedy continues and the tragedy is in the fences and barbed wires which separate families and relatives. They construct these fences between Georgians and Ossetians and separate us further. Our “well-wisher” understands probably that people manage to reconcile and resume relations easier than politicians. If in Bosnia-Herzegovina they managed to it, why can’t we, Abkhazians and Ossetians manage the same?
As joint Georgian-Ossetian group we traveled in different cities of Bosnia-Herzegovina by bus and after each meeting we had enough time to speak. During one of the discussions members of Georgian gropu spoke about European education, values and our political course. During conversation we realized that there’s serious lack of information in Tskhinvali. Propaganda campaigns only against west. One of our colleagues says that Europe is a same-sex marriage. We explain that human rights are most important in Europe that all minorities are protected by legislation that Europe means quality education and worthy life. We dispute but the dispute is constructive. We listen to each other. They say Russia has physically saved South Ossetia from being destroyed and that they only trust Russia. Finally we agree that normalization of our relations needs time. We must be able to speak with them equally; nothing will be achieved otherwise.
One week passed fast. We flew from Sarajevo to Istanbul together. From Istanbul we were to fly to Tbilisi and our Ossetian friends to Moscow. We had 45 minutes until Tbilisi flight. We passed the transit security check fast and lost each other. Irakli KObalia, Kote Chokoraia, Temur Tordinava and I told each other – Oh, we couldn’t even say goodbye normally – and went to the smoking area. When coming back we saw Alan on the escalator. He was coming up and said – wait for me downstairs; whole group is waiting for you there. We ran downstairs and hugged our Ossetian colleagues. Men told us that if we would go to Tkhinvali they would take care of our security. We in return invited them to Tbilisi. In Tbilisi we learnt that member of our gropu Olesya Vartanyan receive a prize for peace-journalism. I am glad that Olesya and Radio Liberty make their contribution to peace-journalism.
I still keep thinking about Bosnia-Herzegovina and our story. I again had to make a report for Radio Liberty about border-banners and barbed wires; closed roads, separated families and relatives; people who find common language earlier than politicians and so on.
I met aunt Nazi today. She told me herself that Nino has called and has told them – I met Goga Aptsiauri there… I told her about Bosnia-Herzegovina trip in detail. Aunt Nazi also had tears in her eyes. Those closed roads again but also hope that aunt Nazi will soon see her grandchildren again and that we will also meet our Ossetian friends in Tbilisi and Tskhinvali and then again in Tbilisi and Tskhinvali. Until then we need some more time and roads to be opened.