Emptied Village and 13,000 Votes
I am doing this record in Ambrolauri. That's the third day of my stay in Racha, have visited Oni too. The goal of my arrival in Racha is to find out what means of media exist here and which of them are accessible to the locals. I am going to write an article about it later but right now I want to portray a general situation here. Rachevelians are concerned about many things: demographic problem, houses affected by earthquake, traffic etc. The bus from Ambrolauri to Oni goes on Thursdays and Sundays only. On the remaining days passengers commute by mini buses coming from and going to Tbilisi. A taxi drive from Ambrolauri to Oni costs GEL 30. This mean of transport is almost never used. On the first day I found it hard to find a person that would describe the situation in the region. Eventually I approached a group of men gathered at the pub. Elections was, of course, the main topic of their discussion. They were fiercely arguing who the best mayor would be Gigi Ugulava or Irakli Alasania, Zviad Dzidziguri or Gogi Topadze etc. I asked them about local elections, whether they knew the local candidates. One of them turned out to be Zhorika's nephew, another one his neighbor and the third one just "someone." The United National Movement poster and number "5" are posted in the central Kostava Street. Opposition banners were not visible anywhere. I enquires at the news agent's whether people buy press. "Just very few newspapers and magazines are sold on a weekly basis. Sometimes even none," the news agent answered. Some weekly magazines are not delivered to Racha. The main income for the news agent's is a paybox to prepay for mobile phone. I headed to Oni by taxi. Like all taxi drivers Mr Nodari, over 60, turned out talkative too. I asked him about the opposition. "Can't remember any of them having ever arrived in the pre-election period, they appear to be aware that the votes from Racha are of minor importance, there are not many voters in here," Mr Nodar answered. "But instead ministers were visiting us last week, up to 30 jeeps." Later on I found out at Oni Gamgeoba (local authorities) that the total number of voters for the municipal elections 2010 in Oni and Ambrolauri regions didn't exceed 13,000. The number tends to decrease from one year to another. According to the Oni Culture House representative one of the villages has been finally removed from the list of villages due the death of the last dweller in the village. Now there is one village less in Racha. It made me a little bit sad. Several streets in Oni are overdug for water pipes, according to the locals. The middle-aged Oni dweller Makvala recollects the March 13 moderated Kronika outlet: "Of course I was stiff scared, felt like the war broke out again. Since the August war my grandchild, having nightmares, couldn't sleep alone. She started forgetting everything little by little. Following this program her nightmares came back and she can't even go upstairs alone. During the war the helicopters were so close that even epaulets were almost visible. I didn't know the program had a subtitle informing the program was moderated, my eyesight is not that good and I couldn't notice it. Did you read it sonny? - The lady asked me. I told there was nothing of a kind. "Then it made no sense, subtitled or not. I wouldn't be able to notice it anyway," she said smilingly. I enquired about the Mamison Pass. No one could tell me a sure answer, since due to heavy snow it is yet impossible go up there. Internet connection is available through the wireless modems provided by mobile operators, with the growth of the number of subscribers the Internet quality goes down. The main source of information for them is central TV channels, hence they are more aware of election battles in Tbilisi. According to Oni dwellers political confrontation is not as much perceptible. "They are all each other's relatives and friends. They might have a fight and on the same evening get together at same table, they should be able to look into each other's eyes. No one falls into conflict for political issues," Taxi driver told me on my way to Oni from Ambrolauri. Several trucks passed by. "They are working on the restoration of the houses damaged as a result of the earthquake. They started work few weeks ago, they are repairing my house too that was partly devastated in September 2009," said the driver. "But how did you survive the winter?" - I asked. Somehow we did it. I went to Tbilisi to my children, now I am staying at my nephews. Others did the same. At least they are being repaired now, God bless them," was the answer. I was distempered. That was not Racha having brought me to excitement last year. In fact I was then wandering around as a tourist with friends - Shaori, ice cave, old church ruins, and centuries-old Nikortsminda church - wasn't that to bewitch me? So I am done with writing. I am going to leave for Tbilisi at dawn. The elections are scheduled to be held in a week. Nothing much is going to be changed for Rachvelians as a result of the elections. So please tell me who has ever lost 13,00 votes and emptied villages in the country fighting for supreme ideals.