Home » Featured, Headline, In English

Friendship across the border

13 December 2011 One Comment

Perevi by vlaza on Flickr

David Liklikadze

Recently a Georgian soldier serving in the village of Perevi in the Sachkhere district waved his hand to greet an Ossetian soldier who was manning the checkpoint on the administrative boundary line in the neighboring village of Sinaguri in the Java district. The Ossetian was surprised and wanted to turn away at first, but ended up returning the greeting. Such happenings occur frequently in the villages of Sachkhere district like Perevi and Jria which border the Ossetian villages of Kardzmani and Sinaguri across the boundary line.

In these villages Georgians and Ossetians have been living together for many years and until this day do not split along ethnic lines. They say that they are relatives and that nothing will ever divide them. Even many years of conflict, two wars, Russian peacekeepers and concrete walls do not manage to erect borders between them. Frequently, the neighbors’ livestock stray into adjacent yards across the boundary line before going back to their owner’s home. As I was told in the villages of Perevi and Jria, no one has seen or even heard about cases when the farm animals were killed.

Here, people consider each other neighbors and relatives. Before, not a day passed by without them visiting each other, but now I am told the frequency of these visits has decreased. Usually, people now only cross the border to attend funerals. Across the boundary line, in Java district, approximately 30 families live in the village of Sinaguri. Mostly these are old people, and a majority of them are mixed Georgian-Ossetian families. The situation is similar in the village of Kardzmani, also in the Java district. At one point, 200 families lived here, but now only 50 remain.

Before and after the war, during the time the village was controlled by Russian soldiers, Mariam Metonidze and Kristina Jagieva went to the same school in Perevi and were sharing a desk. Mariam’s mother is Ossetian while her father is Georgian. With Kristina it is the other way around – her father is Ossetian, her mother Georgian – but this never impacted on their relations. “I am proud of being Ossetian and Georgian,” says Kristina. She lives in Sinaguri now, but time by time she comes to stay at her aunt’s house in Perevi.

This time, she is also visiting her friend Mariam, who was waiting for Kristina’s arrival for an entire week. Four more days and Kristina will have to return back home. The girls still have plans to visit Sachkhere, to enjoy Perevi’s ultra-fashionable swimming pool and to watch a movie in the newly opened cinema. The friends rightly need time: they want to gossip and discuss those topics which they do not want to talk about with others. Seven years in the same school class… there are a lot of things to talk about!

The friendship continues but the girls do not study in the same classroom anymore. They now find themselves on different sides of the border and do not have the possibility to go to the same school. Kristina Jagieva and Mariam Metonidze do not want to talk about the Georgian-Ossetian wars. They are grown-ups now and they have their views. They say that their families did not fight during the war and as there was no fight there is now no need to reconcile. They just dream of seeing each other freely without having to pass any checkpoints.

For Mariam the most important thing now is that Kristina will spend the remaining four days in Perevi well. Mariam also does not exclude that she will visit her friend in the neighboring village of Sinaguri on the South Ossetian side of the administrative border line. It is very near — just only two kilometers away. Mariam also has other close friends and even relatives there.

In four days Kristina will go back home, but until that time the classmates will together attend the village school. Mariam is a little nervous; she wants everybody to give a warm welcome to Kristina. However, there is no need for worries: teacher and pupils welcome the classmate kindly, even more so than expected by Mariam. “Jagieva, we are still keeping your letter,” says the geography teacher who embraces Kristina affectionately.

Kristina’s letter was written a year ago. Her kind words were addressed to everyone, including Tina, the cleaning lady, and the school’s guard, Amiran. The letter was taken to the school by Mariam and was read almost in every family of Perevi. At the end it was posted on the school’s board.

To Kristina it appears that everything stayed the same in Perevi, just as it used to be before she left. Only the sandbags and barbed wire have disappeared from the street. They have been moved closer to Kristina’s village in South Ossetia. Instead, there are now the modern glass buildings of the local police. She has not seen such police stations before, neither in the village nor in town. Kristina also would be in favor of renovating the school in her village. She says the building does not look nice and all the classrooms are damaged.

The sky is clear, only a few tiny clouds can be noticed in the distance, as if painted into the blue. In the afternoon, on the administrative boundary line, a friend says goodbye to a friend. I want to take a photo of the girls, but I refrain: I prefer not to cause any problems, just so that they will have the possibility to see each other again, freely and without any obstacles. When you see these girls, you cannot help feeling that not everything is lost yet. That’s why the soldiers were greeting each other. Georgians and Ossetians can live together again.

This is openly said by every person in Georgian Perevi and Ossetian Sinaguri. They even keep thinking about each other, Kristine Jagieva and Mariam Metonidze are examples of it. After a war, new realities always make it difficult to build confidence and to retain contacts with each other. Nevertheless, there always remains something that keeps alive the chance to continue our relations.

This post was produced as part of the project “Media Cooperation and Peace Journalism in the South Caucasus” implemented by the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN) in cooperation with the European Center for Minority Issues (ECMI) – Caucasus.

David Liklikadze is a correspondent for the radio station Dzveli Kalaki in Kutaisi, Georgia.

Onnik Krikorian of Caucasus Conflict Voices was one of two trainers at a project workshop held in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus, in September 2011. The original article, written in Russian, is available on the project blog, the Caucasian Circle of Peace Journalism.

The project’s Facebook group is here.

One Comment »

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.