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Pepsikolka's Poti occupation blog, part 4

25 August 2008

Location of Poti, Georgia. From: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Map_of_Abkhazia_and_Samegrelo,_showing_the_Kodory_Valley,_Saneki_and_Poti.JPG

Pepsikola blogs from occupied Poti

15 August - Still OK

16 August -  12.21am

18 August - Greetings Everyone

18 August - Photos of Poti

18 August - To Whom It May...

19 August - The Morning

19 August - Question

20 August - 11.21am

21 August - Good Morning

21 August - Demands

23 August - Ill in Summer

23 August - The Full Picture

24 August - To Whom It May...

24 August - Not about War

 

15 August 6.33pm I'm still alright 

There were helicopters circling over the port. To keep us out of trouble they told us all to go home about midday. But Tengis and I stayed out there, not because we're particularly brave, but because we didn't panic. We drove round town. It's still working, though lots of the shops have closed, particularly the ones selling household goods. I suppose no one's really going to buy a television or an air conditioner at a time like this. Though I expect the real reason is that the owners are scared. It would easy for a dodgy character of any nationality to take advantage of the situation.

And yes, it's really not a bad idea to keep your money in a sock at the moment. A sort of anti-advert for banks...Good thing I don't work for one, or I'd be in trouble.

Cash machines and cards aren't working. Payments by credit card have been stopped. They're paying wages straight into people's accounts, but they're cancelling credit and overdraft arrangements. Even so, if you're late with your payments you'll still be fined, they told me in my branch. C'est la vie.

7.29pm

My godson Artemy Yurevich Filippov was 4 today. But because of the events I'm not going to get to congratulate him in person.

16 August 12.21am

I've been on the website of my classmates, a fine, peaceful, good bunch from Poti. Tengo and I've taken lots of the photos for it, and the others have worked really hard on it too. We've written all this stuff, had a laugh, remembered how it used to be.

There was hardly a day that I didn't write something there.

What we had in common was the town. Some of us are still living here. For others it's the town of their childhood, where they spent their happiest time, where ice-cream still costs 20 kopeeks, Cafe Argo by the port, the beach at Plekhanov, dancing at the Officers' Club, Rustaveli cinema, evenings on the town, and the unforgettable experience of being 16.
It used to give me such pleasure to remember the window on the 3rdfloor of `Jeans House' in the so-called Pentagon district, the willow on the river Rioni and the old outdoor swimming pool at our school.

Though we've long grown up, to remember all that used to make us as happy as kids.

-That, that's where I used to walk with my girl.

-And that's where we used to catch fish.

-And that's the table where we used to play lotto.

- Oh, and that's my window, I used to sit there for hours, waiting for Mama to get back from work

-Samira, take a photo of this for me, and that.

-Oh, there's the House of Pioneers, and there's still a puddle in front of it, just as there was 20 years ago.

Now war has broken out on the forum. Utter incomprehension, reproaches, accusations, insults. People deserting it like refugees. Today my friend Anna wrote to me to tell me she was leaving it.Yesterday's love affairs and nostalgia -- all gone.

Leaving only a battlefield.

Bloody, dishonoured, utterly destroyed.

God has punished us and robbed us of reason.

When I can't take it any more, I get a book of Fazil Iskander down, put my feet up in an armchair and read. Then I'm a little girl again in a lonely, rundown,Georgian town. Fazil Iskander has helped me get through. I've made friends with his characters, to make up for those who've left whom I most miss. To stop myself dying of loneliness.

That forum was a sort of Fazil Iskander for all of us.

Now it's in ruins.

Bombed out.

We've got to stop the violence, challenge it.

But first, it seems to me, each of us is going to have to deal with it in ourselves.

My former neighbour screams at me that we're lackeys of NATO. That she hates us now for that.

But she used to teach me piano once..

There's nothing I want to write there now, though I haven't taken all the photos I was going to

11:29 pm

In 94 I was 13. One grey, uncomfortable November morning they told us my brother Dima was dead. He was 18. He'd been killed by thieves where he was staying over at Krasnodar. `The body', which had only just been our merry, much loved, beautiful, good, curly-haired Dima, the body had got to be collected, said this indifferent telegram. Mama and Aunt Toma went through Ossetia to collect it. We were afraid. Even back then it wasn't safe. But when they opened the van and saw this zinc coffin everyone was sympathetic and let it through -- Georgians, Ossetians, Russians. Death prompts this sorrowful respect.

Why am I writing this?

Every death is a tragedy. But for a mother it is worst of all, because her child is being buried, while she still has to walk the Earth, dying a little more every day.

I'm being sentimental, I'm afraid. Don't be hard on me.

In this diary I want to express my condolences to all those who've lost people. Whatever `side' they're on.

These days I've had all these people reproaching me, saying that these deaths are partly my fault too.

I refused to accept that.

But I've changed my mind.

If I am to blame, I ask forgiveness. If I'm not, I still accept the blame. I understand that doesn't make anyone feel any better. I remember all too well that when it happens, nothing makes it any better.

I grieve for each death, regardless of their nationality. In Dima's notebook he'd written the words of his beloved Tsoi (Russian poet and musician of the band Kino - ed):

'I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn't know how soon'.

Let's be silent for a minute.

I know how to pay, but I don't want

Victory at any price.

I don't want to plant my foot on anyone's chest

I only want to stay with you,

Just stay with you,

But in the sky there's this tall star calling me

away

11.45pm 

I've just heard that the bridge at Kaspi is burnng and that the Borjomi woods are on fire, following air bombardments.

18 August 10.43am Greetings everyone  

Yesterday I couldn't bring myself to write anything. Today I checked my mail -- mama mia, what didn't I read. OK, have it your way. You can write that filthy stuff, but it's your own aura you're spoiling. Let's see. What's new?

There's not much news.

Everyone in town's feeling much the same -- we're waiting for the troops to leave.

Whatever people think, whether they're on the left, the right, or somewhere up in the clouds, everyone's sure that once the troops have gone, we'll quietly get back to our ordinary life.

I don't know what'll happen next.

But I'll write about it, whatever. 

1.07pm

They were fixing the internet. 

2.06pm We've been swapping photos of Poti

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5.56pm 

Some journalists came from National Public Radio (NPR). We met up and took a turn round the military base. Utterly destroyed.

Here are a few photos.

In one of the rooms in the base there were these flies buzzing over..hm, well, a heap of excrement. I didn't photograph it. If you don't want to believe it, it won't offend you.

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6.58pm To Whom it May...

I've decided not to allow anonymous comments. It's not censorship. I'm just fed up with being treated like a public toilet. God knows, I've been patient enough.

Don't take this wrong, I just can't bear it any more. I'm the one who's got to read that stuff every day.

You can sign up, and get it filtered out.

I'm sorry if you disapprove. 

19 August 10.10am Usually I find it hard waking up in the mornings

I set my alarm clock to ring several times, then my darling rings me and forces me to wake up, but even then it doesn't work. Until I've drunk my first cup of coffee, and I'm in the office by that time, I'm barely human.

But today there was so much noise out in the street that I didn't need waking up.

I honestly don't know what the commotion was all about.

Russian troops have taken the port again. Someone says it's because of the boats from America, bringing humanitarian aid. Someone else says that they're unarmed. It's not clear, there's nothing on the news yet, but they didn't let us go to work.

We'll see what we see, as one of my friends says.

When I was a teenager, I remember, in the hungry 90s, they were always drawing up these lists, giving out this humanitarian aid. Sunflower oil, beans, rice, flour. Our mothers were probably delighted, but we didn't understand, we hated `doing the charity run'.

They'd dole out the stuff in this basement place that stank of oil, some sort of fat that made you want to retch. All you could think was fast you could get served and get the hell out.

Then you'd stuffed it all into a trolley and make for home along with all the other `recipients'.

So now when I hear the words `humanitarian aid' I smell spilt sunflower oil.

Though I know that's not fair.

11.36am

Another big explosion. Probably one of the naval boats.

1.42pm

I don't know whether it's connected to whatever happened in the port this morning, but these armoured troop carriers have been going past full of people in blindfolds. I could see the troop carriers out of the window. Mama told me the rest, she was on the street.

I've been looking through Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being.

`When she told her French friends about her experiences, they were amazed: ``So aren't you going to fight against your country's occupation?'' She felt like telling them that it doesn't matter what kind of occupation it is, whether it's communist or fascist, what's behind it is the same evil, profound, overwhelming; and for her the image of that evil would always be people marching, demonstrating, throwing up their arms, shouting slogans in unison.

2.50pm Question

Do any of my readers think the troops of the Russian Federation should prolong their operation in Georgia? That Georgia is capable of military action, now that it's been almost totally disarmed?

I'd like to hear their opinions.

10.09pm 

They haven't brought cigarettes in from Tbilisi. The shops are almost out. Prices for what's left are rocketting. Mothers are complaining that it's hard finding children's food. The word `shortage' has reappeared.

I've been trying to pay by credit card. The bank's closed. They keep sending me these SMSs warning me that this will reflect badly on my credit history. The one thing I do know is that it's going to reflect very badly on my relationship with this bank.

My godson's mother took the children to the village of Karati when things got really tense. I hear she was cursing everything to high heaven. There were these bombs going off the whole time nearby. Tyoma and Maksim kept asking her `Mama, couldn't they stop the salutes now?'

20 August 11.21am

poti-blog-4_html_647734e0.png

esli_ifsent this photo after what I was writing yesterday. It's from the magazine Der Spiegel.

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1.07 pm

Articles from NPR

8.11 pm

Eyewitnesses are saying that on the roads in and out of town Russian soldiers are digging trenches and building some sort of blockhouse. No one knows can imagine why. I don't know why either.

And all the time this was going on everyone was out on the streets of Poti begging the Russian armed forces to get out of Georgia.

Here's what I managed to photograph.

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21 August 9.39am A good morning

I notice that most of my readers don't like my photo of the demonstration.

I know that what I'm about to say is a bit crude.

But think about it. As one of my readers said to me, what Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it does about Paul.

I always used to hate it when people were rude about the Russians and I hated it just as much when they were rude about the Georgians.

My Georgian grandfather loved his wife very much -- my Russian grandmother. Ever since then their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have remained true to their view of nationality.

Avto, I know you're reading this. Alyosha would go mad, if he could see what's happening. Look after yourself, we all love you very much.

I'm very proud of the fact that the word `nationality' means nothing to me.

Even in this difficult time. It stinks.

Think about it.

And one more lit-t-t-t-le word. The more comments I read about my journal the more solidarity I feel for the Georgian people. But I do notice that Georgians have nothing to say to me. They write nothing at all. 

21 August 10.03am Russian man demands that the troops of the Russian Federation get out

Unfortunately I didn't manage to catch everything he said. Only the end.

21 August 10.48 am

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That's it, I'm fed up with this whole discussion. I'm going for a smoke, or rather I'm going to have a coffee to perk myself up.

I'm going to ask you one more time, just don't get aggressive, I really am paying attention to all of you. Do you really think that if Georgians were abusing Russians I wouldn't stand up for them?

This is not politics. We're just making the gulf between our peoples even wider.

We're being punished for having a leader who doesn't care a damn about us.

If only we could hold out our hands to one another. But no one's holding any demonstrations in support of the love between peoples. If there any, I'd be out there on the street.

These words aren't addressed to everyone. Lots of my readers are fine, they're people I love and identify with. But you'd better think again if all you've got to say is that simple Georgians or Russians deserve everything that's coming to them.

Thanks for understanding. 

3.34pm

When I was in 11thclass, my beloved Nelly Levanovna Barkalaya, who taught us Russian language and literature, (sincere greetings, God grant her good health) gave us a poem by Voznesensky to learn for our homework.

Our class couldn't make head or tail of Voznesensky then. I'm really sorry I didn't get him. The only reason I learned his translation of Titsian's poems was to get a good mark (Titsian Tabidze, Georgian poet, 1895-1937 ed) But Nelly Levanovna did say that Voznesensky `wasn't for everyone'. It was that `not for everyone' that got me interested. I've always fallen for that kind of challenge.

We had this book of his poems at home. We always did have a good library.

It used to give me enormous pleasure to take a book off the shelf and open it on a new world. One day I took out this thick little red book and opened it at random.

I sat there reading it till evening.

Ever since then Voznesensky has been part of my life. He's a genius, impulsive, tender, true.

He is everywhere.

Let me read you one of his poems 

In my land and yours they hit the sack

and sleep all night flat on their back.

There's the golden Moon with a double shine.

that lights up your land as it lights up mine. 

There's this absolute bargain, totally free,

the sunrise for you, the sunset for me.

The wind blows cool at the break of day,

you're not to blame, nor me, anyway. 

You have your lies, I have mine.

Behind both is pain and love for our own land.

I wish that in yours and mine some day

We could get our idiots out of the way.

Thank you

23 August 10.03 am

On top of everything else, I've now come down with a cold. I'm sure it's because of the air conditioning.

It's disgusting being ill in summer.

Yesterday we went to the military base again with the journalist from Kiev, took photos of a smashed cash machine and things like that.

But this time I felt like posting just this photo.

Of the indifferent, condescending, wise sea.

Live peacefully and keep

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cool.

 

12.54pm Since I've mentioned it, here's the full picture

You can put all these photos

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together

1:09 pm Photo `Inside view'

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24 August 1.51pm`To whom it may'...or utterly non-political

I've been trying not to write about politics, about what this or that minister said, how many men the army's lost, who's right, who's guilty and what should be done.

Not because I'm hiding my head in the sand.

And not because I don't care.

And not because I've got favourites.

But simply because I haven't got the right. Just because I'm writing about what's going on around me doesn't give me the right to start copying down other people's words, posting photos off the internet. All this sensationalism, the bloodier the better -- it's not for me. One woman asks me why I don't post photos of Tskhinvali, as the view I'm giving is one-sided. I haven't put up any photos of Gori either, in case you didn't notice. There are plenty of other places you can go to see those.

It wouldn't be honest. I'm not trying to advertise myself. I'm not into PR. I've don't count the number of visits I get.

I don't mind if I've offended half my readers. I was much more upset when one of my Moscow friends blew out on me. Although of course it was a good thing. That way you can see who's who and who's shit.

As someone dear to me keeps reminding me, my problem is I tend to see people all white and fluffy. Then I get disappointed.

When I do get disappointed, I try and make out that I'm a bit more cynical than I am, a bit meaner, tougher. But it never quite works.

In my life, unfortunately, I've come across people who leave me feeling dirty.

So whatever happens I'm trying to keep calm. So that I'm not seized by an irresistible impulse to spit at them. Even if the face I see is the one in the mirror.

Have a good day.

5.56pm Not about war, about what you can and can't do

In the early 90s life was very hard for our family. They weren't just hard for us, but for most people I knew, and those I didn't too. It was like that then. .

There were times, I have to admit, when we didn't have enough to eat. Quite often, in fact.

Mama was working, but by pay day she'd be so exhausted that she'd just dump her wages and ration book down on the table and collapse. All you could buy with those coupons was bread, and not much of that either.

In short, everyone was getting by as best they could.

And in the building next door lived a family which was leaving, for good. One day the head of the family met us in the street and said: `I hate the idea of throwing away these books, they're in Russian so no one's going to want them, I'll bring them round'.

We weren't at home when he came round. And when we got back we saw this huge package of books in the stairwell by the front door and we took them in.

Clearly, the man had missed us and just left them there in the stairwell.

I opened this big bright book about marine life and there was all this money. Notes of five and ten thousand. Big money in those days. A huge sum. Smooth, gleaming, irresistible. Fascinating. Ah, what we could have bought with that money.

Then the man came round. They were just off. And we could have said that the books weren't there in the stairwell. That we didn't see a thing. Didn't know what he was talking about.

When he knocked, for a moment there was this look of panic on our faces.

We were so hungry, almost all the time.

We looked at one another: me, Mama and my little sister.

And Mama whispered to us: `We'd never be able to forgive ourselves'.

And we opened the door and returned the money.

I always thought that Mama was whispering so as not to be heard on the other side of the door.

But now I realise that she was just embarrassed to have panicked like that.

If only for a minute.. 

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