A Georgian family living in South Ossetia who fled to Tbilisi to escape the war say they were ill-treated at the hands of other Georgians in a refugee camp.
While the aftermath of the conflict in the Caucasus last summer is on the table for NATO and Russian representatives in upcoming summits, the human cost is still being felt.
Venera Beridze’s family escaped to Tbilisi when Georgia attacked South Ossetia last August.
In a refugee camp, they say they were ill-treated by other Georgians. The reason was simple – in this Georgian family the mother is Russian.
“They asked us, ‘How many of you are here?’ We said four. They said that even though my husband is Georgian, I’m still Russian, and I can’t be counted as a refugee. It was a nightmare. Refugees themselves, not authorities, started interrogating us: ‘You are Russian, right?’ Then what are you doing here at all?’ It came to a point when they started asking my daughters, what they were doing in a Georgian refugee camp when their mother is Russian,” Venera recalls.
Senior daughter Lika Beridze had her papers issued in Tbilisi last year when they were in a refugee camp. She was born in Russia and that is written in her ID.
“I was told my life’s never going to be good, since I was born in Russia. When they see it, they don’t like it. [My sister Tina] was born in Tbilisi, so she’s not bullied that much,” Lika says.
Younger daughter Tina Beridze, however, says since her mother is Russian, it’s all the same.
Almost everybody who lives in Leningor have similar IDs. It only enables them to go to Georgia, and nowhere else, so their main source of income is casual work in Georgia. Everyday, hundreds of locals cross the border.
So does Jambulat Beridze the father, who is a taxi driver, and earns about $50 a week. Jambulat is the only breadwinner in the family supporting his wife and two daughters. Having spent a week, as usual, in Tbilisi, today he is back with his family.
“I like it here. My home is here, I live here, and in Georgia I have nothing. If there’s a job, I can work here,” Jambulat says.
While Jambulat is away at work, the family uses their backyard as a vegetable patch. It provides much needed food for the table, but it is not enough to support them without their father’s income.
However, with political instability in Georgia and the world financial crisis, which is very especially visible in Tbilisi, Jambulat knows that he must do everything to keep his job and his family together.