"I was surprised when I found that Abkhazians accuse us of starting a war. I thought that they have started it," said 12-year-old Irakli Jikia after seeing the film "Abkhazia - A Zone of Conflict." The film was shown on April 1 to a group of Abkhazian refugees' children by the NGO "Center of Psychological and Social Rehabilitation of Torture Victims."
The two-year-old project involved children ages 5-15 who live with their refugee parents in a former sanitarium building next to the lake called the Tbilisi Sea. The sanitarium is an unattractive block with dilapidated walls and small rooms.
"These kids have never seen Abkhazia," says the chairman of the center, Nato Zazashvili. "They have not and cannot have any recollection about the war, but they have secondary post-traumatic shock. Their parents, neighbors, relatives constantly speak about Abkhazia and recall the war. So children have the same complexes as people who really survived the war."
Although 9-year-old Bachuki Berulava was born after the 1992 war, he considers himself a refugee because his parents always say that they are from the city of Sokhumi, where they left house, relatives and friends.
"I want to go to Abkhazia to find new friends. I would offer them friendship. Neither they, nor us, need any war," says Bachuki. When asked if he would offer his friendship to Russian children, Bachuki answered that he is ready to make friends with Russians, too. That is significant, because many refugees claim Russia provoked the war with Georgia.
"It is hard to speak with other children. I am sad and offended that they have their own homes, while my parents were banished from our house. But today I think that we could become friends, I want to learn, play football. I would like to play football with Abkhazians."
"I do not know when I would return home," says 12-year Salome Jologua. "I remember only Tbilisi, I have a lot of friends here. I would long for them."
Some children have changed their attitude towards the situation; they do not want war. Do their parents think the same?
When adults recall the war, they often speak about their former Abkhazian neighbors.
"Certainly, we are guilty, too, but they are more guilty," says Margarita Chachua, whose 8-year-old daughter Nato participated in the project. "I was never afraid of Abkhazians when I lived in Sukhumi, until September 27 (the day Abkhazian forces entered Sukhumi)."
"Most of all I was afraid of the Georgian combatants from the Mkhedrioni division," says Salome's mother, Manana Jologua.
"If we never shall be able to return, then shouldn't the government just say this straight?" asks Margarita Chachua. "Then they at least should compensate us for what we have lost. I had an apartment in Gagra and a cottage near the Blue Lake. Why should I live in a hotel apartment today? Soon the hotel will be privatized and destroyed. They promised us $7,000, but that is not enough to buy even a one-room apartment in Tbilisi."
"If Abkhazians want to live without us, build their own state, then why not?" says Ilona Jologua, Salome’s 15-year-old sister. "But it should not be part of Russia. After all, they have a right to self-determination."
The families understand the necessity for psychological help programs. "But we
can't find money for new programs, and there is no interest in these people from the rest of society," said Nato Zazashvili. "For example, today we invited journalists from Rustavi-2. But they were engaged in another work. This is very symptomatic. This issue is off topic."